I love Tumblr. I didn’t think I would, after I saw some of the stuff that my younger sister was always checking out on it, but sometimes I surprise even myself. At this point, I keep two blogs up on the site: a rarely-updated personal blog that’s not even worth linking to and a music recommendations blog called Unsung Sundays, and I couldn’t be happier with the service. It’s one of the few CMS systems that doesn’t feel totally broken.
That being said, I didn’t think I’d ever start making posts on my iOS devices and keeping them. While the Tumblr app for iPhone and iPad has been capable of doing that sort of thing for a while, it hasn’t always been as smooth of an experience as it’s been on the desktop. But recently, that changed with the iOS 7 update for Tumblr, which makes it the best blogging app on iOS bar none. Read on to find out why you might consider taking up blogging again, but from your phone.
A Redesigned Experience
Not unlike every other one of your favourite apps, Tumblr has gone through a bit of a redesign now that iOS 7 is out. The app has gotten “flatter.” I hate that word, especially since it espouses a lot of things that nobody would ever actually want their designs to be. Tumblr was also relatively flat before, so this update is really more about bringing the app in line with the rest of the operating system.
So while Tumblr talks about an entirely updated dashboard experience, what they really mean is an entirely more up-to-date dashboard experience. The differences are subtle, and I don’t think they’re going to make or break the way that you use the app. That being said, it looks ever so slightly better than it did before, and it’s nicer for reading in (the fact that it hooks up with Read Later services like Pocket and Instapaper is also a plus).
Better yet, the Share Sheet has been improved. I might be wrong, but I don’t recall that Tumblr used any advanced tools like x-callback-url in past versions of the app. What that means is that, if your favourite Twitter or App.net app supports it, you can grab the URL from any Tumblr post and pre-load it into an app without any sort of struggle — and you can do it from the Share Sheet. It’s much faster than copying and pasting, and it’s crossing over into geek territory, but Tumblr has implemented it in a way that’s going to make most people feel right at home.
The Updated Posting Experience
While there are some other things worth talking about in the Tumblr update, the big one is undoubtedly the new writing and posting experience. Tumblr’s always had a mobile poster built into the app, but this version of the app improves it so much that it’s become usable for everybody — even geeks like me (and probably you).
Now, it’s easy to start a post on your iPhone and set it up to write in Markdown without going through a field of menus. This is a huge improvement, and one that I’ve been waiting for a long time. It’s just in the Settings now. The app has also been updated to take advantage of things like the native iOS 7 UIPicker Elements, so choosing a date to schedule your post feels more at home with the new iOS.
The app also has a really nice new selection screen when you’re choosing what sort of post you’re making as well. The popup takes up the whole screen and looks really good, with nice, colourful icons taking up space. Compared to the old app, this one’s a keeper visually. It’s less drab.
That being said, things aren’t perfect over in Tumblr-land. The thing is, while you can easily write in Markdown on an iPhone, you can’t on an iPad. If you don’t know what Markdown is (check it out if you don’t), it won’t make a difference to you. If you do, you’re likely going to be as weirded out by that difference as I am.
Keep in mind that this seems to be the only differentiator between the iPad and the iPhone apps as they currently are. The rest of the features are identical: the dashboard experience is the same, the posting experience is the same, and all the other features are there. For whatever reason, though, the posting experience is different on the iPad.
I’m not actually even sure what you’re posting with the iPad. I want to say that it’s rich text, but it might be HTML or Markdown as well. In fact, for all I know, it could intelligently switch between each, but if it does, there’s no real interface signs assuring me that’s happening. It’s just a bizarre thing to get left out.
Overall, though, the update is a tremendous improvement for both apps. There’s an added sense of clarity, and it’s easier than ever before to create posts from your device. The iPhone has the added benefit of Markdown-enabled posts, which are a huge perk for me, but it’s sad to see that the iPad didn’t get the same treatment.
That being said, for the most part, we’re getting to the point where the Tumblr app is the single best part of the experience. For most people, there’s no need to manage the app from the desktop anymore, and that’s quite an accomplishment in itself — and almost worth blogging on Tumblr for.
Tumblr's iOS 7 update includes a refreshed look and added functionality that makes posting to your blog easier than ever from an iPhone or iPad.8
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