Blogging With Your iPad: A Basic How-To

You have an iPad. You’re surfing, you read and answer emails, read books, play games, watch movies, post to your blog… Wait, what? Post to my blog? No way! That’s way to hard. The apps don’t work well, and how, pray tell, do I deal with images? Huh, mister smarty pants professional blogger…oh right.

While blogging on your iPad wasn’t too great at first, now it’s pretty easy and in this how-to I’m going to give you the ins and outs of getting it done. With caveats along the way.

Getting Started

Before you start off blogging on your iPad you need to make sure your blog is ready (and able) to accept posts from your iPad. If you’re blogging already, I bet your typical posting routine is something like:

  • Find something interesting to write about
  • Open your web browser
  • Post

When you’re posting to your blog like this you’re posting directly on your blog. You’re going through a web browser to log into your blog and create something. Now, blogging on the iPad you can (sometimes) blog directly through Safari (or other browser), but many blog engines (most, actually) don’t have an iPad-optimized posting area. Which means you’re working with a screen layout designed for larger screens, physical keyboard, and a pointing device (that’s not your finger). Sometimes this works out okay, sometimes it doesn’t. WordPress, for example is okay in a pinch, but not great on a regular basis. Here on the Future Shop Tech Blog…it’s hopeless. Not the fault of the engine (Lithium), it just isn’t built for writing and posting via an iPad (or tablet), and that’s okay.

So if you can’t (or don’t want to) post directly you need to be able to post remotely. This means an app will connect to your blog and send all the right information to it to make your post…post. It’s pretty much the same scenario as using Mail to read your email versus going to Gmail.com. Most blog engines support remote posting through a protocol called XML-RPC, however for security reasons, XML-RPC isn’t usually enabled by default on most blogs. For WordPress, all you have to do is click one check box and you’re done (see below), for other blog engines, you’re going to have to look it up. I do know that Drupal and Typepad both support XML-RPC and Tumblr is into remote posting, so the capability is there, you just might have to turn it on (like in WordPress). Figuring out how you can post to your blog from your iPad (directly or remotely), is essential to getting to the next step—picking the apps you’ll need.

Turning on XML-RPC in WordPress

I’m going to focus on two types of apps in this how to post: writing apps and image apps. Yes, there are lots of apps for gathering content and reading news, but you’re probably doing that already (if not, you should be!). For writing apps there are two groups of apps, apps that will post to your blog and apps that will just let you write. If you can’t post directly or remotely on your blog, then you’re looking at just a writing app. If you can post remotely to your blog, then a writing and posting app will be cool. I will say, however, that although I can post to almost all the blogs I write for remotely I use both pure writing and writing-posting apps for my posts. Sometimes I need to start a post on my iPad and finish it on my laptop (like this one for Future Shop)

Writing and Posting Apps

  • Official WordPress App Free. Only works with WordPress.org or WordPress.com blogs. Basic image support.
  • Official Tumblr app. Free, iPhone optimized. For posting photos, etc on the go.
  • Blogsy Paid. Supports most blogging platforms, good image support (auto resize on upload).
  • Writing Kit Paid. Text and Markdown editor for iOS. Built-in browser. Lots of export options (what this post was written in on my iPad). Dropbox syncing
  • Byword Paid. Great basic text editor with Markdown support. Fewer creation options than Writing Kit, but my backup editor on my iPad. On my Mac, it’s my primary post writing tool. Dropbox and iCloud syncing
  • Elements Paid. Another solid, basic, Markdown-aware text editor. Dropbox syncing.

