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Friday, March 1, 2013

Best Linux blogging software.

the best of linux softwareEverybody has opinions. For some reason, many people feel better about life if everybody's informed of those opinions in meticulous detail. The act of 'blogging' was born in the early 21st century when such folk discovered the internet. 

These days, the place is awash with humans and their odd ideas (and even some good ones). Now's the time to join the throng. 

While all of the notable platforms for blogging provide their own online tools for creating and editing entries, there are times when a standalone desktop client can be a better option. 

Perhaps you want or need to edit offline, or you'd like to schedule your posts for a later date. Maybe you have too many blogs and you just need some help to manage them all, or you may find the desktop – where you can drag and drop as well as copy and paste – better for handling media. 

A good blogging client will be able to easily connect to the platform of your choice, manage multiple blogs, take note of any idiosyncrasies, and be quick and straightforward to use. 

In this Roundup, we've included a real mix of software, including native Linux clients, ones that run on cross-platform frameworks, standard desktop apps and browser extensions. Of the names you might have expected to see, most omissions were made because the software's now horribly dated. If you think we've omitted a client that should have been here, drop us a line. Or rant about it on your blog. 

1. Gnome Blog
The idea of a desktop blogging program is surely to make it simple to update the world with your thoughts. Well, the Gnome blogging client does manage to make it simple – and indeed quick – but that's about where its list of redeeming features ends. 

That isn't to say it does a bad job, though. Open it up and an unimposing window appears to accept your input. Click on the Preferences button and you can configure the type and URL of your blogging software. It supports most of the common APIs, bar Tumblr, and makes a fair fist of deciphering your blog details. 

However, there's no facility for adding multiple accounts – the software just remembers the last values you entered. If you update more than one blog at a time, this will swiftly shove you off the cliffs of sanity.
8 of the best blogging clients: gnome blog
GNOME BLOG: There's simple and then there's, well, this. It works and that's pretty much the best that can be said

The features don't get any better when it comes to creating posts either. You're limited to simple text entries with links, which seems like a bit of a blow. Links are entered via a requester, so you have to type in a URL or drag and drop appropriate items into it, but that's pretty much all the control you get. As for the text, you can have it bold, underlined or, on really special occasions, both. That's it.
When you've finished posting your primitive blog entry, the client then closes itself, with no indication that it has actually worked. The dearth of features wouldn't matter if this did a few things well.
As it is, with scarcely any control over text styling, it can't even be recommended for quick text-only blogging. It is exceptionally light on resources, which may win it some fans somewhere, but this client has to take the award for the only one that's more inconvenient to use than logging on to a website. 

Rating: 2/10

2. Tumblweed
The name will most likely tip you off that this software is aimed specifically at the Tumblr service. What it doesn't reveal is that this is an Adobe Air app and, as such, you'll need to download the Air platform and installer (you can add the repository easily enough for Fedora, Ubuntu and others).
Your experiences with Air may vary, but Tumblweed – perhaps because of its relative simplicity – worked fine on the two systems we tried. 

Fire it up and you'll be asked to provide your login details for the Tumblr site. Once authenticated, you're able to see just your blog or all the blogs you currently subscribe to, so it works as a reader too. The letters along the top are really action buttons for quickly posting some text, images or other media.
8 of the best blogging clients: tumblweed
TUMBLWEED:It's refreshingly minimalist, but only works with Tumblr. Fans of other platforms need not apply

Since this is Tumblr, there are no complicated formatting options and such except for the text posts, so it all works pretty simply. We did have some issues with dragging and dropping image links into the client, but it worked fine with the usual cut and paste. 

Obviously, in many ways this is a young horse, with but a single trick, since it only connects to Tumblr. Equally, if Tumblr happens to be the site you use, then it's tailor-made for the job. The rather minimalist interface keeps it from cluttering up your screen and all the key options are right here, however obscure you might feel the letters-as-buttons scheme is. 

A key drawback is the inability to edit posts directly in the software, although you can list the posts you've made. There's an Edit button displayed, which just redirects you to the relevant page on the website. However, for minimal effort, this makes blogging easy. 

Rating: 5/10

3. ScribeFire
This stands out from the other applications in our test, because it isn't really a desktop application at all, but rather an extension to Firefox. Simply install it, then choose the New option from the Tools menu and a frame will appear in the bottom of the browser window (resize it before you start is our advice).

Enter your blog details, most of which it can guess from the URL, then start tapping away in the text box, using the buttons to add links, styles and more. As well as making posts, it can fetch old entries for editing, plus there's a basic drafting system and a publishing scheduler. 

