I’ve always considered the iPad as a beautiful, wonderful, joyful tool for consulting digital content rather than for producing any. Nevertheless, the range of proposed applications dedicated to writing, editing photography, publishing on various blogs platforms never ceases to impress me. I decided to give it a try.
Unfortunately, the EP doesn’t always support my taste for digital experimentation, therefore I had to use a week of personal holidays to review the iPad as a blogging tool. To be honest, since I was traveling alone, I wanted to impose to myself a discipline of writing, in order to structure my days and bring some purposes to my wanderings. Also, writing is what I like.
I did it for science
My trip was in Istanbul for a week, a city I’ve never been before. I didn’t want to carry my laptop as I’ve started to appreciate iPad’s light weight and versatility. However, I can’t type more than an e-mail or a tweet on the glass screen. I bought the bluetooth keyboard, which doesn’t weigh much. It stayed in my hotel room all week, being used only at night when my writing routine was taking place.
The keyboard is a real pleasure to use. It connects in a glance with the iPad, copy/paste is made easier, arrows allow you to navigate in your text and, of course, typing itself is quicker and more precise.
Depending on your workflow, your blog’s host and your own preferences, you may consider you don’t need any apps to blog from the iPad. I personally like the whole apps concept: there is always one which does exactly what you would like to perfom. The difficulty lays in finding it.
When blogging, my workflow is as follow.
First, I take notes in an analog notebook with a pen. This old fashioned aspect will not be covered in this post.
Then, I write my draft in an offline software. I hate it when you’ve typed thousands of words in a blog’s CMS and your precious text disappears because of some interruption of Internet services you have no idea where it comes from. Also, a specific text editor allows me to start different drafts and to work on them at different stages. For this purpose, amongst all available editing apps, I chose Daedalus (€4.99) after having tried OmmWriter (€4.99) and Notebooks (€6.99). The chosen one won because it has a simple way of managing the different files (with a “pile” analogy) and absolutely no formatting possibilities (like bold, italics and so on). This ensure a cleaner text when copying/pasting into the blog’s CMS. OmmWriter has a larger typing area and Notebooks is just too sophisticated for my leisure use (although it might be great for more professional tasks). There are zillions of text editors, so pick yours.
Because it was a travel blog, pictures were important. You need a specific adaptor (€29) to import you photos from your digital camera to the iPad. The built in photo app does its job properly : import is relatively quick. You can select the photo you want to import but you can’t create new albums in the iPad. You cannot edit the photo either. Finding the right photo editing app took me more time.
I used PS Express (free), Filterstorm (€2.99), Camera bag (€1,59) and Snapseed (€3,99). This last one is definetely the best: it has automatic improvement feature, manual tuning with very smart touch point of control and few but nice filters and effects which I came to appreciate. Camera bag is fun and will do if you just want a quick effect on your photos, based on various famous renditions of films (lomo photography, polaroid etc.). The two others are too expert for me – and the lack of automatic adjustment may fit better to experienced photographer while it proved too time consuming for me. I was in holidays, remember?
My personal blog is on Tumblr but their application isn’t super user friendly on the iPad. Accessing Tumblr Dashboard via Safari just doesn’t work on iPad. The best app I could find to edit, format, add the photos in the text and publish my post is QuickTumblr (€2.39). It has only two flaws.
First, you can only work on one post at a time. No collection of drafts and so on – hence the smart idea of drafting your posts in a specific text app.
Second, because of some Tumblr’s limitations, you can’t just add your photo in the editor. You must either publish them on an ftp server (QuickTumblr manages it very well for you and once you’ve set up the ftp access, it really flows well) or add them as link in your text.
Quicktumblr is great for formatting and inserting photo links (or any type of links) but you need first to publish your photos somewhere on the web in order to be able to link to them. I didn’t have any of my various ftp servers’ codes when in Istanbul, so I used Picasa.
Generally speaking, the digital editing (adding photo, adding links, embedding video) part is the real flaw of using an iPad.
To publish the photos I wanted to use in my posts, I first uploaded them on a specific Picasa gallery using Web Album (€2.39). Then, I had to open each of them in Safari, copy the ready-to-insert link, switch to QuickTumblr, insert the link at the right place in the post and so on so forth.
This was hell. QuickTumblr has some bugs: it keeps a small text area when the bluetooth keyboard is connected and it doesn’t save your cursor’s position in the text when switching to Safari and back.
Generally speaking, the digital editing (adding photo, adding links, embedding video) part is the real flaw of using an iPad. There are no keyboards’ shortcuts to move quickly from an app to an other and I grew quickly tired of the process. I suspect publishing on other platforms than Tumblr, such as WordPress, would be easier and faster.
I also lacked a good correcting tool – I can’t stand the automatic correction proposed by the device. Antidote exists (for French) but is pricy (€ 19,99).
The whole process of posting once a day took me more or less three hours a day (not counting the analog part). This was taking place usually after dinner, in a quiet garden with decent Wi-Fi coverage.
If I were to consider moving to travel bloging as a source revenue (since some people seem to earn money from this activity – I have no idea how), I would perhaps be better equipped with the tiny MacBook Air (11″ screen).
However, the iPad has some great advantages. It’s so easy to carry it during the day, to start to edit your photos during a meal, for example. Also, because switching from an app to another is still a bit cumbersome when using a keyboard, you may tend to focus more on your writing task, with less distraction than on a laptop – but maybe I am just easy to distract.
PS: I wrote this post as described below – except our team’s blog is powered by WordPress. The WordPress allows you to insert photo in your post directly from your iPad (no need for third part hosting) but you can’t format anything in the text neither insert links (well, maybe if you know all the html stuff which I don’t). I couldn’t change the size of the photo, though, once I had chosen it. When opening WordPress back-office in Safari, you can format at will and insert links – it’s a bit cumbersome. You can’t however change the photo size once uploaded and you can’t add a new image. There must be a specific iPad’s app for blogging with WordPress, of course. There’s one for everything, they say…
PPS: my travel blog (well, only seven posts) can be found on http://tayebot.tumblr.com – it’s in French and proposes essentially posts about the bitter condition of being a new father.