By Ross Hunter
I post to several blogs, but even with only one the indispensable tool for me would have to be the free and fabulous piece of software called BlogDesk.
All the blogs I use are WordPress of course. For a dozen reasons it’s the only self-hosted (as opposed to a service like Blogger) blog to use.
But WordPress has one weak link, namely its rich text editor, which is a treacherous dog because of the flawed tinyMCE editor that it uses as the engine.
If you ever try to embed some custom code into the WordPress editor you’ll see what I mean. And with all the widgets out there you’re going to want to do this sooner or later. At such a time, you’d better have BlogDesk, which gives a true view of the HTML code if you need it. But this is not the principal reason to use BlogDesk – ordinary non-technical ease of use is reason enough.
BlogDesk installs on your computer, and you run it from the desktop. You can sync it up to your account(s) very easily with your login info. I also use it with a blog that has multiple authors – it’s especially useful with non-technical people that you want to set up to post to a blog. It’s far simpler to get people to download BlogDesk and get them to connect to the blog with their username and password than it would be to bring them into the backend of WordPress.
BlogDesk allows me to write a post, and create an excerpt for it if I want truncated posts showing on the home page of the blog. I can add a picture and thumbnail very easily, with BlogDesk’s built-in image management functions (BlogDesk uploads the image for you).
I can check adding Comments on or off, likewise allowing pings. I can publish after upload or have it save as a draft. And I can set the timestamp to allow me to preload it for a timed publication later.
Editing an existing post is as simple as asking BlogDesk to retrieve however many of the latest post titles to view and choosing the post, then edit and hit the green arrow button. Easy.
The only thing I have to go into WP for is to create a new category, but once it’s created BlogDesk retrieves all categories and I can choose which one to post to.
What’s beautiful about BlogDesk is management of multiple posts and blogs. I can save a post locally on the hard drive at any stage of writing. When I come to multiple blogs it’s possible to select more than one to publish to at the same time. Occasionally I do this, but more commonly I want to modify a post to add some credits or explanation if I post it to another blog.
Making sure to save the post as something with a name and location I can find (rather than using the BlogDesk autosave), I post to one blog, then open the post up from file, make my alterations, and post to another blog and category. Incredibly handy.
BlogDesk does support tags. However, it can only work with what the WordPress API exposes, and the API doesn’t expose tagging yet. There is a way to work with this however, using BlogDesk’s Technorati tag Generator and a small plugin for WP called SimpleTags. This plugin makes it possible to add tags in BlogDesk and have the WordPress blog pick them up and publish them. See this discussion at the BlogDesk support forum: http://forum.blogdesk.org/viewtopic.php?t=436
Is there any one feature I’d like to see in BlogDesk that doesn’t already exist? Well frankly I’d like to be able to alter the slug, that hyphenated string of words that appears in the blog post URL, taken from the title of the post. If I weren’t so lazy I’d go into the blogs and set up some truncation for the permalinks, because I like to give shortish URLs for people to link to without breaking their styles, or having the text of the link wrap onto a new line. But it’s probably that API again.
And none of my laziness is the fault of Johannes Oppermann, who is the author of BlogDesk and who actively supports it. The truth is I wouldn’t change a thing. It works as well as any piece of software I’ve ever used, and it is phenomenally helpful for the busy blogger. I recommend it to all bloggers everywhere.
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