App Review: WordPress for iOS/iPad
But First, A Word From Our Author
This is my first review for the blog, though I’ve been doing game reviews for several years for Inside Mac Games and more recently Mac Game Center. I’ll post links to those review soon, but decided to start posting various and sundry reviews here. Though they’ll mostly be technology related, I reserve the right to also review books, movies and anything else that strikes my fancy. If you’re interested in writing a guest review, get in touch.
And now, on with the review…
A Little Background
I’ve had the WordPress app on my iPad for several years now, but have had little to know opportunity or need to use it. With our move to Chile however, the opportunity arose through a confluence of factors. First, I’m now limited in computers to our Macbook Air. Second, that computer is shared with the other two members of the family. Third, it’s the computer that has Minecraft on it, and with my son having limited things to do outside of school, he’s being allowed more time on it than usual. And fourth, I finally started my own blog and so must post frequently. So I am finding myself at times without a computer and needing/wanting to write a post. Thus, I have turned to the WordPress app, usually on the iPad though once or twice on the iPhone.
WordPress is the official WordPress app, and is an open source project. To get started using the app, you first have to give it the credentials of at least one of your WordPress sites. One of the nice features is that it is easy to enter more than one site and move back and forth between them. Once you’ve entered your info, you will be taken to the main screen and will see the main set of links. I’ve generally been doing two things with the app, writing posts and checking my stats. Your statistics are easy to check if you’ve set them up using Jetpack, and in some ways the app provides a better default view than WordPress itself. I especially like that by default it shows a stacked bar chart with visitors & views, not sure why that’s not the default on the website. Starting a post is similarly straightforward, just click the icon on the lower right, the pencil with the plus sign.
Creating Posts: Not Quite What I Expected
When you create a new post, you’re taken to a new screen where you can type in the post title and then the body area where you can type your post. You have a few basic editing commands available: bold, italic, underline, strikethrough, hyperlink, block quote and the ability to insert the <!–more–> tag. Actually, all of those options are for entering tags. This is not a WYSIWYG editor, but a text editor. If you click on the bold button, for instance, you will have a set of open and close <strong> tags inserted into your post. If you select some text and then press the button, the tags are inserted properly surrounding you selected text. This is all well and good, but probably not what most people will be expecting when they start using the app. For those like myself with website creation experience it’s ok, others will be immediately confused.
Frankly, for me it goes downhill from there. Unless I’m really missing something, you have no access to your online media library. There is an option to insert an image, but your options are limited to adding photos or video from your device’s library or taking a photo or video and adding it. If you do select a photo from your device, you are given an choice of sizes and then the image is processed, uploaded to your media folder and the html for the image is inserted into your post. If you want to set alignment or make any other changes, you have to know how to do that in the code.
Options & Publishing
There is also an Options button, which is where you go when you want to assign categories to your post, assign tags (you do not have access to your frequently used tags as on the website), and set Publishing options, Post Format and Featured Image (although again, for this option you do not have access to your media library, only your device library and camera). These options certainly get you where you need to go as far as setting up your post to your liking, although again the lack of access to your online information makes it less useful than it could be.
If you actually have a complete post and are ready to publish, there’s a Publish button in the upper right. If you’re done but you don’t want to publish yet, there’s a Close button in the upper left. Click the Close button and you’ll be asked if you want to Discard, Save Draft, or Keep Editing. I recommend Save Draft if you don’t want to lose your work. At this point your Post should be saved to your WordPress account online as well as on your device. I say should be, because on more than one occasion I have saved my draft only to go online on my computer and find that my last set of edits were not, in fact, saved. Needless to say this is frustrating and a fairly major problem.
As I said, I’ve mostly used the App for starting posts to be finished later on the computer and for checking my stats. You can also view & edit your existing posts and pages and view comments. In addition there are options to view your site (within the app), View Admin which takes you out of the app, into Safari and to the online admin login page, and edit your blog’s password, geotagging and Jetpack Stats configuration. Along the bottom of the home screens there are options for Reader, if you follow other blogs, Notifications (which as far as I can tell only let you know if your blog’s getting lots of traffic, and you cannot remove from the app), Me which lists the blogs you’ve entered into the app, and the button for adding a new post. Under the Me tab there is a Settings option in the upper right which allows you to sign out and set defaults for images and video.
In general the app has a fairly clean and clear interface, with a couple of exceptions. One relatively minor issue is with the Post interface. Underneath your content area you have a bar with a button for previewing on the left and adding images on the right. Fine, no problem and the icons are clear. But the Options button hangs out at the bottom of the content area, and tends to have overlap issues with either your content (iPad) or the bottom bar (iPhone). I’m not sure why this decision was made and why Options isn’t a third, well, option on the bottom bar. To me it would make sense and make the interface cleaner and more clear.
Also some of the settings for the app seem spread out among too many different screens, making them difficult to find, if you’re even aware they exist. This may be a function of the design and all the developers wanted to put into the app, but for me I could use a slimmed down app with things easier to find.
If you’re looking for a graphical interface to WordPress that works just like WP on the web, you’ll be disappointed in the app. While it allows you to view your posts and pages in a fairly straightforward manner, editing is purely code-based. For those who know HTML this won’t be a problem, for others it may be. And if you want access to media and other information from your blog that’s stored online, you will also be disappointed. You can add media from your device, but not from you blog. But if you’re looking for a stopgap that allows you to create quick and dirty posts including just taken pictures and video and gives you the basic settings you need to assign your posts to categories and tags, this app may be for you. It also allows you to read other blogs you follow and easily access all the WordPress blogs you administer. As of this writing, the app has three stars in the App Store, and that seems about right to me. It’s ok in a pinch, but no substitute for the real thing.