Blogging on the iPad: A Sad State of Affairs

33 Comments

When I was tasked to write a roundup of iPad blogging apps, I figured this would be the usual pros and cons of four or five apps. Instead, I found only two, one of which is specific to WordPress (see our disclosure below). Since neither of the two apps made me all that happy, the multi-app roundup I was hoping for instead became a case of “two apps enter, no app leaves.”

Blogging on the iPad is a sorry state of affairs — I’m also coming at this from the angle of a prose blog, not a photo blog. Both WordPress and BlogPress allow you to do the same basic features: type in your thoughts and press publish. Neither of the apps let you define links or format your text — you’re limited to plain style. Some of this, I am led to believe from researching other apps with the same problem (Evernote), is how restrictive Apple is on its rich text features. On the other hand, all of the Office-style apps out there let you format text, so I don’t know what’s up. What I do know is, neither of these two apps even come close to the feature set most bloggers need.

WordPress (Free)

As the official app for WordPress, it’s a sad commentary when the best I can say is, “Some of the time, it doesn’t crash. And it’s free.” A quick five minute double-check of some features yielded four crashes. It crashed inserting a picture. It crashed while canceling edits. I wouldn’t be surprised if it crashed while crashing. When I was able to successfully insert a picture, it didn’t show up in the local draft; I had to go out to the local view to see it, and even then it was just code, not a visual. You can, however, manage comments, pages, and assign categories within the WordPress App.

I was also impressed with its offline features. It cached previous posts which made it handy to reference what I’d  said about a topic.

BlogPress ($2.99)

In addition to the hearty, “It crashes less” feature, BlogPress also connects to Blogger, MSN Live Spaces, Movable Type, TypePad, Live Journal, Drupal and Joomla in addition to WordPress. If you’re not using WordPress, BlogPress is the only game in town for you. Unfortunately, it doesn’t connect to Tumblr. I had a lot more success with this app, even within my WordPress-hosted sites. For starters, the only time it crashed on me was when I connected it to Live Journal, and when I relaunched it everything was OK. Inserted pictures showed up inline where I wanted them to, and I could adjust their alignment, but not their size. I was also unable to manage comments or edit static Pages in BlogPress. Still, I found BlogPress to be worth the $2.99.

My recommendation for BlogPress is somewhat grudging. It’s not a bad app, but I’m hard pressed to find many blog posts I’ve ever written that I could do entirely in either of these apps. Almost every post has bolded or italic text, an image, and a link or two. Of those three things, both apps only let me embed the image. Unless I’m writing a rare text-only post, I’ll need the web front-end of each site to wrap up the post. Sure, the apps are good for throwing a post together on the iPad and tossing it in the online Drafts folder for later editing, but it’s pretty sad I can’t rely on either of them to start-to-finish an average blog post.

Hopefully, at some point we’ll see a better selection, as well as the ability to format text and insert links. Until then, BlogPress earns my enthusiastic “At least it sucks less than the WordPress app” seal of approval.

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.

33 Comments

Tony Korologos

The WordPress app is one of the worst apps ever. Though I’m logged in to my wordpress site and can manage comments and posts, as soon as I try to publish anything it says “incorrect password.” It still shows up as a draft.

BUT, sometimes it does happen to post the article, even though it says it didn’t, all this between crashing constantly.

With an iPad I guess I’ll just be using the web interface, but that makes uploading images impossible.

Daniel Jalkut

Hi there – I’m the developer of MarsEdit, a Mac desktop application that some of your other readers were kind enough to mention.

I wanted to chime in to acknowledge that I am working on an iPad version of MarsEdit, but also to try to shed some light on your point about the absence of rich text support.

Many word-processing type apps on the iPad now support rich text, and it makes a lot of sense from a user perspective then to wonder why blog-editing apps don’t offer the same features.

It’s worth considering that for most blog systems, the “rich text” is really just an intermediate visual for the user’s benefit, which must ultimately be converted to HTML source in order to be published to the blog. While Apple does offer some rich text editing features on the iPhone and iPad, they don’t yet support the “Editable HTML” type format that apps and browsers take advantage of on other platforms to provide “WYSIWYG” solutions.

Even with the editable HTML support, doing rich text editing right is kind of insanely hard. Without the HTML support, it would mean manually guessing how to convert all the rich text into HTML without any help from Apple or, in particular, WebKit.

For really simple stuff like bolds and italics, this isn’t a big deal. And you might argue that web clients should support rich text if only for these things. But then what do they do with other HTML styles like lists, embedded images, movies, CSS declarations, etc. All this stuff would get lost by a “dumb” rich text editor, if it just discarded it in order to make sense of it as rich text.

For a viable rich editor we need something, ideally built into WebKit on iPhoneOS as it is on the Mac, that can do the heavy lifting of most of the conversion between HTML and how it’s displayed for editing on the screen.

