My IPad Blogging Toolkit And Setup

by Ruud Hein March 5th, 2012 

I like the iPad. A lot. It's quickly become a real workhorse in my workflow.

One of the things I like doing on it is writing and blogging.

Here's what I use and why I use it.

Virtual Keyboard

Unlike other setups I've read about I prefer using the iPad's own, virtual keyboard.

I taught myself typing on my father's 1930's Underwood portable typing machine from age 6 up. Through the years the typing machines changed. To this day I can poke through brick walls without really noticing: some of the machines I typed on were that intense.

Underwood Typewriter

Over time my typing went from one finger hunt and peck to two finger pecking. By the time my Sinclair ZX Spectrum and Sony MSX computers had made way for a PC I was happily typing along with a sort of self-taught 4-8 finger typing system. Never fully blind touch typing but close enough.

It's the reason – I think – why typing on the on-screen virtual keyboard of the iPad is no issue for me at all. I don't place my fingers on a keyboard in rest position normally so it doesn't bother me that I can't on the iPad.

That I can type in the dark, because the iPad provides enough light of its own, and do that I'm virtually complete silence is a BIG win. I can write while my wife sleeps, in the dark.

And oh, let's be honest here. I've come this close to buying an external keyboard, going as far as comparison research (which we all know actually means "convincing myself to buy"), simply because those keyboards are very cool. And geeky. And just plain "wanna have". Reason I didn't got there is that it would detract from the cool portability and instant-on-ness that the iPad is.

So; virtual, on-screen keyboard because it's already always there, I can easily type on it, it's silent, and works even in the dark.

Blogsy

Blogsy is where I do my blog writing, my blog publishing.

Besides the supercool fact that the app icon sorta somewhat resembles an old typewriter, Blogsy packs all the formatting, WYSIWYG-editing, and image uploading goodness a true blog publishing app needs. For those who have ears; think of it as the Windows Live Writer for the iPad.

If your only experience with blogging on the iPad is using the WordPress app realize that it, in turn, compares to Notepad.

Blogsy works with a multitude of blogging platforms. It now also does rich text, HTML formatted email from within the app which means you can send your pretty posts even to those platforms not directly supported.

It has a rich formatting toolbar where you have easy access to bold, italic, underline, headings, bullet lists, headings, etc.

Image and video embedding is possible from within the app. Access to Flickr, Picasa, and Google Images makes getting images easy. There's also YouTube access and of course you can upload your own images from your iPad's photo albums too.

Posts can be scheduled, saved, published. You can set categories, tags, visibility, slug. You can work in beautiful WYSIWYG mode, comparable to WordPress' visual mode, or directly in HTML. It's all there and it works like a charm.

It could have a word count function added. It's a bit odd that it's not there. But while I love stats and figures, truth is I rarely rely on word count. You say what you have to say In as many or little words as you need to.

Blogsy. Five bucks. If there's anything you get from this post, this should be it.

Viewfinder

Unless I'm doing screenshots I prefer to find my images on Flickr. Viewfinder photo search and download from Flickr helps me do that efficiently.

Viewfinder for Flickr on the iPad

Viewfinder supports all Flickr's search functionality, including CC license, but what attracted me to the app are the small previews on an endlessly scrolling page. When I'm out with the iPad I don't want a quick search & browse image session put my data plan in the next bracket. Viewfinder helps me keep it doable and affordable.

Besides that, the app really does make searching for an image easier. There are several link and download options from within the app. Frankly, the download hasn't worked for me since a while now. Since Safari on the iPad does local saving of images, that's not a problem. Once I've found my image I tell Viewfinder to open it up in Safari and I save it from there.

Viewfinder hasn't been updated in a while, seems partly broken (well, it doesn't do the local download…), and costs $10 which for iOS software is, like, lots of money. Still, I haven't found a better Flickr search tool and I would buy this app again.

PhotoPad

I usually open images from Flickr in a resize tool so that the file size gets smaller. Faster browsing is more fun, right?

Other times I need to crop an image. That's especially the case with screenshots on the iPad: there is no way to select just a part of the screen.

That's where PhotoPad comes in. PhotoPad is a free application from ZaggSkin. It does the basic image editing routines of cropping, resizing, rotating, and red eye removal but also goes beyond that with a few nice filters and adjustments. It's a very complete image app – and it's free.

PhotoPad

By the way, opening PhotoPad to take a screenshot of PhotoPad which I opened in PhotoPad to take a screenshot of PhotoPad in action … That was so recursive, I drank yesterday's coffee I had made today.

WordPress

Well, yes, what did you expect? :)

The real reason to have the WordPress app on your device is so you can moderate and work with comments.

I don't have much other use for the app. Blogsy handles posts and pages and is very easy to use. Not in the sense of "oh my, how does this work?!" but in simplicity, in ease of use.

Both Blogpress and WordPress have rudimentary markup bars so you can set something to be bold or underlined but only Blogsy can you see right away how it looks. While I enjoy writing in HTML markup and write a lot of portable material in markdown there's something about seeing your work close to how it will look on screen once published.

Safari

Safari gets me links and information.

I've toyed with Writing Kit and it's integrated browser but for me it doesn't work. The switching remains; what you lose is that a quick double-press on the home button will let you switch back and forth between writing and browsing environment.

