Mobile Blogging Update

I find I’m spending a lot more time blogging from my iPad. Not only have blogging apps improved significantly, but thanks to Markdown it’s a lot easier to include formatting that used to require HTML coding (a real effort on an iPad keyboard). I have Markdown turned on for my WordPress blogs. You’ll find the “switch” in the Settings > Writing panel on sites. Self-hosted sites will need the Jetpack plugin with Markdown activated. Tumblr supports Markdown, but finding the switch to turn it on can be a challenge. markdown settings in tumblr Once set, you’ll notice the editor shows you that you are in Markdown mode. Click it and you’ll be taken to the Markdown syntax page at Daring Fireball. tumblr editor screen As of today, Blogger doesn’t support Markdown, but don’t let that stop you. Using the Byword editor for Mac and iOS with its publisher feature turned on, you can write in Markdown. Byword converts it to HTML for you before sending it on to Blogger.  The Blogsy app for iPad also supports Markdown and publishes to every blog platform known to man.

I’m having trouble finding blog editors for Android devices. WordPress, Tumblr and Blogger offer their mobile apps, but what few “general purpose” apps I’ve seen don’t look too appetizing. If anyone has a recommendation for a good mobile blogging app for Android, please tell us about it in the comments.


Coming Soon – WordPress 4.0

WordPress 4.0 is expected any day now. It’s bringing some very interesting features:

  • Widgets will have a live customizer much like themes have had for some time. You’ll be able to preview your changes in the work area before saving the widget.
  • When you embed media (like video or Twitter updates) via URL, you will now see a preview in the editor. You won’t have to save/preview to see how they look.
  • Improvements to the plugin discovery process making it easier to browse/search for plugins from within your WordPress Dashboard.
  • Improvements to the post editor’s text box making it easier to work on long posts.

Helen Hou-Sandi, the release lead, presented all these features and more at a recent meetup which you can view here.

Catalog Your Treasures with WordPress Media Library

If you are using your blog to display and document your family treasures, your first thought is to create a post for each item with a picture of that item and text to describe what it is and its importance to your family. With WordPress, you do have other options and one of them gives you a lot more flexibility for sharing and displaying these treasures.

I’d like to introduce you to the WordPress Media Library.

When you click the Media > Library option in the Dashboard’s sidebar, you see a screen similar to the one below showing all the images and other media files you’ve uploaded to your WordPress blog. The panel to the right of the screen gives you the ability to add alt text and other metadata information about the selected media item and choose display options before inserting it into your page or post.

The Insert Media screen

My guess is that most bloggers are more interested in the display settings than the metadata section, but you may want to rethink that. Why? Those metadata fields can be used to describe that image just as well as your blog post can. AND . . . by taking advantage of those fields, you’ll have a lot more control and flexibility in how you display those images. Let me explain.

When you complete the title, caption, alt text and description fields for an image, WordPress will use that to build an attachment page for that image. You may have noticed that one of the Link To options in the display settings is to link to that attachment page.

Sample media attachment page.

A sample media attachment page.

When links to the attachment page are used, WordPress displays that page much like any other post or page. The actual design depends on the theme you are using. In the example above, I’m taking advantage of Jetpack’s new Carousel feature to display a collection of images. Here you see the title with the description below it. The caption appears under the image. Thanks to the theme and my blog settings, there’s even a comment form just below the description.

The difference here is I’m attaching the information about this image to the image rather than a post or page. This means that the metadata “travels” with the image giving me more flexibility for displaying my treasures. Think about it. I can build a gallery page of family portraits where clicking on any portrait will display a page (your readers don’t know the difference between a post, page or attachment page) describing the details about that portrait. Later, you may want to create an article about a family group. Inserting images of that family into the family post instantly adds the information about each individual while you concentrate on the story about the family. You can repurpose your media in any number of ways and the metadata for each item goes with it.

If you’re interested but find those tiny fields in the side panel too confining for any serious descriptions, don’t worry. WordPress has thought of that too. Go to the Media > Library screen and you’ll see that you can open any media item to display a much more sizable editing screen.

media library list

Media library list

This is a list of items in my Media Library. Notice the Add New button at the top of the media list. You can add new media items here just like you do on the Posts or Pages list screens except that you can’t insert them into the post from here.

media attachment page

Media attachment editing screen

Here you see the editing screen itself. You’ll find many of the same tools available on other editing screens, including the ability to edit the permalink to this attachment page. You’ll also find fields for the image’s caption and alt text information. The description editor only offers a text view so you will see HTML code when you format the text.

Now that my images have been added to the media library with all the captions, descriptions and other metadata, what can I do with them. In the example below, I’ve created a page titled Art Gallery and inserted the three images you see here using the tiled mosaic gallery option that was recently added to Jetpack. Clicking an image will display its attachment page in the carousel format shown earlier in this post.

wpmedia101As I create new images, all I have to do is upload them and add my metadata in the Media Library then edit the gallery on this page to add them to the mosaic. If at some future date I decide to create a post displaying just water-related scenes, all I’d have to do is pull appropriate images from the Media Library into that post and all the detail information comes with them.

As a family historian, WordPress’s Media Library makes it easy for me to catalog and repurpose treasured photographs as well as images of the places and things that are a part of my heritage. I like that!

Blurb – A Full-Service Publishing Platform

If you thought Blurb was just for photo books, think again. With its recent acquisition of MagCloud, Blurb has now become a full-service publishing platform offering tools and services to layout, publish and distribute not just beautiful photo books, but magazines and ebooks too! And, they have just announced a distribution agreement with Ingram so your books can be sold at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Waterstones and many other outlets.

The updated BookWright app offers the flexibility to create bookstore-quality print books as well as magazines and your choice of fixed-layout or reflowable ebooks. You can still use their online book design platform, Book Smart or InDesign as well.

If you want to create a photo-rich family history, these tools and services give you a broad range of construction support along with a full-service distribution service. There are no up-front costs to use Blurb’s tools or services. For print books, there’s a base cost depending on the size, binding and number of pages. You choose your retail price and keep all the profits from books sold directly from your Blurb bookstore. For books sold through distribution, you set the retail price and the wholesale discount. Blurb tracks sales and handles payments from all these sources right in your Blurb account.

Need a little inspiration to get you started? I think Janet and Charlotte can do just that . . .