WordPress <> Facebook Page Cross Posting with PolarFox

PolarFox My blog is a hybrid communication platform and archive. My tweets get auto posted here, for example. Longer form stuff, PDFs, video files, they’re all here too. But some mid-length content, like a quick review of a show or movie, I would like to post to both my Facebook page and here without having to copy and paste. There are a number of apps that can do that kind of thing, but one I recently downloaded and really like is an app called PolarFox.

My main requirement was the ability to send an image and text to both my FB author page and this blog. Of course one distinction between the two is that a FB page has body copy, but no headline the way a blog post would. PolarFox does exactly that. The headline is optional, but whatever you type into the app goes straight to both systems.

PolarFoxThe interface is increadibly simple. You select a source for the image – camera, camera roll, the latest image in your camera roll, or the image on your clipboard – add some copy, select your destinations and hit submit.

In the setup process, when you add your blog, you also select a default category. You can’t, unfortunately, change that on the fly. I also found a bug where it was creating a “null” category and tagging it with that as well. I also usually go in to my wp blog and update info for seo, but my goal with this app was primarily speed and ease of use.

Despite the bug, PolarFox is the fastest way I’ve found to send an image post to FB and this site in one shot. It’s not limited to those systems however. You can connect Twitter, Tumblr, LinkedIn, wordpress.com, a FB group, page or profile or any webhook connected app.

You can try PolarFox for free and it’s available for iOS and Android. And no, I received no form of compensation for this post. I just like the app.

Blog Touch Pro

I’ve written previously about iOS apps for WordPress blogging. There are quite a few apps, none of them perfect. One of my favorites, a rather simple one called TinyDesk, doesn’t seem to work anymore, so I took another look at apps and ran across Blog Touch Pro, available for both mobile and tablet.

Feature wise, the app is pretty straight forward to use. It works with both hosted and WordPress.com accounts. You can set up as many as you like. Blog Touch Pro has a full set of formatting tools, making it easy to get the look you want in your copy. Post options like tags, categories, publish status, slug and even excerpt can be accessed from a pop up menu.

One of the featues I like best is that the app makes it easy to filter posts by draft or completed status. I tend to write a lot of drafts with images that I go back and turn into stories later. Those drafts often get buried by new posts in apps like the official WordPress one.

Blog Touch Pro isn’t free, but they do have a free trial so you can see for yourself if the paid version would work for you. Generally speaking, I really like the app. It has a clean interface, it does about everything you need to create or edit posts, and it seems pretty stable as you use it. I do have complaints about Blog Touch though. Switching between blogs is not very reliable. It frequently requires the user to re-authenticate in order to pull the the right posts for the right blog. My other complaint is that it doesn’t work with the iOS spell checker, which is almost a deal breaker if you end up doing a lot of composing in the app. The app also seems to have a problem recognizing paragraph breaks because of the way it uses div tags. It will inconsistently format a post so some breaks are recognized and others are not. Lastly, it doesn’t pull down your blog’s categories, which is also kind of a pain.

Blog Touch Pro is a nice addition to the available list of WordPress apps. It has flaws, one quite serious, but is otherwise a very useful tool in a blogger’s arsenal depending on how you want to use it. The flaws also prevent Blog Touch Pro from being a primary or only tool for mobile blogging.

Update: The more I’ve used the app, the more I like it and the more it drives me nuts. With use it becomes more crash prone. Also, some non-standard UX elements make aspects of using the app very unintuitive. I think the bottom line is Blog Touch has a lot going for it, but ultimately the flaws outweigh the benefits.

ClamCase Pro vs. Zagg Folio Keyboard for iPad Air

My iPad goes with me everywhere (well, almost everywhere.) But I often found myself dragging along my MacBook Air as well, because I couldn’t do any writing on the on-screen keyboard. Email or texting, sure, but not real writing.

I’d seen lots of the keyboard solutions out there, primarily the latch on covers that come off and provide a built in stand for your tablet. I’m thinking of the Logitech and Zagg covers, here. Those are great if you’re going to type on a desk or table, but not a lap solution, which, honestly, is where a shocking amount of my typing occurs.

Then I found the Zagg Folio Keyboard and the ClamCase Pro Keyboard. I ended up having access to both keyboards and spent quite a bit of time with them.


Zagg Folio Keyboard

Zagg Folio Keyboard

Both solutions have you snap your iPad into a protective case that is attached to the keyboard itself by a hinge. With the iPad in place, the experience is a LOT like having an iPad laptop. Opening the iPad case uses the same tech trick as the smart cover to automatically turn on your ipad (or put it to sleep when you close it.) Both cases give you full access to the charging port and the power, volume and lock buttons. The build quality of both cases is excellent, although the ClamCase is significantly sturdier.

