img_00013Overview

I am a real late-bloomer when it comes to blogging. My biggest problem in past attempts (as I mention in my Productivity column) was how I considered my entries: wastes of a day. I’d spend the day writing, posting, editing, and then tweaking, until finally the entry was done. Then I’d look at the clock and realize with a bit of sadness the day itself  was done.

When I decided to try blogging a third time, I pledged to apply the right disciplines: Keep posts close to 1000 words, proof (and proof again) before posting, and finally spend no longer than three hours on a single post.

Provided I kept those disciplines in check I enjoyed a lot of freedom to rant about anything I came across as a writer, a podcaster, or resident goofball; but there were still some days I felt my time could have been better spent. Maybe I just wasn’t “getting it” when it came to blogging.

Casually browsing though the App Store’s Social Networking section, I stumbled across WordPress Version 1.21. As it was a free download and I wanted to explore Social Media possibilities with my iPhone, there was no harm in giving it a shot. Admittedly, I wondered just how versatile this app could be?

After all, it’s free (just like WordPress 2.7.1, so feel free to throw in a “Duh!” here as you read…); and as other iPhone apps tend to simplify favorite desktop interfaces, my expectations were low on what WordPress for the iPhone would offer.

In a word: Wow!

Features

Pick a Blog, Any Blog!

iPhone’s WordPress greets you on launching by asking for your blog’s location, username, and password. Once you are verified and online, you have the option of proceeding into your blog or entering in another account. Yes, if you wanted, you can use your iPhone as a gateway to all of your WordPress blogs sans Safari.

Keeping It Simple

Once inside your blog, you have three options: Posts, Pages, and Comments. That’s it. Definitely a far cry from the Dashboard, but by keeping it simple you focus on the priorities of exactly why WordPress is on your iPhone and you’re not using Safari: create or edit Posts and Pages; approve, unapprove, delete, or spam Comments.

If you want to see if there are any outstanding comments awaiting approval, tap the “Refresh” button in the lower left of the interface. Tapping on an individual comment reveals details such as its author, which post it is affiliated with, and when it was made. Under Pages, the sections of your blog are displayed in HMTL format, so if you feel like crunching a bit of code or making quick and easy edits, you can do that from here.

That is the same for previous Posts. The only entries that may seem light on the coding is any you’ve composed within your iPhone. When you are ready to create a new post or a page, tap the “Compose” option in the lower-right corner of the interface. Then, it’s time to blog.

img_0006Options, Options, Options

WordPress, even for its streamlined interface here, gives you many of the options you would want in creating a post. You can access your Categories (and their Sub-Categories), fields for keywords, and options for whether or not you want to Publish, save as a Draft, make a post Private, or submit your post for publishing Pending Review.

Under Settings (in the Menu Bar across the bottom) you can set a Publish Date, set a post with Password Protection, and allow WordPress to Resize Photos automatically for faster downloading.

The Preview option will allow you to preview your post in your blog’s template. Photos allows you to add images from your iPhone library. So while this app sticks to the basics, there is a lot you can do.

Enjoy the Local Drafts or Save until Later

Blogposts-in-progress are saved automatically in a Local Drafts folder. This is a safe place in your iPhone for your thoughts and musings, and can be easily accessed if you need to step away for a moment. If a phone call comes in, your post is automatically saved here. Once you end the call, WordPress returns you to the post so you can pick up where you left off.

Say though, you want to add in a podcast, place images throughout your commentary, or proof your blog entries with a careful eye on a monitor other than your iPhone. You can save post-in-progress into Drafts. iPhone’s WordPress will send your work directly to your blog. On accessing Dashboard you will find it there waiting for those final touches which may be easier to make in a full interface than in the iPhone’s.

Breakdown

The Good

img_00041This app is a lot like WordPress itself: A lot of control and options for free. The bonus: You now have all this remotely. I love the fact that my Categories and Sub-Categories are available and that I can expand the blog with new Pages and Categories, all from my iPhone. I can lay down the foundation of a blogpost, save it as a Draft, and then give it a “final treatment” (links, media, etc.) once back at the Mac Pro.

It is also good to know that if I want to make a change on the blog either in a previous post or a page I can also do that here. With this latest version, you now have the option to approve, unapprove, or spam comments. This app puts up an unflappable effort to help you keep your blog up to speed from anywhere.

This app also supports landscape view. Fantastic!

But why not just access the Dashboard proper through Safari? To answer this honestly, I needed to give iPhone’s WordPress a full test, so I composed an entry called “Stranger on a Train I” where I threw caution to the wind and got down my thoughts during a long train ride home. I would type until I felt “comfortable” (defined here as the maximum word count I could adequately proof on the iPhone’s screen) and then employ the “Photo” option with a self-portrait of me on that particular commute.

I never felt as if my eyes were straining or my typing was stilted. In fact, WordPress helped out with iPhone’s inherent “spelling suggestions” feature, and a nifty tool asking if I wanted to create a link whenever I typed “http” into the post. No need to pinch and grab, or zoom in and out. Everything I needed was taken care of.

Simple and easy. Very elegant. Just like WordPress on a whole.

The Bad

As much as I love this app, there are a few things that could be spiffed up a bit. The biggest limitation is its support of images. You can access photos in your iPhone library, sure; but it places the images at the bottom of your post, each photo on their own separate line. Once you incorporate pictures, landscape viewing is disabled. That just strikes me as weird. More control and options for photos would be terrific, particularly for placement within a blogpost.

Another possible problem (although it worked out to be a blessing for me) is that the app will only work with WordPress 2.7 or WordPress.com. If you have older WordPress versions running your blog, you will have to upgrade. Otherwise, this application will not work.

And as cool as it is to be able to blog from your iPhone, the interface is a far cry from a full WordPress Dashboard. This is an app strictly for code monkeys or for people who want to keep their blogposts to the basics. Podcasters might not find a lot of use in this app; and without that “Kitchen Sink” toolbar (that I love so much), any creative typography choices will have to wait until you get behind the real thing.

Verdict

“Blogging from the iPhone? You can’t be serious.”

img_0001aThat was my first thought. However, I also thought tweeting from a mobile phone of any kind was a little excessive. Then I got the iPhone and I choked on those words. Hard. So with lesson learned, I decided to give WordPress a run. It sat on my phone for two weeks before I launched it, and now I feel a touch of guilt over not diving into it sooner. I didn’t think it would be this rewarding of an experience; and the more I delve into iPhone’s WordPress, the better it gets.

What I believe makes this app such a winner is its compatibility with my earlier mentioned disciplines: 1000-word cap on posts, proof before posting, and limit time invested into a post. The WordPress interface and compact nature of the iPhone itself keep my “Stranger on a Train” entries well within the first two rules, and the actual commute itself gave me a time frame to work within. The end results are blogposts unconventional for me: a 200-300 word-non sequitur more reflective than ranting, more philosophical than funny. This completely impromptu series has now become the most popular offering at TeeMorris.com, and I find this outlet challenging, creative, and slightly therapeutic.

Could iPhone WordPress be helping me “get” blogging? I believe so, yes.