You’ll notice that even if you navigate to a WYSIWYG interface via Safari on an iPhoneOS device, the rich editing features are disabled. This is not an easy problem for any one developer to solve, but it will be a lot easier once Apple offers the editable functionality in mobile WebKit.

Daniel

leeodden

Obviously blogging in an interesting way doesn’t just involve what WordPress can do, so a few weeks before this post was published I reviewed 6 apps you can use (including WordPress) to blog on an iPad. Admittedly, blogging on an iPad isn’t ideal at all, but if you’re like me and write posts in pieces vs. in one sitting, the iPad allows you to chip away at posts, review comments, engage post readers on the social web and look at stats fairly conveniently.

Here’s a review of WordPress, Dragon Dictation, Photopad, Disqus Pro, EchoFon & Analytics App for the iPad:
http://tprk.us/cqszHJ

marco

true you can use safari on most blogging platform with the iPad large screen.

however at least one, Vox, does not work with safari/iPad (keyboard does not show up).

Daryl

I have to totally concur with you though at least the updated WordPress for the iPad is slightly better.

I *know* what I want though: An iPad optimized version of MarsEdit. I think there is already a group haranguing the poor author that he owes it to the community to put one out. He would seriously totally own the category.

I suggest you add your voice as well. I know I have.

nonapple

Exactly.. that is why apple for me is only a product to make apple sause

Chris Boyd

Hey Mark, thanks for the feedback about WordPress for iPad. I’m the lead developer for WordPress for iOS, and I just wanted to throw my two cents in. Now that we’ve finally gotten our Mobile team together we’re really excited about improving the experience both on iPad and iPhone. We know we can do better, and we fully intend to do so moving forward.

While the team is well aware that the app needs more features, we’re also focused on making sure the app is more reliable. The only thing worse than a lack of features is an app that you can’t depend on. The next release-coming up very soon-will address a lot of those reliability issues.

Also, if any of you would like to join our beta testing team, let me know. We’re especially looking for people to test iPad builds before we submit them to Apple.

Chris Boyd

It is! So how about helping us fulfill that promise and joining the testing group?

David Baldaro

With several WordPress sites need tender loving care, and an iPad where do i sign up to help test the WordPress app?

Ole Eichhorn

Blogging within Safari to Typepad works great – rich text, links, photos, and no crashes. You don’t need a dedicated App to do many things with an iPad…

James

I don’t think Steve had blogging in mind when he released apple’s new feminine product. This thing is more for reading the web. If you are serious about blogging on the go, get a netbook. Not only does it already have all the tools needed for blogging, it also has a real keyboard. There is also the added benefit of no rich text limitations. Actually, there are no limitations; you don’t have to live by Apple’s virtual government for apps.

dtanders

I think I have identified your problem: You are attempting to use a large media player as a replacement for a general purpose personal computer.

I understand that the size of the media player might trick you into thinking it’s a viable replacement, but size, in this case, does not matter.

Robin

I too had a play with the WordPress app and gave up with it in frustration.

+1 for an iPad version of MarsEdit. Great little app.

Rubie

I have a blogspot blog and I can post fine, the ipad browser messes with my dashboard though. It doesn’t show any of the blogs I’m following so I have to check those out different ways.

ipad skins

Rodrigo

Sorry for the question but I can’t edit the text of a post into the web admin of wordpress. I have to do anything to enable this field to edit??

Despite this, all my posts have at least one image so the admin panel is not an option to me. Maybe in next versions.

Mark Crump

I had that problem. When I was writing this and tried to replicate it, I couldn’t.

Dave

I agree that I’m surprised and waiting for a better blogging app to maintain my schools Drupal site. There is an Evernote module for Drupal that posts directly to your site whenever you update or create an Evernote with the correct tag. Haven’t tried it yet.

Also ran into the rich text limitation with a Craigslist app that allows posting. Why is this an Apple restriction and what do we have to do to get it changed.

Thanks for the story.

Zilbernet

Agreed. Dedicated blogging apps aren’t as critical on the iPad as they were on iPhone, since the larger iPad screen makes it much easier to work with browser-based admin panels.

Still, I’d love to see an full-featured iPad version of MarsEdit someday.

Twist

Daniel Jalkut has mentioned more than once that he desires to make a version of MarsEdit for the iPad he just has to find the time to do it.

Ricky Salsberry

Curious as to how these dedicated apps fair when compared to the plain ol’ browser back-ends of each software, especially on WordPress?

Many of these apps don’t expand much on what already works on the web, and with the big screen of the iPad, it makes some apps pointless.

Wouldn’t mind seeing this comparison updated with the web versions included. Not everything needs an app after all.

Mark Crump

If I recall correctly, the only thing you can’t do on the WordPress web site is insert pictures. However, even when I bolded text, instead of appearing bold, it had blahblahblahblah tags which was a little off-putting.

Mark Crump

err crap, it did’t come out right. It had STRONG /STRONG tags in the editor.

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