One of the best things about writing is it takes almost no tools or equipment.
A pen and paper; that’s it. The world’s greatest novels were written with even less — paper and a feather.
But to publish a blog, you need a bit more than that.
I have my doubts about Tolstoy, but I’d bet that Dickens — who wrote his novels as weekly serials — would’ve loved blogging apps.
Will Blogging Apps Help Me Write Better?
No. Even the best blogging app in the world won’t make you a better writer. That just takes practice. Dickens and Tolstoy practiced.
What blogging apps can do is make you a more effective and productive blogger. That’s what you need to be if you’re blogging for business — or blogging is your business.
The main reason I use blogging apps is that they’re loaded with features specific to composing visually engaging posts and publishing them directly to The Tech Uncle Blog. That saves me both time and effort.
So with that, here’s a personal guide to the blogging apps I actually use:
Why Buy an App at All?
There’s nothing wrong with Microsoft Word or Apple’s Pages if you need all those reports, templates, and advanced features.
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I used Word at my last job, but my employer paid for it. Now that I’m independent, however, I see no reason to buy it when Pages is free and handles my general writing just fine. I don’t need all those templates anyway. I use Pages, just not for blogging.
All the apps I review below let you insert images into a post, but many let you place, resize, and even colorize them. Or add captions and alt-text — essential for search engine optimization (SEO).
Some have extensive formatting and word count options for professional writers. Some have a “writing mode” that banishes toolbars, sidebars, and everything else from sight, leaving your screen a blank white page for distraction-free writing. I’m writing this very post in MacJournal’s “focused writing” mode. It’s great.
Most significantly, all the apps connect to your blog or blogs — they handle multiple — and can save drafts or publish without you needing to log into your blogging platform at all. Blogo even lets you respond to post comments within the app.
Finally, most of them have mobile apps you can sync with your desktop app. Sure, those cost extra, but they enable me to blog on the go. For me, that’s a big deal.
Blogging in Windows
Microsoft Windows used to lead Apple’s OS X in the availability of good blogging apps, but that no longer seems to be the case. Most of the apps below are for OS X and iOS.
Still, Windows users have options. There’s a desktop Scrivener for Windows (but no mobile app); and Storify is web-based, so it works on anything.
For years, Windows Live Writer was the standout favorite, until Microsoft discontinued it in 2012 (and ended all support in January 2017). Coming to the rescue, an intrepid and persistent group of software authors has released Open Live Writer, a free, open-source version that pretty much duplicates the original.
My Highly Personal Guide to Blogging Apps
Writing is a very personal thing — not just the words, but the process of writing. Everybody’s got their preference. I journal with a pen and paper. I blog with these:
#1 – Scrivener
Scrivener is not a blogging app per se, but a general writing app that’s great for organizing all my writing projects. It’s my writing “happy place” these days.
It comes loaded with manuscript templates for fiction, non-fiction, screenplays, poetry, and even song lyrics, but I just delete those and use the pre-made sections in the lefthand sidebar to keep all my research, notes, ideas, and drafts together.
A unique “corkboard” view (see image below) displays index cards representing individual text files, and each one has its own right sidebar with keywords and status filters, file notes, links, and all kinds of metadata. Finally, I can compile and export them into Word files, ebooks, and other formats.
The iOS app syncs effortlessly with the desktop version. Just make sure you save and sync in the one you’re using before you open the other; otherwise you’ll get conflicts and possibly lose your changes.
Both the OS X ($45; iOS $19.99) and Windows ($40 desktop only) versions offer a 30-day free trial.
#2 – MarsEdit
MarsEdit is an old favorite of Mac bloggers and it’s easy to see why. It’s easy to use, with a simple interface but cool, advanced features nonetheless. Among those features is the ability to add images directly from iPhoto, your Pictures folder, Flickr, even the media libraries of the same or a different blog. None of the other apps here does that.
MarsEdit has advanced text features too, like HTML editing. You can format text from a toolbar dropdown instead of the faraway app menu. And you can add tags, a slug, and an excerpt.
Sadly (for me) there’s no mobile app, but you can add a “Send to MarsEdit” bookmarklet to your web browser to add stories right from there. And it works with WordPress, Blogger, Tumblr, TypePad, Moveable Type, and other platforms.
It’s $39.99 from Apple’s App Store, but $39.95 with a 30-day free trial through the developer’s website.
