I’ve been blogging more or less since blogs were a thing, and had a website since long before that, and I’ve used a whole raft of tools to get words onto the Web, from hand-coded HTML to custom markup and hand-written formatting tools to a variety of blogging platforms.
Over that time, I’ve learned that blogging presents me with certain problems, and I’ve come up with the following requirements.
Access. I do most of my non-fiction writing on a desktop computer, but I also have a laptop; and there was a time when I did a lot of writing away from the house on an iPad. Whatever I write, I want to be able to work on it wherever I am, on whatever hardware I’ve got with me. I initially solved that problem by installing the MovableType blogging software; then I could blog from any web browser. But ultimately that fell afoul of my next requirement.
Offline Composition. I don’t much like composing in a browser window. Using MovableType, and later the early versions of WordPress, it was far too easy to lose your work before it got saved to the server. That led me to a neat app called MarsEdit, an off-line blogging client. MarsEdit knows how to talk to most kinds of blog software; and it lets you compose your posts on your own computer and then upload them to the server at your leisure. It was pretty nice; but it didn’t run on my iPad, and it only kept the most recent posts. That became the next requirement.
For a while I tried to finesse the iPad issue by composing my blog posts in Evernote, which I like a lot, and still use for other things. It’s available on every device I own, and (given ‘net access) syncs to every device I’ve got. But Evernote fell afoul of the next two requirements.
I should add: the in-browser blog editors have gotten much more reliable, and by this time are quite reliable. But they don’t meet the next requirement either.
On-Site Backup. Usually you hear about off-site backup, and I agree that off-site backup is very good thing—but you get that automatically with blog posts, since they usually live on a server in a server farm somewhere. I’ve become much more interested in on-site backup, which is to say I want to keep the words I’ve written closer at hand, where I can get at them, and maybe re-use them or repackage them later. It’s possible to download a complete backup of your blog posts from WordPress, but it’s not in a very pleasant form. That meant using something that runs locally and saves data locally, but also works via the cloud.
Consequently, my next solution was Scrivener, which I’ll be saying a lot more about at another time. Suffice it say that one Scrivener project can contain any number of blog posts, categorizing them any way I like; and if I save the Scrivener project in my DropBox folder (you do use DropBox, don’t you?) then it’s available on all of my machines. I’d gotten my laptop by this time, so iPad access wasn’t needed (though Scrivener has recently added that).
Scrivener did the job pretty well, and since I use it for other writing projects I was pleased to use it for blogging as well. But both Evernote and Scrivener had a serious flaw: any formatting I put into my posts rarely carried over properly when I cut and pasted them into the WordPress blog editor. Evernote and Scrivener had differing problems in this area, but they both had them. And that led me to the next requirement:
No formatting fix-ups when posting. Having written and proofread a post, I wanted to be able to copy and paste the post from my off-line app into the in-browser blog editor, and have it retain all of the formatting and links.
Bottom-line. I wanted a solution that would let me compose blog posts off-line, using whatever hardware I had to hand; would let me move from device to device as convenience dictated; would keep the posts resident in one place on my local machine; and would streamline the posting process.