Blogging on the iPad: A Sad State of Affairs

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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.

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