April 25, 2010

Quick test: Blogging on the iPad

Inspired by a recent post on jkOnTheRun.com, I thought I'd try to compose and publish a post—complete with an image and a little rich HTML formatting—entirely from the iPad, using my MiFi for 3G as I might normally do in the field. My tools: Evernote for composing (it's free, saves its state when it quits, and syncs with desktops and the Web), and (as recommended by jkOnTheRun) LogMeIn Ignition, a $30 desktop remote app for iPhone and iPad (expensive, yes, but far more stable and easy to use than other, cheaper desktop remote apps that I've tried). The strategy (again, as suggested by the jkOnTheRun article): Compose on the iPad, paste the plain text into the Blogger.com interface via mobile Safari, then perform some (very minor) photo editing and apply finishing touches remotely on my MacBook Pro.

Why would I want to do this, you ask, when the process would be so much easier on my MacBook? Partially because I'm just curious to see if I can, but also to find out whether I could, in a pinch, put up a polished post with the iPad if I had to—say, if Apple HQ were to be attacked by a giant octopus while I'm on vacation in South Beach, with just the iPad at my disposal. (At a press event or a trade show, of course, I'd bring along my MacBook Air instead.)

All set? Then here we go...

Update: Well, the post itself looks just like I wanted it to, image and all, but the process was slow and fairly painstaking—definitely not something I'd want to do on a regular basis. The trickiest part was, of course, remoting in to my MacBook; as stable as LogMeIn is, the screen refresh rate over 3G is so slow that you must be very patient, waiting for five seconds or more for mouse clicks to register, windows to slide into place, and so on. Also, I can't find a way to remotely select more than a single word on a page; there's no obvious way to click and drag on a passage of text, or click and then Shift-click, and that's a problem when trying to add formatting in the Blogger interface. In the end, I found it was easier to add formatting with simple HTML tags while composing locally on the iPad.

That leaves dealing with images as the only compelling reason to remote in to the MacBook for blogging—and that worked reasonably well. The image I used here is a screenshot I snapped on the iPad; I then e-mailed it to myself, remoted in to the MacBook, pulled up the attachment in Mail, saved it to my Downloads directory, imported it into Photo, rotated it, shrunk it, exported it to the desktop, and then imported it into my post over Blogger's Web interface ... a workable, but multi-step process (not to mention the fact that the substantial bandwidth required for LogMeIn was murder on the MiFi's already so-so battery life).

The verdict: Blogging on the iPad with the help of a remote desktop app is certainly possible, but not recommended. A dedicated iPad blogging app (like the one for WordPress) would be the obvious solution; there is a $3 iPad app called BlogPress that works with Blogger that I'll probably try next, although it's been getting decidedly mixed reviews. Stay tuned.

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