Express for WordPress is an iPhone app created by Kenobi Studios and WooThemes that allows users to post short notes, images, links and quotes directly to their Tumblr-style blogs wherever they are. It also lets you save drafts when you’re not online and moderate comments.
The app works in conjunction with the recently released WooTumblog plugin and WooThemes’ tumblog themes, like Crisp, Retreat, Cinch or Slanted. For my review, I’m using a self-hosted WordPress installation at http://curatingmadness.com with the WooTumblog plugin activated.
Express for WordPress Gallery:
Setting up the blog
Since I wasn’t using a WooThemes tumblog theme, I can’t really review Express without also reviewing the process of getting my blog setup with the required WooTumblog plugin. My site is using a modified version of TwentyTen, so I assumed the process would be pretty straightforward seeing as how TwentyTen was the theme used in the plugin’s demo video.
After WooTumblog is installed, you can go to
Posts > Tumblog Options and see a list of template tags to use by clicking on the Help tab in the top right corner. More importantly, you also get specific instructions for how to implement WooTumblog in TwentyTen. Copy-this, paste-that, really easy stuff.
After that, it was just a matter of styling the different post types. The default styling is okay, but too bland. What can you expect with a free plugin and TwentyTen, though? If this blog was anything more than a personal space, I’d have bought one of WooThemes tumblog themes since they look awesome out of the box.
Setting up the app
When you first open Express, you’re greeted with a Startup Guide. It starts by thanking you for buying express and then informs you that there are a couple things you need to do to make the app work. Step 1 is installing a compatible theme or the Wootumblog plugin (which I had already done.) Step 2 is enabling the XML-RPC remote publishing protocol in Settings > Writing.
After exiting the Startup Guide you input your domain name, username and password and hit Done. Now you’re ready to go!
What I like
Express is a great app overall, but the best thing about it, hands down, is the user interface. It’s slick and modern, not at all cookie-cutter like most iPhone apps. It’s the sort of design that makes you feel like publishing something even if you have nothing to say.
The screen is divided into 3 sections. The top consists of all the post types you can publish: Note, Image, Link, Quote. (You can publish video and audio through the web interface.) The middle section scrolls through a list of recent posts and the bottom lets you edit drafts and moderate comments.
In many respects, Express is what I always wanted WordPress for iPhone to be. It’s the perfect combination of beauty and function.
As far as publishing goes, everything went very smoothly. Coming from a more long-form brand of blogging, it was always mildly amazing to see that the picture I took while in the countryside, far from any computer, or the quote I had discovered while visiting the library was live in seconds for anyone to see.
I was always connected wherever I went, so I didn’t find much use for the Draft feature, but it’s still nice to know that I won’t lose what I’m typing just because I can’t find a signal.
Comment moderation was definitely one of my favorite features. It was really easy to use. Comments are divided into Unapproved, Approved and Spam categories. Tapping a comment will reveal a slick comment screen with the commenter’s Gravatar, URL and email address. At the bottom of that screen there are three icons for moderation: an X for deleting it, a shield icon for marking it as spam and a checkmark for approving it.
What I didn’t like
I had only two real problems with Express and I imagine they’ll be taken care of in future releases.
First, as I said before, my favorite thing about the app is the interface. They didn’t just cobble together a bunch of the iPhone’s generic UI elements and call it an app. That’s why I was a little disappointed to see the area where you input content. I feel like they might have been able to do more with that. It’s just white space divided by a little gray line.
Second, when you are inputting content you can’t type in landscape mode. I don’t know about most people, but for me this tends to be a hindrance. I’m too impatient to type in cramped portrait mode where I either have to type slow or misspell most words.
I do have a third “not real” problem with Express. I hate that it’s just for tumblogs. I know that’s its goal and it achieves it almost perfectly, but after using Express for the last few days I really wish I could use it on my other blogs that tend to have longer posts. It’s been such an awesome experience that I’m incredibly disappointed that I can’t use it elsewhere. As it stands, I don’t know of any good long-form blogging solution on the iPhone. (If you do, let me know in the comments.)
Final thoughts on Express for WordPress
Express is a remarkable iPhone debut for WooThemes. If this is the kind of quality we can expect from them, I hope they’ve got some other apps lined up.
For blog publishing, Express for WordPress has done the best job of any app I’ve seen. It looks great, it works almost perfectly and I have no doubt that it will only get better.