Blogging from the iPad

Steve Jobs while introducing the iPad in San F...
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A few things have changed since I last covered blogging from the iPad. Both the BlogPress and WordPress apps have received multiple updates. There is also a new app called Blogsy, which has some interesting media integrations.

The three apps share some common features:

Here are some additional features of the tools:

Blogsy

Blogsy has support for posting to WordPress, Blogger, and Posterous. While Blogsy may not support as many networks as BlogPress, they do have support for the big ones.

Blogsy has some interesting gesture support. Horizontal swipes will switch between editing and preview modes, which makes the lack of live editing slightly less annoying.

Blogsy departs from the more traditional UI shared between WordPress and BlogPress in that it does not show all the previous posts on the main screen. In order to view and edit earlier posts or drafts, you select the gear icon next to the current post, which brings up a selection dialog. This has the advantage of giving more space for the editor, as you likely don’t need to switch between posts frequently.

Blogsy does offer some of the same HTML and formatting options as WordPress and BlogPress, but these are presented as a toolbar on the screen, and not on the keyboard or in a menu. While text cannot be entered while in preview mode, these styles can be applied in preview mode, which is actually quite helpful.

When connected to the network, Blogsy also has rich media integration. Blogsy can use Flickr, Picasa, YouTube, Google Image Search, or the iPad photos app to insert media into your posts. Blogsy also has a built in web browser from which you can drag links into your post.

Key summary:

  • Modern UI
  • Rich media support
  • Easy link dragging
  • WordPress support
  • Blogger support
  • Posterous support

BlogPress

Unlike Blogsy and WordPress, I can’t seem to find any preview functionality in BlogPress. When I initially reviewed some of the blog apps for iOS, BlogPress seemed more stable than WordPress. There does not seem to be many additional features added to BlogPress, and the functionality is relatively basic.

Where BlogPress excels is in support for a variety of blog platforms. BlogPress can post to WordPress, Blogger, MSN Live Spaces, MovableType, TypePad, LiveJournal, Drupal, Joomla, Tumblr, SquareSpace, and My Opera.

Support for HTML tags are accessible through a drop down menu, which while accessible when using a Bluetooth keyboard, remains awkward.

Media support is limited to images or video from your device.

  • Basic UI
  • Limited media support (upload from device)
  • Extensive platform support
  • WordPress
  • Blogger
  • MSN Live Spaces (which shut down in 2011)
  • MovableType
  • TypePad
  • LiveJournal
  • Drupal
  • Joomla
  • Tumblr
  • SquareSpace
  • My Opera

WordPress

If you’re using WordPress, there are several compelling reasons to use this app. As the name indicates, this app focuses exclusively on WordPress features. In addition to blog entries, this app also provides comment management and static page support. While there is also a stats page, which presumably mirrors the functionality of the stats page in the WordPress dashboard, I have been unable to get it working.

One of the things that the WordPress app does well is the post preview. If your iPad has an active data connection, it renders your post using the theme from your blog. If you are out of data coverage, it renders in a much more limited preview.

The WordPress app also provides an extra row of keys to the keyboard, which has several common HTML elements, such as list tags. This is a useful addition, but is inaccessible if you are using a Bluetooth keyboard.

Like BlogPress, media support is limited to photos and video uploaded from your device.

Key features

  • Only supports WordPress.com and self-hosted WordPress blogs
  • Limited UI
  • Limited media support (upload from device)
  • Comment moderation
  • WordPress stats view

Summary

Each of these apps have particular strengths. For those who wish to manage their comments on a WordPress blog, the WordPress app has some useful features. However, if you use a more niche blog platform, you may have to settle for BlogPress. Overall, I like the new challenger, Blogsy. It has a cleaner, modern interface. The Blogsy developers seem to have considered the application’s usability, focusing on the best way to make an ideal workflow, and not pushing for a more basic level of functionality.

Blogging software on the iPad

I was actually very surprised by the lack of good blogging software for the iPad. The WordPress app isn’t all that friendly, especially if you’re trying to use it offline. Without a network connection, it pops up six or seven dialogs in a row complaining about the lack of connectivity. Really quite frustrating. The interface is clumsy, which is frustrating.

And of course, now that I’ve finished reading all of this, a new release of the WordPress app is available. It still shows the same XMLRPC error dialog I saw before. Perhaps it is more stable in other areas, but I’m not that impressed. It’s also awkward to select the scheduling for a given post. Every time I push a post to WordPress, either as an online draft, or a post scheduled in the future, I always get the impression that it is being posted immediately. Not a good feeling.

The other contender is BlogPress, which I have to admit, seems to be much more polished. It clearly separates local drafts, online drafts, and published posts. The interface for selecting tags for the post is a little awkward, but it’s there. Selecting the save button will provide you with a popup dialog showing how you want to save the post (ie, publish, save as online draft, etc). Now, unlike the WordPress app, BlogPress does not provide any ability to see or moderate comments on your blog. Not really a big deal, but something that would be nice. Another difference is that BlogPress doesn’t cache your online content. If you disconnect from the internet, you will be unable to read or edit anything that is stored online, even in draft form. I’ve also encountered several crashes while attempting to post entries as online drafts. Thankfully, there does not appear to be any data loss, as the posts do appear online, but it doesn’t reflect well on the app.

There is also MacJournal, from Mariner software. From the reviews I’ve read, it lacks considerable functionality from the desktop, and it eats whitespace.

I was quite surprised that there weren’t more blogging apps available for the iPad. In particular, I was hoping for MarsEdit, which is a really popular client on the Mac. The Red Sweater Software forum has posts indicating that other things keep coming up. I can appreciate the need to keep existing customers happy, by maintaining his existing software, but I am surprised that he hasn’t made a port to the iPad yet. I obviously don’t know what his codebase looks like, but I would hope that at least parts of it would be portable to the iPad. Opening up a whole new market would seem to be a worthwhile endeavor, especially while there is not much in the way of serious competition.

What I can say is that with the Apple Wireless Keyboard, or any other bluetooth keyboard, typing on the iPad is just as fast as using a laptop or desktop machine. The iPad is a serious contender for those who wish to write, although the web browser fails to impress when using the WordPress web interface. Scrolling… well, let’s just say that the Mobile Safari kind of fails to scroll on pages where I seem to think that it should. Also, something about the WordPress editing page leaves the browser with some fairly serious rendering issues, as in completely failing to render text in the editing area.

For now, BlogPress seems to be the way to go, despite the glitches.