Usually by the time I'm really writing there isn't a lot of research to do. What I use Safari for is to search for a specific URL. Like I did with the Blogsy URL, for example.

Evernote & Springpad

Whenever I read something interesting I clip the article to Evernote. Every little bit of information counts and adds up; it's where a post like 10 Things Google Wished You Knew comes from.

I keep Evernote on the iPad synced so if needed I have access to key information offline as well.

At times I'll also start a post in Evernote on the computer, writing in markdown so I know I can bring the article and it's formatting over to any writing application. On the iPad I continue in Writing Kit, copy and pasting the article back into Evernote when done or needed.

Evernote also contains all the notes for the specific post(s) I'm working on.

I've used Springpad off and on. At the moment it is a bit of a standalone post idea app. Just toying around with that and seeing if keeping my Post Ideas list in another app changes anything for me.

Supporting Roles

Under the heading "I like to be ready" I also have Easy Charts HD in my blogging folder. I like to publish stats at times and Easy Charts HD enables me to visualize the information. Of course I usually do this from within Excel but the whole idea that when I'm out and about with my iPad I have my whole blogging kit with me just tickles my geek fancy. It's what a solid food stash is to survivalists; you probably won't need it but why wait to figure out you did?

I added Skitch to the arsenal. I think of it as Snagit on the iPad although I haven't used it that much yet; so far taking screenshots the old fashioned way and working them with PhotoPad has been all I needed. But again; better be prepared.

Question: do you use the iPad for blogging or other serious writing?

Ruud Hein

My paid passion at Search Engine People sees me applying my passions and knowledge to a wide array of problems, ones I usually experience as challenges. People who know me know I love coffee.

Ruud Hein

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11 Responses to “My IPad Blogging Toolkit And Setup”

  1. Hi Ruud -
    I have started to use my iPad for more than just simple blogging. My setup is similar to yours, I use Blogsy (great tool but does take a little getting used to). For photos I use either sxc.hu or google search via Safari (Blogsy Google Image search is far to limiting). For screenshots I do use Skitch which I have found very easy to use and powerful.

    Photo and screenshot editing is handled on-iPad via FilterStorm Pro.

    Extra's and assisting software is of course Safari, WordPress and Evernote.
    Hootsuite for tweeting, retweeting and facebook posting. Analytics (free) for tracking.
    dlvr.it for some automation and ifttt.com for other types of automation.
    Again, great post, I love to read about how people use the iPad and new tools for my new favorite machine.
    Cheers from Athens, Greece

  2. Ruud Hein says:

    I agree, the image search from within Blogsy is limiting yourself unnecessarily. FilterStrom Pro looks like a cool tool :) I'll hold off before buying it; the geek in me wants it but I'm no graphic wiz at all.

    Thanks for the comment, Kimon!

  3. Thanks for the review of Blogsy. I'm about to start using it. Also, I collect vintage typewriters. I love anything with a keyboard. Typing is pure joy, whether it's on my '29 Royal Portable, my Hermes Rocket, or my iPad's onscreen keyboard.

    • Ruud Hein says:

      I had a few old ones but had to leave them when I emigrated. I like the big Royal's with the wagon wider than the whole machine so you could put paper in in landscape. Beautiful machines. I'm trying to get the machine I grew up with shipped over.

      Nice comment, David; thanks!

  4. Gemma Thompson says:

    Hi Ruud,

    I do almost all my writing on my iPad, I write very first thing in the morning as soon as I wake up and I love the fact that I can just reach over, grab my pad and start downloading all my thoughts into it.

    I've been using My Writing Spot to do this precisely because it doesn't have a lot of formatting features within it, I'm the kind of person who will fiddle about with the writing instead of doing the writing if I have a choice so I love that it doesn't give me that option!

    One thing it does do though is allow me to mark different post with different colour stickers, so I have developed a very simplistic filing system … One colour for posted, one for ready to go and another for 'still needs work'. I have a lot of posts in that last section!

    I love the sound of photo pad though … In fact I need to go now and check it out!

    Thanks for this post, most helpful :)

    • Ruud Hein says:

      I hear you on the format fiddling :) I'm moving to plain text apps, using markdown to indicate basic formatting like bold or heading.

      My Writing Spot sounds kinda cool with the colors and all :)

  5. Sani Moyo says:

    Thanks Ruud

    Mulling over getting an iPad as a need rather than a want, and this post and comments go my way.

    I guess a laptop is still the best but it's a mission lugging it around, so iPad it is.

    • Ruud Hein says:

      With the right apps it's definitely a work machine too. When it comes to writing and researching, email, I'm either on my desktop or on the iPad. Rarely that I want/need to open the netbook anymore.

  6. Lesley Horn from The Yukon says:

    Hi Ruud,
    Thanks so much for the information. I am about to embark on a journey to Spain for siix months and was searching frantically for a way to blog and upload photos from my iPad . I'm finding my way around Blogsy and will by the time I reach my destination will have started blogging!
    Muchas Gracias!

  7. Lesley Horn says:

    Hello Ruud,
    Well, I have progressed somewhat. I am ow in Spain and have been blogging since I arrived. I am officially blogging for A local newspaper. I do have trouble organizing my photos but im getting there!
    Thanks so much.