What do I use…

For the most part when I’m writing a post or article on my iPad I head for Writing Kit. It’s a solid editor that supports Markdown (Sidebar: What is Markdown? Here is the skinny—Daring Fireball: Markdown), syncs with Dropbox and its built-in browser let’s me add links into my posts with a couple taps. That said, when I was on an extended holiday/family time, I needed to post from my iPad to several WordPress-based blogs. Writing Kit can’t do that. It can generate HTML that I can paste into the web-based editor, but…that’s about it. Since you can’t (yet) upload images from your iPad to WordPress (iOS 6 has the functionality to do it now, but WordPress hasn’t been updated to take advantage of this new feature yet), I needed something with more oomph. Enter Blogsy. I’ve tried a few paid and free blog editors on my iPad, but Blogsy is the only one that I find works and is constantly updated. Using Blogsy I can either write posts in rich text right there or paste HTML from Writing Kit (sometimes I do this so I know I have a backup of the original post on Dropbox). Blogsy lets me upload an image from my Photos to my blog and set that image as the Featured Image for the post (a lot of WordPress blogs I write for make heavy use of that function). Of course within Blogsy I can set (and create) Categories and Tags for Posts as well as Pages (well not the Categories and Tags part…those aren’t used for Pages). Between Blogsy and Writing Kit I have content creation pretty much down pat.

Images, however, are another kettle of fish.

Managing Images

  • Skitch Free. Great for basic cropping and a few adornments.
  • iResize Paid. Just resizing and cropping, thank you very much. But it’s the fastest and easiest app I’ve come across to do just that.
  • iPhoto Paid. This is my go-to photo editor on my iPad, except for one thing—it doesn’t make it easy to open a screenshot, crop it, and scale it to the correct size for your blog.
  • Snapseed Paid. This is my fallback photo editor. It does a few things better than iPhoto, and has some cool effects.
  • FX Photo Studio HD Paid. This is a fun editor whose claim to fame are the myriad effects you can add, and remove selectively, to your photos.

What do I use…

In large part, I take a screenshot of a page on my iPad, take a photo (shared through PhotoStream), or save a photo to Photos, then crop it in Skitch (or process in iPhoto), save, then resize as needed. While Blogsy does have a great automatic photo resizer, you can only set one global size (say 640 pixels). Some of my blogs need 640, some 600, others 450-500. My process now is to have an original image, scaled to 640, and scaled to 600. If I’m in a rush, I’ll just do the 600 size and let Blogsy do the original to 640 resizing. iResize is the only app I’ve found that makes it easy to just scale an image down without doing anything else to it.

Apps are great, but the reality is that the final essential bit to blogging from your iPad is one essential piece of hardware—a physical keyboard.

Hardware

Apple Wireless Keyboard. My favorite portable keyboard, but at 12″ long, it can be cumbersome to carry. I have an incase Origami case for my keyboard when I’m heading out (it holds the keyboard and serves as a stand). Not too portable, but an amazing keyboard.

ZAGG keyboard When I have to be more compact this is my fall back keyboard. Like the Apple one, it’s a Bluetooth keyboard (and has amazing battery life), but also combines with an integrated case-stand. The keys are smallish, but you get used to them quickly. Might not be great for epic typing sessions, but you can manage just fine.

Logitech thin I haven’t had the chance to use this one yet, but I’ve heard nothing but great things about it. If I could have found it locally when I was picking up the ZAGG, I might have opted for this one instead.

Pulling It Together

With all these apps and tools, how do I write and post? It’s pretty simple. I write the post, usually in Writing Kit, then switch to my Mac if I’m at home or close by to post by opening the file from Writing Kit saved to Dropbox in Byword for Mac. From there it’s having Byword create HTML for me, opening Safari, and posting. If there are images to be managed, then I will usually deal with all of them on my Mac then. I have far more (and better) tools on my Mac than on my iPad. If I’m not going to be back home before I need the post to be up, then I’ll post in Blogsy with images managed with one (or many) of the image tools above.

You might wonder why I do all this writing in Markdown. It’s simply this: Markdown lets me write in “faux HTML” that can be quickly parsed into “real HTML” by all the apps I use. Read the post on Markdown and you’ll see how my time a good Markdown editor can save you when you need to write things that will later need to be in HTML.

And that’s it! I find that I can write better, longer, and with more focus on my iPad than I can on my Mac. I’m hoping a couple of my other go-to editors become more iPad aware (that being Scrivener), but until then, I can certainly make do—and be very productive with a few apps, a keyboard, and my iPad.

Originally posted on the Future Shop Tech Blog.

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