Over the past couple of months, I have been exploring the various blogging platforms for iOS. I do a lot of blogging, and my primary use for the iPad is a portable blogging platform. That means I need a solid platform to work with. Unfortunately, the offerings available when I first got my iPad were very limited. In fact, there was only option – the WordPress app.
Let me begin by saying I love WordPress as my blog platform. I use WordPress.com for this blog, and we use a self-hosted version for our church website. It is fantastic.
I expected the same from WordPress’ iOS app, but after using it for the better part of six months, I have not been able to use it full-time. I first started using it with version 1.0, and it was terrible. It has steadily been improved, and I have a feeling that in a couple more iterations, it will be fantastic; but right now, it is not what it could be.
The interface seems simple enough, but there is little to no UI functionality. All formatting has to be done by means of HTML tagging. (None of the apps I have used feature anything even approximating a decent visual editor.)
In the post editing screen, you can add images from your catalog and from your camera. There is no native support for adding videos unless you subscribe to Video Press, but you can link to the main video services like YouTube and Vimeo through tagging. (You have to know that from using WordPress’ web editor though.)
You can access your pages and comments from the WordPress app as well. This is a functionality not available in any of the other apps I have been using.
The other big advantage of using the WordPress app is that you can preview your page with all the correct online formatting. This option is not available in Blog Press or Blogsy, and it makes WordPress a useful tool.
My biggest issue with the WordPress app is that there is a bug involving the edit screen. For some reason, when a post reaches a certain length, the edit screen cuts in half. The display area is halved for no apparent reason. I think it might have to do with the onscreen keyboard, but more often than not I use an Apple wireless keyboard so it is annoying.
I find that I generally don’t write in this app. The other apps are much better for generating content. What I use this app for is previewing and comments – neither function is available in the other apps. The addition of stats gives me yet another use for WordPress.
The day I started this post, WordPress added stats to the app – something that has been missing for quite some time. This is a serious plus for the app and adds to its value.
Since the app is free, there’s no guilt associated with using it in addition to other apps. I wish it had more functionality, and I am sure that people who host their blogs on other platforms like Blogger wish it supported their platforms. All in all, it isn’t bad but it isn’t quite great either.
In March 2011, LTC Studios released BlogPress as an alternative to WordPress’ app. It has gone through several revisions since, and the current version (2.2.3) has most of the functionality of WordPress as well as a much easier to use UI.
The chief complaint I have about BlogPress (which I am using to write this entry) is that when it started the creators used your pictures for advertising. In previous versions, The app uploaded your photos to their own servers, where they are wrapped with ads. Thankfully, this functionality has been removed in the most recent version.
BlogPress uses a drop-down menu for formatting. You highlight the text you want formatted, and then select the formatting type you want. It only inserts HTML tags, but it is an improvement over the completely absent functionality in WordPress.
As I mentioned before, BlogPress’ strength is it’s UI. In WordPress, you have to know to change your post status to draft in order to prevent it from posting to the blog. When you save a post in Blog Press, you are prompted as to what you want to do with it. I can’t tell you the number of times WordPress and Blogsy (see below) have posted unfinished entries when I meant to save them.
BlogPress’ image interface is fantastic and features a pop-up formatting feature that is lacking in WordPress. (Blogsy is working on implementing a similar functionality.)
One thing that needs to be improved is the screen real estate management. There is no full screen function, and because of the size of the side menu, there is not much room for the blog post you’re working on. Using the onscreen keyboard, you have a writing space about the size of an iPod touch screen – which is not much at all.
BlogPress does have a Preview function, but it uses very sparse formatting and does not download the style sheet from your blog like WordPress does.
Also, BlogPress does not allow you to edit the source code of a page. Most of the time, you really don’t need to do this since you’re not doing a lot of advanced editing. (WordPress is the same.) This is something that needs to be added.
I got in on the Beta testing of Fomola’s Blogsy app. I was immediately impressed by the UI, which is both clean and useful.
Unlike WordPress and Blog Press, Blogsy utilizes a fairly full formatting bar. This does eat up some screen real estate, but it gets rid of the listing of posts as a sidebar. Instead, there is a simple button that allows you access to your blogs and posts. And even with the extra toolbar, you have more writing space than in BlogPress.
Blogsy opts to not include a preview function. Instead, it has a rich side and edit side. You input your blog entry on the edit side, then you insert other content on the rich side.
What Blogsy does better than WordPress and BlogPress is the integration with the web. You can easily integrate photos on Flickr or Picasa as well as videos from YouTube. You can also do google searches from within the browser and import photos directly from the web. This browser function is a major improvement over the other apps and alone makes Blogsy the best of the field.
Currently, Blogsy 2.0 is in beta, and it promises to add a lot more functionality. You will be able to import local photos, something that was not available before, and also edit the photos within the app. This functionality will put Blogsy ahead of the other apps.
Each app has its strength. For my money, Blogsy is the app to beat but each of the platforms have their pros and cons.
- WordPress has the comment and stats integration, and I am hoping that the upgrade that brought those functions also brought a fix to the display problem I mentioned above.
- BlogPress has the superior image handling.
- Blogsy has formatting and more complete web integration. It also wins the UI contest.
If I were the folks over at Automattic (WordPress’ creators), I would be looking long and hard at Blog Press and Blogsy. They have the advantage over these other publishers and should be integrated the functionality they see there.
I would love to be able to help out those of you who use Typepad, Blogger or some other platform but I am pretty much WordPress exclusive and I don’t really know much about those platforms. I would assume the functionality of BlogPress and Blogsy is pretty much the same for those platforms as it is for anything else. I know that there are some other Blogger-specific apps out there as well. I’d love to hear from other bloggers about what they use.