Fancy yourself as a writer? Blogging’s the way to start, and these are the apps you need on your device
Before the rise of social networks, blogs were all the rage. They were a great way to get your thoughts down and make them public. And, really, they still are.
Sure, Facebook is all domineering, and Twitter exists for people whose thoughts condense nicely into 140-character soundbites. But these services are a combination of chatting to friends and screaming into the void. Moreover, they are inherently – and intentionally – transient.
By contrast, a blog can be an online home that has an element of permanence and that’s properly yours; it’s not surrounded by countless bite-sized gems of wisdom, games and other distractions. It affords a sense of focus, both when you’re writing, and also when others are reading.
But how does blogging align with the iPhone? This round-up aims to find out. And it turns out that although blogging apps are limited on smartphones, they get the job done when you’ve no other keyboard to hand, and when you need to make quick adjustments to blog posts that are already online.
WordPress: best for a free start
Free • v7.7 • 85.3 MB • By Automattic
WordPress is a true industry giant, powering over a quarter of the internet. It’s used for everything from online stores to digital magazines. It’s also historically been a popular platform for blogging.
On the desktop, WordPress is a highly capable and hugely configurable tool. If you have an account on wordpress.com, you can work with drag-and-drop tools for site design, entirely for free. Elsewhere, many web hosts offer single-click WordPress installs, so you can set up a blog with your own domain in minutes.
On iPhone, the WordPress app is stripped back, but efficiently connects to existing blogs, or enables you to create a new one on wordpress.com. The app’s capable of creating new posts and pages, editing existing content, and adjusting basic blog settings.
The browsing side of things is smartly designed, whether you’re reading your own blog or checking out others by way of the Reader tab. Editing is weaker. Although the app has a custom keyboard bar, formatting options are limited (omitting headings entirely), and autocorrect is not supported.
There are other quirks, too, such as an inability to add a WordPress-hosted site if you’ve already added a self-hosted one. The end result is a product that feels a bit slap-dash. However, if your typographic demands are limited, and you want to get a blog up and running for free, WordPress enables you to do so using your iPhone.
Medium: best for minimalists and community
Free • v2.55 • 54.4 MB • By A Medium Corporation
Medium describes itself – in a lofty manner – as ‘a network for writing that enables people to make an impression on others’. Ultimately, it’s a service that hosts blogs. The general quality of the writing, especially during Medium’s early days, has given it a reputation for higher standards than other blogging services; however, there’s no bar to joining – anyone can create a Medium blog.
Registration is free, and setting up a new account on the iPhone is swift. Although there’s a premium tier, it’s required only if you want access to audio posts, exclusive stories, and an offline reading list – or wish to support the site.
The writing side of the Medium app is polished and considered. You get limited styling options, but that’s down to the service focussing on words over themes. However, you can quickly format text as headings, quotes or lists, add line breaks, and import photos. Drafts are automatically stored until you’re willing to post them, and strings of posts can be compiled into series.
The negative side of Medium is that you are writing on someone else’s site. If Medium vanishes, so will your writing (although you can export an archive). But as a counterpoint, Medium immerses you in a community, and gives you a shot – albeit slim – of your work being featured and therefore read by many more people than if you were to go it alone.
Steller: best for photo stories
Free • v4.3.3 • 20.8 MB • By Mombo Labs LLC
There used to be a fantastic app called Storehouse, which enabled you to craft and share gorgeous photo stories. Sadly, it is no more. Steller’s visual clout isn’t quite as mesmerising, but it’s in a similar space and the next best thing.
You start off with a theme, into which you load images and videos. For each page, you choose a template that defines appearance, cropping, and whether a caption exists alongside the imagery. Should you wish, additional pages (including text-only ones) can be added.
When you’re done, you can preview your work, which will resemble a little virtual book that you can flip through. Once you have a number of stories, they can be organised into collections, for example to catalogue an ongoing world trip, or as a repository for your travels within a specific country. Alternatively, you can use the Steller format for other kinds of visual blogging, such as when writing about food or art.
Although Steller is designed to be used as an app, it wisely enables access through a web browser, meaning anyone with a computer can also view your stories. However, it trips up with a lack of export options, the inability to unpublish a story to draft (you must delete it), and the fact you’re playing in someone else’s sandpit. Still, for people who’d mostly rather blog with photos than words, it’s very much worth a look.
Byword: best for wordsmiths
$5.99/£5.99 • v2.8 • 9.9 MB • By Metaclassy, Lda.
Although it’s primarily a text editor, Byword also bundles publishing capabilities, enabling you to upload to Medium, WordPress, Tumblr, Blogger, and Evernote.
The writing side of things is efficient and smartly designed, incorporating iOS autocomplete and also a custom toolbar that sits above the keyboard. This can be switched between a word count and tools for inserting Markdown.
If you’re unfamiliar with Markdown, it’s a simple system for indicating formatting. For example, a hash symbol (#) denotes a heading, and asterisks either side of a word define emphasis (commonly rendered as italics). Online guides provide further insight.
From a publishing standpoint, there are limitations compared to a service’s native apps, but it’s possible to send your work as a draft, so you can check it prior to publication. Also, with WordPress, Byword can insert Markdown for images stored on your iPhone, which can subsequently (but not automatically) be uploaded by using the Resources section of the Publish page.
The app has some odd quirks (such as insisting headings be Written In Title Case, thereby requiring subsequent editing if you’re not paying attention), but the writing experience is solid, and assuming you can grasp Markdown, Byword’s great for formatting posts for the likes of WordPress. You can’t edit anything after you’ve published it, note, but the standard WordPress app’s fine for that.
Additional apps that can help you get your blog on.
Free or $2.99/£2.99 per month • v3.2.8 • By Blogo, Inc
A more powerful editor for WordPress, which provides full access to formatting, and a really smart image uploader/editor. Oddly omits support for iOS’s auto-correct, however. Free for use with a single site; requires monthly IAP for multiple blogs.
Free • v1.1.7 • 17.8 MB • By Bonjournal LLC
This nicely conceived travel journal would have made our photo blogs spot if it enabled browser access to posts, and was updated more often. Even so, it’s worth checking out if you’re galavanting around the world and want to create a beautiful blog of your progress.
Free • v1.6.4 • 120 MB • By Adobe
Another photo story creation tool, with some great templates, and a friendly, usable drag-and-drop interface for adding new page components. Public pages are accessible anywhere, but can’t be exported, and are lumbered with messy URLs. Still, this one’s great for experimentation and infrequent photo-oriented posts.