#3 – MacJournal
MacJournal ($39.95 for OS X) is great for writing words but unfortunately pretty bad with images. I’m writing this post in its nice “focused writing” mode, so I see nothing but my words on a white background. I’ll add the images later in WordPress.
The developer, Mariner Software, produces a collection of specialized writing apps mostly geared to novelists and screenwriters. And like those, MacJournal is for serious writers who need to know things like deadlines, priorities, draft status, and word counts; it even shows how many times you use each word in a story. You can check spelling and grammar, clean up your formatting, and clock how much time you spend writing. You can open posts in Evernote or Text Edit, and images in Photoshop. You can make audio or video recordings within the app. You can move posts from one blog to another.
In short, its writing and editing tools leave everyone else in the dust. And like MarsEdit, it connects with WordPress, Tumblr, LiveJournal, Moveable Type, and other platforms.
Its real and unique strength, however, is the calendar, which no other blogging app has. It easily works as an editorial calendar, with both a chart (pictured) and chronological timeline view that displays any or all of your blogs at once. You can see exactly how to pace and schedule your publishing.
It comes with a great mobile app too for only a couple more bucks ($1.99), and syncing is seamless, although you must have both the desktop and mobile apps open and on the same wifi network (the exact opposite of Scrivener). Inconveniently, MacJournal doesn’t sync posts you published outside the app; you have to download into the app them manually.
If only MacJournal had better visual editing, it might be the perfect all-around blogging app.
#4 – Blogo
Blogo might be the perfect all-around blogging app if only it had MacJournal’s calendar. You can, however, schedule posts for publication, so that’s something at least.
Blogo took a lot of flak in 2016 for changing from a $29 one-time purchase to a $69 annual subscription. There’s still a free version, but it does next to nothing. Ouch. Still, the paid version offers a lot for the money, including the ability to manage, moderate, and reply to comments from within the app. And you can create pages as well as posts.
You can add free public domain images, videos, GIFs, and even music via the new Media Search function. And the mobile app connects with your iCloud drive and Photos library. In fact, Blogo is great with images. You can adjust placement, make simple color adjustments, add captions, tooltips, and alt text; even add a feature image.
Syncing between the mobile and desktop apps and your blog or Evernote is easy and instantaneous.
I’ve often taken notes for a post in Evernote and synced it to Blogo, where I wrote, edited, and published the post. Then I fine-tuned and added SEO and social sharing plugin data in WordPress. A workflow like this makes blogging super easy.
#5 – Storify
Like Scrivener, Storify is not strictly speaking a blogging app. It’s a free, web-based social media curation tool. It was created by a former journalist so reporters could quickly collect social media reactions to newsworthy events.
But after a couple of acquisitions it’s ended up with Adobe, which is seeking to go all enterprise with the new Storify 2, part of the Adobe Marketing Cloud, allowing Adobe’s customers “to basically try to make money off the comments you leave on sites,” according to one CNet cynic (reviewer, I mean).
All this aside, the ability to embed entire Storify stories into a post or page makes it a useful blogging tool for topical, instructional, or reaction posts. I’ve used it to assemble tips on pet holiday safety and how to give your cat a bath. On The Tech Uncle Blog, I used it to curate this collection of 2017 social media predictions.
Basically you search for a topic across Twitter, Facebook YouTube, Google+, etc., and then drag and drop items from the search results directly into your Storify layout. You can add bits of text in between as connectors and lead-ins. In this way, you can write a whole story from social media in minutes.
If you use Hootsuite for social media scheduling, you can plug in a Storify app ($2.99/month) to add posts from all your channels within the Hootsuite dashboard itself. Very convenient.
Storify also has its own community, where you can follow and be followed by others. And when you publish a new story you can choose to notify all those whose posts or tweets you included, extending your social media reach.
One quick aside: Two of the most popular blogging platforms — WordPress and Weebly — have their own free mobile apps for both iOS and Android. Both let you update and manage your blog to some degree as well as write and edit posts. Handy at least for making quick changes when you’re not at your desk.
As with any software, check out the free trials to see which apps appeal to you. Try out different workflows with your note-taking app and blogging platform. Feel free to drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have questions or need help with that.
Finally, you want your blog posts to be read, of course, and that means getting them out there in front of people. Read my blog post “8 WordPress Plugins to Supercharge Your Social Sharing” to learn more about that.
And pop your email address into the form below to get my free guide/template for optimizing your post titles and descriptions to help them get found by search engines and shared on social media.
What apps do you use for blogging? Share your experiences in the comments below.