You could have reasons for editing your blog in a web browser, but not on the actual page. Maybe you're mad – we shouldn't rule that out. There are at least two other rationales for doing this, though: first, you want a consistent experience for managing several blogs. Second, perhaps you only have access to a browser to perform this task.
8 of the best blogging clients: scribefire
SCRIBEFIRE: It may be cumbersome, but ScribeFire is easy to install at the very least
Unfortunately, because of its single blog-tree design, ScribeFire isn't the ideal option for dealing with lots of blogs – it gets messy pretty quickly when you scroll up and down trying to find the relevant one, and you begin to wonder why you didn't just visit the blog page. 

Adding itself to the context menu for selected items, does make it a bit easier to blog about other bits on the internet, though, and it also has great support for including media such as images and video in your posts.

Overall, ScribeFire works pretty well within the limitations of being a single-pane system. With better than average support for different blogging systems, the simplest installation system ever and a usable feature set, you may find this at the very least a handy backup. 

Rating: 7/10

4. Qumana
This proprietary Java-based app has a few interesting little twists. The major one is that it supports an easy way to insert ad banners into your blog posts, although it only supports ads from the Adgenta service.
Qumana also manages your blogs more effectively than most of the other clients, with a multipaned view showing the blogs you have configured, a list of recent posts and the current/latest post (or any other one you select from the list). It's a pretty simple matter to call up any post, even if it wasn't generated by Qumana, and edit it.
The editing environment is replete with features, especially for styling text – enter your ramblings in the WYSIWYG mode, then select and style words as you like. If you need to make more precise adjustments – for example, you want to match up something with particular CSS styles from the site – you can switch to the HTML mode to view the code and adjust it.
8 of the best blogging clients: qumana
QUMANA:Adding images to your post is easy in Qumana, but overall the interface sucks
Images are handled with their own requestor, which enables you to paste in a URL or browse local drives. Some platforms also enable users to upload images through their API, and Qumana can take advantage of this too. 

The only real problem with this software, apart from it being a little unwieldy, is the Java implementation of the user interface. It used to be fair to blame Java for clunky, slow and quirky GUIs, but that should no longer be the case, especially when the developers have supposedly targeted Linux with this version. 

Being a JAR file, it is relatively self contained – there are a lot of other support files included in the archive – but it's also a bit of a faff if you want to set it up on a multiuser system.

Rating: 6/10

5. Blogilo
Blogilo is a KDE app and proud of it. Although it will run happily in Gnome (see the image for the Ubuntu-eye view), it just looks better by default in KDE. 

Looks aren't everything, though, so it is good to see that Blogilo is packing a serious feature list.
Configuring your blogs may be an issue, but the neat auto-configure feature can sort most of this out for you. Credentials are stored in Kwallet, so you'll need to get this working to be able to store blog data and handle multiple accounts. 

In use, however, a simple main screen drop-down helps you flit between identities effortlessly. A familiar(ish) layout on the main screen sees you editing posts in a large window, with a sidebar showing recent posts to the current blog, which you can double-click to retrieve.
8 of the best blogging clients: blogilo
BLOGILO:A simple, direct and functional post editor is just part of the pleasant Blogilo experience. Ahhh.

The toolbar provides quick access to text styling features and at long last we finally find a client that can apply the list style intelligently! It's also possibly the only Linux desktop client that supports right-to-left text. 

The image insertion tool supports uploading local media too if your blogging platform can handle that.
A most excellent discovery for fussy people is the Preview mode. As usual with this sort of app, it will render your post as HTML and display it in the tabbed window, but you will also find a button in the top-right to fetch the blog style. This nabs the whole look and feel from your host site, so you can see exactly how your post will look online. There's also the usual HTML view if you want to mess with the code itself. 

On the downside, there's no Tumblr support or shortcuts for adding media types other than images at the moment. Blogilo also seems to be on a rather slow release cycle, so it isn't clear when these might appear. 

Rating: 9/10

6. BloGTK
BloGTK is popular GTK-based client that on the surface seems to have a lot going for it. If you've come across it before, it's worth noting that this version has been radically overhauled, making it far easier to manage accounts and configure them, as well as bringing a host of other improvements.
The main window offers a simple multi-paned display showing the list of configured blogs, a list of the posts you've made and a simple view of any selected post.

Click New Post to spawn a new editing window. Simple toolbar buttons provide the usual formatting controls, including links and styling.
8 of the best blogging clients
BLOGTK: Gnome-friendly goodness in an accomplished client

It is a bit disappointing that, yet again, the list style isn't very well implemented – it merely pastes in the tags for a list and a list item around the current text selection. Since a list has more than one item, this seems more than a bit lame. In practice, you might as well add the tags by hand.

Tabs will switch the view between the 'visual designer' mode, a kind of hybrid code and WYSIWYG mode; a full HTML view; and, most usefully, a proper Preview mode. All of these work with posts that you might have sucked in from the history pane of your blog too.
If you want to work ahead of time, you can save your half-baked ideas to a file (XML format), but the software makes no effort to keep track of them. As it stands, BloGTK is an interesting and promising app with a good layout and some nice features, but is missing too many of the basics, such as media support. 

