How to Manage Your WordPress Site from an iPad

I’ll admit, I use my iPad more than my laptop. Equipped with a ZAGG keyboard case and 4G, this little puppy does almost everything I need it to. With the exception of bigger word processing jobs and more complicated image editing, the iPad meets my needs. I did, however, have trouble managing my WordPress sites using Safari on iOS/the iPad. For some reason writing posts was nearly impossible because the WYSIWYG did not work correctly. I had to switch to HTML mode in the editor to get anything done. In the WYSIWYG mode you can’t scroll or add the cursor to the text field.

I struggled to find a good iPad solution for a while, quickly testing the official WordPress app. On first glance, it looks to only work with WordPress.com, not self-hosted installations. It turns out, it works for both. In fact, I’m writing this post from my iPad, although I will need to switch to the laptop for some minimal photo editing stuff.

This post is a review and summary of the official WordPress app for iOS/mobile devices like iPad and iPhone.

The official WordPress app

This app is smooth and easy to use, but it is extremely limited. It is clearly made for writing and editing text content and not much more. You don’t have access to most administrative tools.

  • You can insert images from your camera role or take an image. This would be really handy for flash bloggers that are writing on the fly.
  • There is a very interesting WYSIWYG editor that integrates the HTML and “pretty” text. I actually quite like it.
  • Tags include bold, italic, link, quote, strikethrough, unordered lists, ordered lists, code and more.
  • You can choose tags and categories from pre-existing ones.
  • You can add a featured image but can’t manipulate them.
  • Saving is a little tricky. You only see a publish link, but tapping “Cancel” and choosing “Save Draft” works. This is actually smart, mimicking the iOS email interface.
  • There doesn’t appear to be any other features such as word count. And needless to say, any plugins you utilize that affect the post writing screen in the full WordPress are not available in the mobile app.
  • You can also edit pages, access stats (if you have Jetpack installed) and admin settings which are very limited.
  • There is a nicely integrated comment moderating interface. This is another time saver for people running busy blogs with a busy life.
  • The folks at WordPress did a great job utilizing the rotating feature of the iPad. Tilting the iPad switches the interface based on what you’re probably doing with a vertical vs. horizontal orientation.
  • The last major feature is for WordPress.com users. If you have an account (umm, you do, right?) with WordPress.com, you can read blogs you follow within this app. It’s easy and fast.

Overall, this is a really simple, efficient app. I will need to go into the full WordPress interface in order to clean this post up, add images and do some other things I do to each post I write. But it let me more comfortably put this content together.

Of course, the whole thing will rely on your theme to drive styling. But for a simple blog post, it works very well. It’s important to note that this app does not give you access to publishing features like scheduling. So you can just save and publish.

wordpress ipad login
The simple WordPress iPad app login interface.
wordpress ipad writing interface
The WordPress iPad app writing interface. Simple and clean.
wordpress ipad admin dashboard
The WordPress iPad app “dashboard”.

I was unable to find any solid third party solutions for managing one’s WordPress site. But maybe I missed something. What do you use? Or, if you use the official app, what do you think of it? Perhaps there is room for a premium/paid third-party app.

A Guide to WordPress as a Web Application Platform

Wait, what?  WordPress as a SaaS (Software as a service) platform?  “But WordPress is just for blogging” they say.  It turns out, WordPress can do so much more.  Plus, Matt Mullenweg recently announced the focus of WordPress 3.7 will be modifications that make WordPress even better as a software platform.

WordPress already comes with many of the key functions needed for a SaaS web application.  It has a robust user management system, a secure administrative back end, and a scalable framework that can grow with your service.

The new WordPress will include some features that make it even better for SaaS.  This includes improved security and a full Application Programming Interface (API).  The latter will allow web apps to directly manipulate WordPress.  This will open up a whole world of WordPress-based SaaS.  I’m very excited to see what comes of this.

From what we know about the upcoming WordPress 3.7 and the existing features of WordPress 3.6, we can examine the opportunities for web apps built on WordPress.  The following is a guide and resource list for building web apps using WordPress as a platform.

Some light reading

  • A three part series from the folks that built HelloBar on a WordPress platform.  Start with Part 1.  The second part is particularly helpful for building a fast and scalable application.
  • The main Tut on using WordPress as a web application framework.

And a little watching

Some examples of WordPress as SaaS

  • A prime example as I mentioned above is HelloBar.  This is a great one to look at since you can read a companion series on how they built it with WordPress.
  • HappyTables is a service for restaurants.  They make websites at a free and paid membership tier.  It’s likely they are using the multi-site feature of WordPress (formerly WPMU) but I’m not sure.
  • ClickBank Powered is another example of websites as a service (WaaS).  Did I just make up a new phrase? #claimedit
  • It turns out, Automattic has seen this trend coming.  They’ve created some applications for folks who use WordPress.com.  They include a Portfolio and Restaurant website service.

happy tables

Discussion

So what exactly is the difference between WordPress as a blog, WordPress as a software platform, and just plain software?

WordPress as a blog is what we all picture when we think of WordPress.  Well, maybe not all of us.  But WordPress got it’s start as an easy and free tool for people to disseminate information.

WordPress as a software platform can best be described as a WordPress is the foundation.  The service being provided is built as added functionality.  As the above examples and readings describe, this usually combines existing plugins, custom themes and some custom coding.  The high end services include all three of these in order to create a seamless experience.  In the words of Digital Telepathy (the HelloBar people), in part due to security and in part due to user experience “we didn’t want users to even realize it was WordPress they were using, nor did we want to expose any administration interfaces that would take them out of the application’s simple and streamlined experience”.

