Hello World

WordPress

Trying out WordPress, and finally giving my domain some actual usage. I’m running the latest WordPress version and most of my posts will be written on either WordPress for Android, or for iOS, depending on if I’m using my iPad or phone. I’ll use this blog for my various technical writtings, be it reviews or programming discussions or anything else. I’ll do my best to keep everything well categorized or tagged for anyone with only a specific interest.

WordPress 3.6 (aka Desktop or Browser) – Ah, WordPress, one of, if not the, most popular blogging platforms in the world. I’ve briefly played with you before with a WordPress.com account but you never kept my interest. Now you are installed on my own domain, a very different experience.

I’m using WordPress because it came as an available option with my hosting provider, so I figured why not? First thing after installing I’m told to upgrade to version 3.6. I try the automatic installation process to upgrade but it’s a no go, dead in the water when it tries to extract the archive. I try a few times but always the same result. So now I have two options: troubleshoot the automatic upgrade or perform a manual install. Both appear to be equally involved, and troubleshooting the automatic update still may not resolve the issue.

Manual install it is. After copying over the required files, I log back in and am running 3.6. Looking through the options I see the expected areas: Posts, Pages, Categories, Themes, etc. nothing surprising here. There are a significant number of videos, tutorials, and even paid courses, online about running a WordPress blog. I really can’t help but wonder… Why? Maybe I’ll take some time at some point and go through a few of them. But for now I’ll get mine started and setup.

The installation comes with a sample post and comment, which I quickly delete. I also change my theme to a slightly different one from the default but really don’t worry too much there yet either. Once I start posting some code content then I’ll worry about setting up some custom CSS classes for the code and maybe even get something like Pigment for syntax highlighting.

I fill out some profile information and blog title and tag line and such, the usual culprits. Looking at the post editor, there are two main edit modes. Visual and Text. Visual is a basic WYSIWYG editor, which for some reason on my (not all that large) screen, wraps significantly earlier than the end of the text box. The Text edit mode is a simple textarea which shows the basic formatting tags used by the posts. Both modes show the same formatting buttons along the top, again with the usual suspects.

One editing surprise was the full screen, “Distraction Free” mode, which will fill the entire screen with the post you’re working on, on a simple white background with some comfortable margins. Some small formatting buttons are available along the top which fade out as you start typing and reappear when you move the mouse. I admit I’m rather fond of the full screen mode and can see myself making a lot of use out of that.

Another nice feature I’ve run across as I work on my posts and save the drafts, is the revision history. Being able to see a simple diff of my post is kind of nice, even if it is mostly a reference thing more than anything, being the sole author able to post or edit. I can easily see how it would be convenient in other scenarios.

With the ability to tag and categorize posts, there’s not much exciting to say about the installation at this point. Perhaps as I use the system and slowly customize my blog to my preferences, I’ll discover some features worth getting into more detail about.

A final word about the web based WordPress and mobile browsers. Just don’t. It does work, in a fashion. However the mobile theme it applies is still not friendly to small screens, and navigating can be a pain with all of the drag handles on the widget boxes from the dashboard screen. In the long run it will save you a lot of grief to just use the mobile app for your platform than trying to fight with the page in a mobile browser.

WordPress for Android – I had some initial troubles getting the app to be able to connect to my self-hosted blog. However the most recent update of the software (version 2.4.5) appears to have corrected that. So far I only have this post as an example of how it works, but I like it thus far. In edit mode I see that it uses html tags for basic formatting which is great with me whenever it comes to special formatting later.

One UX decision that I’m not used to in Android apps, is that as I navigate between screens most Android apps will return to the previous, or at least parent, screen when hitting the back button. However in WordPress for Android, if I’m in any of the main categories (Posts, Pages, etc) it will simply exit out of the app itself rather than return to me to the previous one.

I think this really comes from my usage of the app, and the design related to it. I’m only using the app for accessing my self-hosted blog. I’m not using an associated WordPress.com account with it. When using a WordPress.com account within the app your Reader window is kind of your home screen, your main feed. However Reader functionality is totally removed from the App if you’re only using a self-hosted blog. Thus I don’t have what feels like a home screen from which to launch the rest of my activities. So when I hit the back button, it’s always a bit of a surprise to have the app close out entirely.

WordPress for iOS – I had much more luck with getting the iOS app to connect to my blog initially than I did on Android. However one issue I did, and continue to, run into is that the app itself is rather slow connecting to my site. Occasionally it will time out trying to update the posts. I know it’s not an issue with my connectivity since I’m local to the server itself (I love working at an ISP).

The iOS version seems to use a pages or sheets interface in which various windows and components overlap each other and you slide the sheets to the side to access the one you’re interested in. While not a very common UI choice, I admit I do kind of like it. Like most (all?) apps now adays, it also has a pull-to-refresh mechanism for getting the latest updates. I’ll use the fairly frequently as I switch between the various platforms for composing my posts.

One aspect of the iOS app I’m not enthusiastic about is the ad-hoc offline support. It’s less of a supported feature being able to compose while offline, and more of an error tolerance. Essentially my updates are stored on the iPad until it can connect to the server, but it lists them as failed posts as oppose to just indicating they’re offline. In my case I known I’m not online, it’s not a failure, it’s waiting until later to push them.

It would be nice if the app could recognize that you are offline and behave accordingly, rather than assume connectivity and group anything else as a failure.

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