While what's here works well, unless you plan on doing just textbased blogging, it might be better to look elsewhere. Still, it's one to watch. 

Rating: 6/10

7. Drivel
This is the kind of blogging client that Gnome blog aspires to be. Using the Gnome libraries, it's a native Linux app (although it will run on other systems that support the Gnome desktop) that puts simplicity first. 

On first running the software, you'll be challenged for your credentials and, naturally, the URL of your blog. This is where things can get a bit sticky if Wordpress is your platform of choice, since it doesn't appear on the list.

As it happens, Wordpress is compatible with the Movable Type API that's listed, but you have to add /xmlrpc.php to the end of your URL to have it picked up. Unlike some of the clients here, Drivel will sort of manage multiple accounts. 

It remembers (if you ask it) the credentials you've previously entered, but you can only be logged in to one blog platform at a time, which could prove annoying.
8 of the best blogging clients: drivel
DRIVEL:The visual editor for Drivel works, but a proper preview view would've been nice
The simplicity of the interface is admirable, even though on the face of things it seems a little light on the editing features you might want. As well as the handy tools at the bottom, a few more formatting options are tucked away in the menus. 

To be honest, this isn't the fastest way to go about making a list, for example, and also leads to another bit of strangeness: some clients offer two views – an HTML one, and a preview alternative – but Drivel is sort of halfway between the two. 

Links and images are handled well. There's also a poll generator, which does produce the correct output but won't work on all blogs. Still, it's definitely an improvement over Gnome blog, and reasonable enough for everyday use if you aren't going to do anything particularly complicated – it does get rather tedious individually styling up list items, though. 

Rating: 7/10

8. Deepest Sender
We have discussed the merits of using a browser plugin as a blogging client briefly already. There are certainly some pros and cons to this strategy, but Deepest Sender tries hard to emulate a desktop client. 

When you run it from the menu, it creates a new working window and quickly sets about configuring your accounts with the aid of a wizard. Deepest Sender supports a good range of blog platforms, including LiveJournal, Wordpress and Blogger as well as a few others. 

The wizard is good and makes short work of connecting you. Multiple accounts can be stored, so the only thing to remember is that you need to close all the open Deepest Sender windows first and then access it again from the menu or a hotkey to log in to a different account.
8 of the best blogging clients: deepest sender
DEEPEST SENDER: Deepest Sender has decent features, and could compliment a desktop client
One of the bonuses of being browser-based is that it stores all of the information within Firefox (including, optionally, your passwords), which means that it is fairly robust and safe. If you do manage to crash your browser in the middle of writing an epic post, Firefox's own recovery system should be able to retrieve at least some of it. 

On the editing front, it doesn't have the depth of functionality of ScribeFire, but it does behave more like a desktop client and isn't so clumsy to use on a small screen. It also has a few novel features of its own, such as geolocation. Also, the features it does possess compare favourably with more than half of the other clients under consideration, so don't dismiss it out of hand. 

As with ScribeFire, it may be more suitable as a handy backup client, particularly for use on a netbook or other mobile Linux device. 

Rating: 6/10
The best Linux blogging client is...
It's perhaps a little surprising, given the opinionated nature of the average Linux user, that there aren't dozens of world-class blogging clients to point to here. Yet none of these clients can claim to have the full gamut of functionality and ease of use we set out to find.
Some do get close, though. Tumblr seems to be particularly poorly supported by software, so Tumblweed may be worth considering if you like the platform. It isn't a bad client and the design ethos seems to fit in with the way Tumblr works, although ScribeFire has far better features.
That brings us on to the browser-based clients. In terms of features, they seem to have an edge, particularly ScribeFire. However, this suffers slightly in the ease-of-use stakes due to its window confines and bonds to Firefox/ Chrome. In spite of that, it provides a great editing environment and makes it easy to add media to your posts.
When it comes to Qumana, there's no doubt that the idea of easily inserting ads might be attractive. It has a pretty good overall feature set too, it's just let down by the Java interface.
There is something likable about BloGTK and it has an interesting feature set, if a somewhat eclectic one that misses a few of the basics.It is also, apart from perhaps ScribeFire, the most actively developed client in the last year, which bodes well.
The winner has to be Blogilo, though. Combining a relatively pain-free setup procedure, deftly managing multiple blogs and including that most excellent 'real' preview mode, it's a capable all-rounder.
Where it falls down is the breadth of platform support, and although the basic editing tools are intelligently deployed, it could do with better ways for adding different types of media. There's no doubt that it's the best here, but hopefully it will continue to improve.

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