Just plain software is almost a thing of the past.  With the exception of big bulky and robust software like Microsoft Office, most software applications are making the transition into the cloud.  Software CD sales are way way down and software as a service (cloud based SaaS) is way way up.  Generally, software has been installed on a local machine.  As I write this, it sound really antiquated, but I realized it was just 5 years ago this was the absolute gold standard and the norm.

The summary: get ready WordPress World.  You are about to see a whole slew of new applications built on the WordPress framework.  I’m excited to see what creativity the developer community brings forth.

Sending Encrypted Email From WordPress

One of the primary functions of many business sites is gathering leads and inquiries using forms. There are many plugins available that make this possible, including the popular Contact Form 7, most themes provide contact forms of some sort, and WordPress has built-in email capability.

However, as anyone who keeps abreast of tech news knows, email is not a secure method of communication. In fact, email is insecure by design: it was never intended to be a secure and attempts to make it secure are largely bolted-on remedies that don’t work very well. Services like Gmail provide moderate levels of security by encrypting the connection between client and server, but, because most email servers around the world are incapable of handling encrypted email, everything sent outside of GMail is transmitted unencrypted, and, of course, emails are not encrypted when they are on Google’s servers.

For many businesses, secure communication is essential, both because of security and privacy concerns and for regulatory compliance. For such companies, the standard WordPress email system is not adequate, but fortunately there is a WordPress plugin that allows companies to integrate content forms that send emails that have been encrypted using OpenPGP.

Understanding OpenPGP

OpenPGP is a set of standards for public-key cryptography. Public-key cryptography is a method of encryption which relies on a key-pair which consists of a public and a private key. Information is encrypted using the public key, which, as the name suggests, is distributed publicly. That data can only be decrypted using the private key, which is kept secret. In this way, data can be sent securely from a sender to its recipients.

Encrypting Form Mail On WordPress

The snappily-named wp2pgpmail plugin integrates openPGP encryption with WordPress forms, allowing users to very easily send encrypted enquiries via email to the site’s owners. For the person filling in the form, the process is simply a matter of entering information into the form and hitting “encrypt”. The plugin uses a client-side JavaScript implementation of OpenPGP so information is encrypted on the user’s computer and no information is transmitted before encryption.

screenshot-wp2pgpmail-2-1

Site owners will need to already have a key pair, the public part of which is entered into the plugin’s configuration dialogue. They will also need an email client that is OpenPGP capable so that they can decrypt mail received from the site. There are many email clients that are natively able to deal with encryption or that have plugins that enable OpenPGP functionality, including Mail on OS X with GPGTools and Gpg4win on Windows.

About Graeme Caldwell
Graeme works as an inbound marketer forNexcess, a leading provider of Magento and WordPress hosting. Follow Nexcess on Twitter at @nexcess, Like them on Facebook and check out their tech/hosting blog, http://blog.nexcess.net/.

WordPress 3.7 Beta Released: Here’s What’s New

As ever, the busy beavers in the WordPress development community have been hard at work fixing bugs and adding features to the world’s most popular content management system. It looks like 3.7 is going to be something of a subdued release, with nothing to match the more showy features that saw the light of day in the 3.6 release, like a new default theme and changes to the post locking and autosave features that were welcomed by those who run multi-author blogs.

That’s not to say that there’s nothing to look forward to this time around, so were going to highlight some of the more significant new features. It’s always worth repeating that beta releases are not to be used on production sites unless you want to spend several hours tearing your hair out when something breaks. But, if you want to test the beta to see what’s coming down the pike check out this article we wrote a few months ago for details.

Automatic Updates

This one’s being greeted with both groans and cheers, depending on the perspective of the commenter. On the one hand, a major cause for the constant stream of stories revolving around hacked WordPress sites is site owners neglecting to update to recent versions. If WordPress can slip in security and minor feature updates without webmasters having to do anything, those damaging stories will become less frequent (once everyone has updated to 3.7, anyway).

On the other hand, developers and experienced site owners are loathe to give up control of their updates. Most of them will have experienced at least one sleepless night caused by WordPress updates that broke part of their site or plugin compatibility. Some just object in principle to the idea of a third party silently installing software on their servers.

It appears that there will be an option to disable the updates, which is probably wise: expert users will turn it off if they choose; novice users will probably never even know it’s there.

Password Meter

This is a small change, but it’s of a piece with automatic updates. Both are intended to make WordPress more secure and stem the tide of “OMFG my WordPress has been hacked” stories. Familiar to almost everyone from the many sites that implement similar functionality, the password strength meter will prominently display a weak password warning when users try to use their dog’s name or “pa55word” to secure their site.

Better Search Results

At the moment, search on WordPress is not very good — results are sorted by date, which is not useful for most people. In the coming release the search system will be updated so that results are ordered by relevance, which is much more sensible.

As I said, these are changes that aren’t likely to blow anyone’s socks off, but the automatic updating in particular is significant. Many of the major feature releases appear to have been reserved for the 3.8 release, which is being led by Matt Mullenweg, the creator of WordPress, and promises to include more radical changes.

The 3.7 beta is available now, with the final release expected some time this month. We should see 3.8 arrive some time before the New Year.

About Graeme Caldwell

Graeme works as an inbound marketer for Nexcess, a leading provider of Magento and WordPress hosting. Follow Nexcess on Twitter at @nexcess, Like them on Facebook and check out their tech/hosting blog http://blog.nexcess.net