WordPress Desktop App

Have you noticed the message in your WordPress desktop inviting you to try the new editor? I tried it and it is very nice. It’s free and available for Windows, Mac and Linux computers and it will work on both WordPress.com and self-hosted sites that have Jetpack installed. You can download the app at WordPress. You will need a WordPress.com login to use the app and you’ll find the link to create your login at the Desktop site.

The Desktop app is especially useful if you have more than one WordPress site. I have three sites of my own and I manage several more for associations. While the mobile app made it easier to manage multiple sites, the desktop app makes it a real breeze.

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The Reader view in WordPress desktop app for Mac.

It’s not just an editor either. The Reader pulls in the latest posts from every WordPress site you follow. This includes both WordPress.com and self-hosted WordPress sites using Jetpack. The Reader displays an excerpt of each new post. Click the title to display the entire article. You’ll notice the very simple comments form at the bottom of the article. Since the app already knows who you are, you just add your comment. WordPress does the rest.

With the Reader you can organize the sites you follow into lists (similar to categories in Feedly). You can also “follow” a tag to display posts assigned that tag – whether you follow them or not. I’m guessing this only displays posts from sites that are either hosted at WordPress.com or have Jetpack installed, but it’s still pretty interesting.

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Reader displaying posts with the genealogy tag.

Even if you aren’t using the desktop app, WordPress bloggers may want to start including “blog-centric” tags in each of your posts to help people using the app – or the online WordPress.com Reader – discover your blog. Note the Follow icon in the heading of this post from Kindex Your History. It appeared in my Reader when I clicked on the genealogy tag in the sidebar.

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Although I do like the minimalist editor, it does take some time to get used to it. For example, the three-dot icon at the far right of the editing toolbar displays the extended tools and the link icon at the left of the title is used to edit the post’s URL. Don’t be alarmed when the options items in the left sidebar disappear. They didn’t disappear, they scroll out of sight as the post your working on gets longer. Scroll to the top of the screen and they’ll all reappear.

Remember too that this is an editor – not the administrator’s workarea. This app won’t let you tweak a theme or add a widget. It’s for reading and writing. In fact, I’m using it to introduce my society’s new writers group to the joys of blogging.

Oh, I’ve started including “genealogy”, “family history” and “digital storytelling” as tags in each new post I publish. That should make it easier for others to find my blogs in the Reader.

Mobile Genealogy

Lately I’ve found I’m spending more and more research time on my iPad. There are two reasons for this – Evernote and MobileFamilyTree [iOS – $14.99]. MobileFamilyTree has a companion app for the desktop called MacFamilyTree [Mac – $49.99] but although both can use the same database when it’s stored on iCloud, the mobile app is entirely independent of the desktop version. I believe at the moment, it’s the only mobile iOS app that is. Another advantage is that both versions can synch family tree data with FamilySearch.org.

Mobile Family Tree person page

One thing I love about both the Mac and Mobile editions is that I can view and edit all of a person’s detail information on one screen without constantly opening and closing data boxes. That is so irritating.

Same person page in MacFamilyTree

Even with MobileFamilyTree’s synching capability, I still prefer to do most of my FamilySearching via web browser. Why? so I can capture source information and download record image files into Evernote. I’ve found the Dolphin Browser [iPad – free] has a much better Evernote capture interface than the Safari browser on the iPad. It works much like the Web Clipper installed on my desktop Safari.

Granted, the iPad is not the best platform for bouncing around between web sites and apps – something I tend to do a lot. My solution is to take written notes. Sure that slows me down, but I’m finding that’s actually a good thing. Writing those notes instead of copy/pasting or clipping them makes me think about them more – more time to consider what this record adds to my research. At the end of a session, I’ll use Evernote on my iPad to photograph those notes so they can easily be found again when I need them. So far, I’ve had very good luck with Evernote’s search engine “reading” my handwriting.

What’s the down side? Trying to read original documents – especially census records – on my iPad mini’s small screen. Sure I can zoom into a document so I can see the content, but when I do it’s displaying such a small bit of screen area that I’m scrolling all over the place trying to see all the information. That gets real tedious real fast.

Am I ready to give up my desktop? Not even. I do find that developing mobile research skills and workflows at home has significantly improved my efforts when researching at the library. Since I’m planning a couple of research trips, these skills can become even more useful when I have a limited amount of time in a distant archive.

That being said, I do see where the iPad could become a primary research tool – especially for seniors who never used a computer but have found the iPad quite useful. Platforms like Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org seem to be making it easy to get them started and I expect that’s a trend that will continue to grow.