Blogging on the iPad

Blogging iPad Keyboard

Prior to the launch of the iPad bloggers started thinking about how convenient the slate might be for sharing information. Some even believed the iPad would make such an impact on the process that it would change blogging for the better. While it’s certainly true the iPad makes interacting with the web easy, and something that can be done almost anytime, it’s still not clear how useful it can be for the actual process of blogging. The fog is clearing, however, and some bloggers are using the iPad to handle most of the blogging process. I would never want to use the iPad as my only blogging tool, but I admit I am finding it far more useful for the task than I thought it would be. With some careful thought and best practices, blogging can indeed be done on the iPad.

I would never recommend bloggers to dump whatever computer they are using for blogging — that would be silly. Where I do see advantage to using the iPad for blogging is on short trips, or during outings when a computer is normally not carried for the day. The iPad is easy to travel with, and the tool that is with the blogger is better than any tool that is not. The muse can strike at the most unexpected times, and if the iPad is at hand it’s the right tool for the job.

The first obstacle that must be crossed to do serious blogging on the iPad is the lack of blog editors in the App Store. At last check the WordPress app is the only one that has been released for the iPad. Since we use WordPress on the GigaOM Network, this works to my advantage. Those with blogs on other platforms will have to do some experimenting to determine how best to create posts on the iPad without a specific editor.

Most blog platforms have web-based editors, and it’s worth trying in the Safari browser on the iPad to see if yours will work. We have many special widgets at GigaOM that makes our WordPress online editor a very useful tool, and some of these widgets will not work in the iPad browser. If a given editor doesn’t work in the browser, then post creation becomes a two-part process — writing and posting.

Of course, writing can be done in any text editor, and there are a few for the iPad. The Pages app from Apple works fine for writing blog posts; writing blog posts can even be done in the Notes app. The trick is writing the post and then pasting the content into the final destination. I can’t address every possible situation that one might face, so I’ll concentrate on how I blog using the iPad.

The WordPress app for the iPad is pretty good, and I usually write the entire blog post in this editor. It’s important to note that there is no fancy visual editor (WYSIWYG) like in the web-based version. It’s a simple text editor that works well for text entry. It’s also a HTML editor, so those familiar with HTML can use it to make posts with sophisticated formatting. I’m too far removed from the old HTML blogging days, so I avoid it. I simply use the WordPress app for writing the text content of the blog post. The photo handling capability of this app is not very sophisticated, so I avoid using it for that purpose.

TIP: The WordPress app is great for following comments left on the blog, so don’t overlook that ability. Even if you don’t write blog posts using the app you might find it useful for working with blog comments.

Writing blog posts in the WordPress editor using the iPad’s on-screen keyboard is more efficient than I dreamed possible. I expected this keyboard to be good for knocking off a very short email, but not for writing blog posts consisting of hundreds of words. What I’ve discovered is with a little practice it’s easier to type on the screen than you might think; it’s certainly a viable method in a pinch. For much longer posts I use an external Bluetooth keyboard. It folds up and fits in my pocket, yet opens into a full-sized keyboard. I don’t absolutely need it for writing on the iPad, but I’m no glutton for punishment. I have the tool so I use it when it makes more sense.

Having written a blog post in the WordPress app, when done I publish it as a draft to the blog. This brings it into the WordPress online system for the final editing — adding links, images and implementing the special widget controls we use on the site. The next time I log into the web-based editor the post will be waiting in draft mode for this work.

It may seem that my iPad work with the blog post is over at this point; if that were true, then full blogging couldn’t be done on the iPad in my case. This is where it gets really fun — I fire up LogMeIn Ignition on the iPad, and log into either a Mac or Windows PC in my home office. I leave at least one of them running for this purpose, with the LogMeIn server running in the background.

Using this method, I am in effect working with my Mac (for example) on the iPad, using the slate display as the Mac’s monitor. More importantly, since LogMeIn is optimized for interaction via touch on the iPad, I am able to do anything I normally do on the Mac (or Windows PC) by touching the screen. I use this method to start the Firefox browser, and enter the web-based WordPress editor on the home machine.

I have the “full” browsing experience this way, and the final post editing process is just as it would be in the office, but using touch on the iPad. I add any links I need; upload, grab and edit any images for the post; and enable any of the special GigaOM widgets needed for the particular post. There is hardly any lag and it’s amazing how well this method works. It turns the iPad into a full Mac or Windows system, with no limits. This is why my method is working so well for me.

Clever readers will ask why I don’t just log into the home machine and write the post in the browser, rather than create the draft using the iPad local app. That’s a fair question and the proper answer is I could easily do that. But as well as the LogMeIn method works, when I am concentrating on the post writing process itself, I prefer the distraction-free environment of the local editor. It’s strictly personal preference, but there’s no reason doing it all through the remote connection wouldn’t work. I have done it that way, as a matter of fact, and still prefer to do it in two steps.

I must make it clear that this method works for me as I already have everything in place to make it work. I have multiple computers in the home office, so it’s no burden (financial or otherwise) to have one available for remote access. I already owned LogMeIn on the iPad ($29.99), so I didn’t have to spend the money just for blogging. This may not be the case for you, and I am not recommending you spend a lot of money to do this.

This method is working so well for me that I could easily employ it for short trips without impacting my ability to work. I don’t intend to do that, but I could if I needed to. That’s a liberating thought.

Disclosure: Automattic, maker of WordPress.com, is backed by True Ventures, a venture capital firm that is an investor in the parent company of this blog, Giga Omni Media. Om Malik, founder of Giga Omni Media, is also a venture partner at True.

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