Tag Archives: Blogging

iPad Journal: Looking for a new writing & blogging sweetspot

A couple weeks ago the developers of Ulysses took the app to a subscription model. I don’t do subscriptions. So, I said my goodbye. Then I began my move back to Byword for writing and publishing to WordPress. It works pretty well. There are a few quirks. For example, while it is possible to publish a post with an image the image must first be uploaded to the web and a link inserted for this to work. Compared to Ulysses which took care of uploading the image during publishing. Not as convenient but still not worth a subscription.

Another, when working on something of several pages, Byword lacks the ability to quickly jump to the beginning or end of the document with a keyboard shortcut. I often do podcast transcripts of many pages so this is important and a bit of a hassle when it’s lacking.And, on the note of trying to navigate through many pages with keys, I easily loose track of the cursor and have to tap the screen. Not the end of the world but just one of those little oddities. Byword still has not added the overlay for displaying keyboard shortcuts. As far as I know,there is no shortcut in Byword to easily add a link. Not the end of the world but just another little annoyance.

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Enter, iA Writer
So, with reluctance I’ve purchased yet another writing/publishing app: iA Writer. Reviews are good and, like Ulysses and Byword, it offers publishing to WordPress. At $3.99 it’s certainly worth a try. The way I see it, it’s still far less expensive than locking into a Ulysses subscription.

My initial impression is that it is certainly a solid app, pleasant enough to work with. Whether little annoyances such as those I mentioned about Byword begin to show, well, more time using the app will bring those to light. I’m not sure what I think about the font choice for writing but it’s not changeable. Something lacking that I was hoping for is an option to share text/urls from Safari. Currently, I can send such things to Drafts or Notes as a go between. Or, just as likely, I’ll use Clips. With iOS 11 around the corner it may be that I’ll be getting in the habit of dragging and dropping text and urls.

What I like:

  • The blue cursor and highlight are nice and easier to see than the dark gold used by Byword.
  • Set-up for publishing was very easy. It publishes as a draft and then opens up the page via web which is perfect. From there I can set the post type and add keywords and categories.
  • I can select text then use the Command-k shortcut to turn the text into a link with the URL currently in the keyboard. It’s a little thing but one I really like.

What I don’t like:

  • I’ve tried uploading an image with this post and I get an error that the request timed out. So, that’s a bummer.

Time will tell.

Back to Byword

Getting Byword set-up again for blogging. Haven’t used this app in over a year and I think I’ll settle back in just fine. As comfortable as I was with Ulysses, the interface between the two is not all that different.

iPad Journal: Writing more with iPad

It was around this time last year that I began my shift toward an iPad centered and preferred workflow. I'd taken on a new gig transcribing podcasts and spent much of March, April and May fine tuning that workflow. It began with a Mac and iPhone using Pages and the Apple Podcast app. After a few weeks I realized I could work faster with just an iPad in split screen mode with Pages and Podcasts. Over the course of around 110 days I churned out 29 transcripts for a podcast that averages about 45 minutes. Of course transcribing is not writing but I was really enjoying the time with an iPad and bluetooth keyboard. Two things happened as a result.

First, I was finally using and understanding the benefit of the split screen feature. Second, I'd started using more keyboard shortcuts. I'd always used the most obvious shortcuts on the Mac: Copy, Paste, Save, Find, and a few others. What I'd not used, surprisingly, were the shortcuts for navigating around a page of text and along with that the selection of text via keyboard. The combination of iPad and external keyboard lends itself to this because there's no trackpad or mouse next to my keyboard. While I wouldn't say that my arms tire when reaching up to the iPad, but it is simply faster to use the keyboard for selecting text. It would be faster than a trackpad on a laptop too but because the trackpad was easy enough I never bothered to learn. Using the option or command keys with the arrow keys (along with shift for selecting) are great time savers. If you're not using the keyboard to navigate text in a document do yourself a favor and give it a try.

In early May as I was working through the transcripts I realized I'd not posted on this blog in seven months. So on May 15 I wrote a short post and set a goal of more frequent posting. Up to that point I'd only posted 22 times in the roughly two years1 that the blog had existed. Not great. In the 10 months since that May 15 post? 55 posts not including this one. That's a nice increase. I also still write semi-regularly on my other blog, Beardy Star Stuff. I've posted there 39 times in the past 14 months. That's a blog I've had going in one form or another since April 2003 with a total of 796 posts. Wowza. That's just shy of 57 posts per year on that blog. That's not too shabby. As I recall I'd actually been keeping a blog starting in 2001 but I forget the name of the system I used2 and I didn't bring those posts with me when I transferred my blog to TypePad.

So, that's 14+ years of blogging most of which was done using Mac laptops from my first iBook to the PowerBook to the MacBook Pro to MacBook Air, using web interfaces or apps such as MarsEdit. Good times.

Now I find myself using the iPad and Ulysses and this feels like the best workflow I've ever had. While the Mac in conjunction with an app or web-based environment always worked well enough I don't think I've ever enjoyed the process as much as I do now. But I have to say just how important Ulysses is in this equation. I'd previously tried several apps for blogging on the iPad and was never satisfied. I'd been hosting on WordPress and Blogger and there were a couple apps that could publish to both, the best of those was Byword but it seemed a bit flakey and was too minimal. The web interface for Blogger was terrible on the iPad but the WordPress app was okay and even the WordPress web interface was tolerable so I moved Beardy Star Stuff from Blogger to WordPress. Having both of my blogs on one platform was much better and for a while I made do with the web interface and WordPress app. It was better. By this time my writing on the Mac had dropped to near zero and I was using it only for graphic design.

It was around this time that many folks were praising the recent release of Ulysses for iOS but I already had too many writing apps and had determined I wouldn't buy anymore unless I had very good reason to. Ulysses looked great but what I really wanted was a better way to publish to WordPress. When Ulysses added WordPress publishing I jumped and it's been fantastic. Ulysses and the iPad are the perfect combination for blogging and for the first time since owning an iPad, it is easy to say that this is the best blogging experience I've ever had.

I don't really consider myself a writer so much as a person that likes to share and the sharing often takes the form of writing just as it often takes the form of photos, videos, and lately, even "paintings". What I'm noticing now is that because there is no friction in this Ulysses/iPad combination I am far more likely to actually write and publish. Not only is there no friction, but I actually enjoy the process. Of course I seek it out when I have ideas brewing but, more interesting, I sometimes find that I've opened Ulysses before I have any particular idea. Rather, I have an urge to write, to start with a blank white page. It is a more basic desire to create for the sake of creating rather than a practical, utilitarian expression of an idea that I've had that I want to share.

This is all to say that over the past few months I've really been enjoying writing and that I'm looking forward to doing more of it in the coming year.

  1. The first was December 31, 2013.
  2. It was some sort of manual, text-based deal.