Both keyboards connect via Bluetooth and syncing them was very easy. They also have a micro USB port for charging. The batteries in both keyboards are good enough that I’m not really sure how long they last, but the respective packaging claims a month or more. I believe it.

One downside to both keyboard cases, though, is the snap it design makes extracting your tablet for keyboard free use a bit of a pain. With the Zagg, I’m a bit fearful that one of these types I’m going to crack the plastic case because of the way it full wraps the edges of the iPad. The Zagg design is slightly different, giving you a better purchase on the case/iPad for removal. But the difference is negligible.


ClamCase Pro

ClamCase Pro

As similar as the two keyboard cases are in concept, the differences are pretty dramatic. The most obvious difference is price – $100 for the Zagg, $160 for the ClamCase Pro. Realistically, however, you can get either case for about $20 less by doing a little comparison shopping for the Zagg or hunting down discount codes for the ClamCase.

The Zagg’s best feature is the backlit keyboard. You can cycle through a number of brightness levels, or simply turn it off. I type a lot and night and absolutely love this feature. They keyboard layout is pretty good, although not quite standard. The keys themselves are fairly firm, but not at all like typing on a real laptop keyboard. Also, there is about an inch of headroom above the keyboard, giving you less palm area below. The hinge on the Zagg Folio Keyboard opens to what looks like about 120 degrees, which gives you reasonably good viewing options. I always feel like I’m going to break the hinge when I open it, because it requires a good amount of pressure, but the hinge actually seems to be very sturdy.

The ClamCase’s best feature is it’s hinge, which opens up a full 360 degrees, allowing you to turn it into a tablet, or place it keyboard down for a better movie view. The second best feature is the keyboard itself. The Zagg is all plastic, case and keyboard. The ClamCase Pro has an aluminum keyboard body that is a spiritual cousin to a MacBook body. The keys also feel great, with enough travel to give you good responsiveness while you type. My WPM on the ClamCase was probably about 80% of what I can do on my MacBook Air, compared to maybe 60% on the Zagg. I’d liken the keyboard to an average PC laptop. Also, the keys begin at the top of the case (again, like a laptop) giving you plenty of palm room. But no backlighting, which really saddens me.

Both keyboard cases are excellent buys – You really can’t go wrong with either of them. The Zagg costs less and has backlit keys. The ClamCase costs more, but buys you the very sturdy build quality, an excellent keyboard, and a lot more case versatility. My advice is get the Zagg if you’re primarily planning to use the keyboard for light typing and/or at night. If you want to use your iPad as a true writing tool, invest in the ClamCase Pro, it’s the closest to a laptop feeling and you are definitely getting your money’s worth. For what it’s worthy, the one that earned a permanent place on my iPad was the ClamCase Pro.

What is the best iOS WordPress app?

WordPress makes a great app for posting to your WordPress.com or self hosted site, but sometimes the official app doesn’t cut it. In my case, for some reason I’ve not been able to figure out, I cant upload photos to my website with the official app, so I had to resort to alternatives.

I will say upfront that when it works, the official iOS WordPress app is pretty much the best, but each of the following apps can replace it as long as you’re willing to make trade-offs. Some are paid, some are free, but all of them can get you posting.

I only looked at apps for iPhone. There are a number of iPad only apps, but if I’m working on a device that big, might as well open up the MacBook.

Tinydesk – free with IAP to remove post footer
wpid-20140823-112603.jpgThis app is both the best and the worst of the bunch. Its major drawbacks are that you can’t edit posts or pages once they’ve been saved to your server and it doesn’t support the iOS dictionary.

On the plus side, it is one of only two apps that let’s you insert images from your media library.

TinyDeskThe app also uses a unique method for post creation. It treats each block of text or image as a discreet block. As you create these blocks, you can drag them up and down to reorder. It is a novel approach that is pretty useful in longer form posts.

And for what it’s worth, this app is the most consistently compatible with my sites and always uploads images.

BlogPress $4.99
1408917849.jpgThis app has a distinctly odd approach to content creation. Any formatting options are hidden away and can take several screens to do things like insert a link. Switching between sites is quite easy, however a site’s pages and posts are listed separately, which feels odd at first but you quickly get used to.

wpid-20140823-112558.jpgBlogPress has an interesting approach to image and movie management. You can set up a photo or movie service to upload your assets to instead of your blog. If you want to keep your images in Flickr or Picassa, for example, this is the tool for you. You can also post to Facebook and Twitter when you post to your blog, and send posts to multiple blogs.

This app has some great features, but it is just so painful to use that I have a hard time recommending it. Although my interest is strictly in WordPress compatibility, BlogPress does get credit for having the largest list of supported platforms.

