The iPad really ought to be the ideal blogging tool: it’s light enough to always have with you, large enough to edit a decent quantity of text on, and potentially always connected, so you can strike while the muse is hot (if that’s not too odd a mixture of metaphors…)
However, to date I’m extremely frustrated by the quality of the tools available to capitalise on this opportunity. Most are, at best, OK for plain text blog entries, and none really delivers what I have come to expect, based on what’s available free on the PC platform.
My benchmark is Microsoft’s LiveWriter. This “free” software does exactly what I want: it provides a WYSIWYG preview as I write, using the stylesheet of my blog, provides style-based formatting (so I can create lists, headings and emphasise text, but otherwise add an absolute minimum of markup clutter), and provides the ability to manage all the post metadata, including things like hand-written post excerpts. It even has a plug-in architecture against which some kind soul has written a little plugin to manage custom fields, so I can easily add linkage to other articles or images in my photo albums.
Now maybe Microsoft have done their usual trick of hiding a lot of clever code behind a simple facade, but the above features don’t seem to be “rocket science”. There are several shareware packages on the PC (e.g. BlogJet) which have very similar capabilities. I therefore hoped that the iPad could deliver similar capabilities.
Nothing doing. For a start, all the available apps are strictly plain-text only. A couple have the ability to insert some HTML, but you need to know what you’re doing, and you have to visualise the result. If the available tags are not sufficient, then it becomes really painful. Just typing < p > on an iPad takes a grand total of 9, yes 9 keystrokes.
Some apps just don’t appear to work. MacJournal is a case in point: only when you’ve paid for it do you get a “read me” screen listing the limitations, and I couldn’t get it to connect at all. This is where I try to explore the “refund” option in iTunes… Worse, others succeed in corrupting existing entries. The worst offender, to my horror, is WordPress’ own app, which succeeded in filling my nicely formatted text with a load of random markup and line breaks. Deleted.
Beyond that, there are a couple which are trying, but not there yet. The best I have found to date is BlogPress, which seems to be reliable, handles basic metadata OK and at least has the concept of “select text and apply an HTML tag to the selection”. If I can engage the developers to extend this then it may become workable.
I did wonder if I could just post the flat text and then use the web-based editor in WordPress. However while this works fine on the PC, on the iPad the browser doesn’t seem to recognise the editor as a text area, so you can’t select text within in it. Foiled again.
I’ll keep you posted, but don’t be surprised if I can’t do so just from my iPad.
– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad