BlogPress can do, but could do more

Bottom line readers are probably too busy to write a blog on the iPad using BlogPress because they will need to use too many other apps in support. Then again, bottom-line readers would probably pass the responsibility of writing the blog off to an underpaid assistant so they have more time to get to the bottom line:

BlogPress is probably the best choice of the few iPad blogging tools available, but still leaves a lot to be desired:

  • Fairly easy to add graphics
  • Supports all the major blogging hosts
  • Makes adding categories and keywords reasonably easy

Here’s why it falls short of any ideal, whether Platonic or the lowered expectations of someone who’ realizes his choices are pretty limited.

  • No undo feature
  • Automatic save may not automatically save
  • Reposting a pain
  • No formatting features

In addition, I share my fears about the impact of exponential blog overload on future archeological research, not to mention the potential for losing centuries worth of data, challenge the urban legend that the second time around is always better and hexplain why Americans prefer short words to longer ones.

Even though I write a blog, I sometimes wonder how blogs in general will affect our social and cultural evolution.

Okay, let me qualify. The Baptist Preacher’s Kid that still lurks in the dim recesses of my consciousness—the leftover BPK that encouraged me to get into trouble at every opportunity (and which now tells me God’s going to drop the boom for every one of those little escapades when I least expect it)—says I don’t need to worry about evolution because there will be no blogs in heaven.

Then I get over it, and start to worry about the impact of blogs on social and cultural evolution. It’s like thinking about landfills in the future. Umberto Eco once wrote an essay about future archeologists thinking all those toilet seats were really ritual neckware. What will they glean after slogging through millions of trillions of terabytes of blogs?

We have an easy time figuring out the classics from our past. There were few enough books written that someone had time to read them (with the exception of the alchemist Paracelsus, who may have written more books than a hundred monkeys each typing the complete works of Shakespeare, and of whose books I have read exactly none). But there may be more blogs on the internet than there are people to write them.

A thought that scares me even more: What if the storage needed for all of those blogs ultimately takes down the entire server network? We could lose the 1990s. We could lose the seventies, which would be no great loss.

Actually, I suspect storing all that porn will more likely take the internet down in flames long before storing all the blogs will. Let’s just hope no one comes up with porn blogs.

Oh, crap. I just did.

Hopefully, there are so many blogs that no one with money to invest will find this one.

This brings me to today’s review, BlogPress, one of the two iPad blog apps that seem aimed at the needs of professional bloggers. There are others, but they seem to be aimed more at blog journaling and stress their cute interfaces.

BlogPress’ only real competitor is WordPress, which, as you can imagine only works with the blogging site WordPress. This means that most bloggers looking to take their blog on the road with their iPads are stuck with BlogPress. And I mean stuck, because the lack of serious competition seems to have stifled any desire on the developers’ part to innovate and update.

BlogPress doesn’t stand on its own two feet

BlogPress seems to be the best of a limited selection of iPad capable blogging tools, and one of the only two designed for professional bloggers. This is a sad statement, because neither BlogPress, nor its direct competitor WordPress seem to offer much in the way of tools professional writers need.

To be honest, I use BlogPress in combination with several other apps to get my blogs out five days a week. I long ago learned not to actually write my blogs on BlogPress. Instead I do all of the outlining, writing and editing elsewhere.

I use Pages for the heavy work (although other word processors would do just as well for my blog). I keep my notes and outlines in iThoughts HD and copy and paste any HTML from E2 Editor (which I finally settled on after trying—and paying for—a number of editors that left me underwhelmed).

Once the blog is posted, I make any necessary corrections and updates with WordPress, for reasons I will discuss later. In fact, BlogPress and WordPress share most of their features, save for a couple, and those two alone make BlogPress my blog editor of choice.

BlogPress keeps track of drafts and posted blogs

Easy to add graphics

When I want to add an image to the blog, all I need to do is click the camera button at the top of the screen. I can browse to my photos folder and select it in an instant. You would think it would be as easy with WordPress, but it isn’t. You have to add photos to a tray, but whenever I click the Plus button to add the images, the app shuts down and returns me to the iPad desktop.

The camera button makes it a snap to add images

Automatic Twitter and Facebook posting

If you have a Facebook or Twitter account, you can announce your latest blog entry to anyone who looks at your wall. The feature isn’t perfect, it sometimes freezes the BlogPress app if I’m posting a long blogs, but I only lose the announcement. The Blog itself posts fine.

Once you type your announcement (I always copy and paste the “In addition” paragraph just to tweak readers’ interest), BlogPress takes you straight to your blog in Safari.

The entire process is really easy.

You can post to any provider

BlogPress allows you to create an account with any provider—Blogger, WordPress, TypePad, Joomla. You can manage your blogs through the settings panel. This is a distinct advantage over WordPress to bloggers who don’t use WordPress as their host. I do, so it isn’t a problem.

In fact, in my case, it’s a benefit because I can use the WordPress iPad editor to correct mistakes once I’ve posted (which offers distinct advantages over reposting through BlogPress).

Categories and keywords

BlogPress keeps track of your blog categories and any keywords you’ve used in the past. I find it much easier to select from a long list of keywords I’ve used in the past than to constantly type in “keyword+keyword” although I do still have that option. The only downside is that after a while the list gets a little unwieldy, which is why it’s nice to be able to select a keyword or type one.

You can automatically add categories and keywords

In spite of all of these nice features, BlogPress leaves a lot to be desired. In fact, the list of shortcomings almost guarantee it will never be a stand-alone application unless the developers roll up their sleeves and sit down to do a serious overhaul.

No Undo feature

The fact that I can’t undo anything is the main reason I only bring my copy into BlogPress after I’ve made every correction and it’s ready to post. My first attempt to compose a blog resulted in my losing everything when I accidentally chose “delete” instead of “copy.”

You may never delete text accidentally, but I do, and when it’s gone, and you have to retype everything, the decision to use another word processor becomes easy.

Even worse, there’s no “revert to saved” feature. This means that you’re stuck with those royal screw ups that seem so brilliant until you look back at what you’ve done and say, “What could I possibly have been thinking?” or “what strange doppelgänger took over my brain?”

I will admit that I’m quite familiar with the belief that when you lose all your work, the second attempt at composition will only produce something better. I have heard this many times, and I have reassured many skeptical students who lost all their work that their subconscious minds will only improve on their first attempt.

Let me state for the record that this may be true, but it may also be an urban legend born from denial and ratification. After all, how do we know the second attempt is really better than the first attempt? We have no way to compare the two attempts because the first attempt was lost. We only have the memory of the first attempt.

Now Plato would argue that our memory of an idea is superior to anything we actually commit to paper. The idea is real, the memory is only a simulacrum, or cheap copy of the idea, which is itself a copy of the reality that the idea was trying to grasp. Thanks to Plato hundreds of people have been sent to death row because some bozo “remembers” seeing them running from the scene of the crime.

The French philosopher Derrida and a host of cognitive specialists would suggest that all memories are imperfect and imprecise. This would suggest that we recall the lost version of what we wrote as inferior only because it suits our self-esteem. On the other hand, Americans hate Derrida because—let’s be honest—he’s French. And cognitive specialists have too many syllables in their titles for Americans to trust. We don’t want “cognitive specialists,” (six syllables) we want “brain experts” (three).

I suspect this is because the more syllables a word has, the more likely it was to have been derived from Latinate languages (six syllables), which of course gave the world French, rather than good old Ango-Saxon (three syllables) which gave the world American.

So trust me when I suggest BlogPress may not be doing us any favors by forcing us to rewrite words we had to wrangle from our brains to begin with.

It also means that if BlogPress closes on its own, or because you accidentally hit that little round button that closes iPad apps, any changes may be permanent. I stress the “may be” because BlogPress is really strange about how it handles changes.

Automatic save is wonky

BlogPress is weird about automatic save. Sometimes I can leave the application and when I return my copy is waiting for my, exactly the way I left it. Other times, I return to find a new, empty window waiting for a new blog. When I call up the blog I was working on, the changes are gone and I am forced to anguish over the question of whether or not I can really replace what I had already written.

“Why not just save?” readers might ask. Usually, I do. But sometimes I hit the iPad close button by accident. Or sometimes I get a push notice from my kingdom in We Rule saying “HottieMcBody69 wants to buy your honeypot,” (which, believe me, is far less erotic than it sounds) and before you know it I click “view” instead of “close.”

Then, when I return, my work is gone. And this new version, you’re reading now, is only a pale imitation of what I wrote before confronted with an invitation from HottieMcBody’s honey pot.

BlogPress creates new link address when you publish

The first time you publish, this isn’t a problem because the blog will need a new address anyway. The problems begin when you need to make changes to the published blog—either because you stupidly used “you’re” instead of “your” a half dozen times and neither you nor you wife caught that in the proofreading process, or because you left out a

tag and now all the text is centered and in 6 point type.

Should you edit in BlogPress, the app will ask you to publish again to post your changes. In my experience, when you “publish” BlogPress assigns a different URL name to the blog.

Why is this bad? Because your Facebook or Twitter announcement also provides users with a link to the original blog. Once you repost, using BlogPost, any friend who clicks on the link will get a message that the blog can no longer be found.

Limited graphics management

I mean really, really limited. The settings dialogue indicates you should be able to move and store blog photos, but I have yet to be able to do this successfully. This also means that I can’t access photos to repost. I have to post the same photo over and over again, eating space on my WordPress storage.

There is a workaround, but it’s a pain. If I want to reuse a photo, I have to find the old blog, copy the javascript code and paste it into the new blog. This leads to one of the big drawbacks to BlogPress, formatting.

BlogPress also includes a thumbnailing feature, but I haven’t had any success with this either.

You really have to know HTML to format

I haven’t found any formatting tools in BlogPress, not even buttons or menus that install basic header styles or URL links. This means you’re on your own for formatting with HTML or CSS. And you certainly can’t preview how your blog will look on the web.

Infrequent updates

There has only been one update to BlogPress since it’s initial release, and that was back in April. Some of the best apps frequently update. In fact, I sometimes find myself thinking “again?” when I have to update an app I updated the week before. But it’s hard to argue with the appreciation you feel when the app works better than it did last week.

We’re still waiting on BlogPress. Maybe I’ll get lucky and they’ll post the update even as I post this review.

It’s happened before.

Jenny Manytoes rates

Jenny Manytoes takes a nap whenever she sees me launch BlogPress. Unfortunately, I’m stuck with BlogPress or I have to write this blog on my MacBook Pro, which defeats the purpose of an iPad blog.

The Jenny Manytoes Rating System

Jenny Manytoes, our polydactyl cat
  • When Jenny makes biscuits on a product she thinks she’s in heaven.
  • When Jenny purrs over a product she’s very happy.
  • When Jenny naps next to a product it’s okay with her.
  • When Jenny bunches her tail she can live with a product, but she has higher expectations.
  • When Jenny leaves it in the litter box….I don’t think I need to explain this one.

iPad Envy is created entirely using apps from my iPad
iPad Envy.


About Phillip T Stephens

Phillip T. Stephens disappeared into the Bermuda Triangle twenty years before he was born, creating a time travel paradox so confusing it remains unspoken between physicists and sci-fi writers to this day. Follow @stephens_pt
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