PosterPoster has a minimalist, flat, UX, which works to give you the most space available for writing, but takes some getting used to because it isn’t always obvious where the feature you’re looking for is hiding. For example, to give a post a title, you have to go into an options area, where you can also set categories, tags and the post format. It seems non-intuitive at first, but once you’re used to it, it feels natural to handle all the post set up in one screen and the composition in another.

PosterDespite it’s minimalist design, there is power hiding inside, with support for sticky posts and other features tucked away. You just have to look to find them.

Poster also has a unique feature that let’s you create posts based on templates or copy which you can store on your DropBox account or that is in the iOS clipboard. This is a pretty handy feature if you are working with existing content you want to move into WordPress or if you frequently post content that is formulaic.

UPDATE: It turns out this app was so good, Automatic, the people behind WordPress, bought the app, hired the developer, and discontinued the app. Which is a damn shame because it works when the official app doesn’t.

PressSync – Ad supported or $4.99
wpid-20140823-112747.jpgPressSync is an interesting app. Organizationally, it keeps all of your published, draft and local content separated, but mixes posts and pages together by publish status – so all your draft pages and posts are grouped together. I make extensive use of drafts and really like this feature, but it can get unwieldy if you have lots of posts and pages.

The listings of content is very informative, giving you and clear view what category and post is in, as well as any tags, and displays a thumbnail for attached media.

wpid-20140823-112754.jpgPressSync is also the only other app that gives you access to your media library, either for directly uploading media or adding media to a post. But despite showing an image thumbnail in the list of posts, it does not show images in the posts themselves.

One of PressSync’s strengths is that it gives you a LOT of control over the way it interacts with your media and content. It supports slugs and sticky posts, although that feature doesn’t seem to work with my themes. You can also specify exactly what size you want your images to uploaded at, which is nice if you are trying to match images into certain templates.
1408917837.jpgThe app also gives you control over the app itself, and allows you to toggle on and off things like auto-capitalization and spell checking.

On the down side, switching between posts and pages is cumbersome, as is accessing basic formatting, which is located in a different pane. That said, it supports a lot of HTML and markdown formatting and gives you access to frequently used formatting.
For total feature set, PressSync clobbers all the other apps, but it also gives it the highest learning curve.

Pressgram – free with IAP
wpid-20140823-112820.jpgThis app isn’t, strictly speaking, a WordPress blogging app. The best way to think about it is a photo manipulation app with a minimum feature set for photo blogging.

On the image side, either take a photo or load an image from your camera roll, crop it, apply filters or blur, and add text to it. When you’re done, you can give your post a title and add some text to it, or add another image, then upload your post to one or more services simultaneously.

wpid-20140823-112839.jpgIt is extremely convenient if you want to post an image to two blogs, Tumblr, Facebook and Twitter simultaneously. It is the only photo blogging app that I’ve found that supports self hosted WordPress sites.

All the IAP are for things like filter packs and effects, not core posting functionality.

To sum up…
So which is the best one?

PressSync is the power user app. Lots of control, lots of features, and offers the most complete set of blogging tools. If you’re only going to grab one app on this list, make it this one and invest the time to learn how to use it.

Poster is probably the most straight forward WordPress app replacement. It is a bitch that Automatic cancelled it. I wish they would at least make the official app work better.

TinyDesk…if only it let you edit drafts this would be my top choice. I find myself turning to TinyDesk fairly often despite that draw back because it does the best job of uploading images.

PressGram should be on your phone regardless of what app you pick as your steady. It’s ability to quickly post images is unrivaled.

BlogPress, despite it’s massive list of supported platforms and some neat features, is just quirky enough I don’t recommend it.

Line of Defense Tactics Out Now!

Out today: Line Of Defense Tactics for iOS, Mac and Android! It is the game I wrote, based on the comic I wrote, based on the Line Of Defense MMO that Derek Smart created. And it is in “Best New Games” for both iOS and Mac app stores.

The game roughly follows the storyline from Issue 0 of the Line of Defense comic book series. You can get issue 0 for free via Comixology (link above) or for free as a PDF right here.

screen568x568The player controls Crater, Mash, Roach and Thumper, soldiers with Galactic Command, as they infiltrate an Insurgent controlled planet to nab a weapon of planetary destruction. Over the course of the game you get to fly a space ship in real time tactical combat, operate a massive mech-like armored vehicle and order around four bad ass GALCOM killing machines. Lots of good fun!

First 3 levels are free. You like strategy games? Go download! Then read the comic. Or do it the other way around. Either way you get lots of good free space marine fun.

Reason 452 ios 7 sucks: no play all

Now the only way to play all the music of a certain genre or artist is with Siri. In 6 there was a button for that. Really, what was gained by disabling functionality?

Worse, because you can only do it through Siri, if your phone is paired with a blue tooth device like a car, you have to turn off Bluetooth, talk to Siri, then re-pair.