10 Oct

iBlog irritations

Now that I am using iBlog regularly, I am running into some problems with it. It is generally pretty neat software — easy to use, and very Mac-like. But there are some things that drive me nuts, and here they are:

  • The image importing process is not too useful. Needs text to wrap around the images, and when I resize an image, it should resize proportionally. (So if I make a pic 150 pixels wide, it should make the vertical dimensions proportionally correct.) This wouldn’t matter so much to me if I could just put the pics in with HTML (see below), but for some people this feature is very important.
  • There is a kludgy way of including HTML in the posts, but it is not documented, and it does not work intuitively or well. It involves using the HTMLCode tags. (And good luck finding this out! It took some searching.) As far as I can tell from testing, this is a case-sensitive tag. HTML tags are normally not case-sensitive (and XHTML must be lower-case only), so it took me a while to realize that my problem was that I wasn’t capitalizing Code. Also, I found from browsing around ibloggers.net that the HTMLCode tags must be in their own paragraph. Which is inflexible enough, but as it turned out… I couldn’t get them to work until each of those tags was on its own line, as well. So you have a blank line, then the HTMLCode tag, then on the next line the HTML content, then on the next line the /HTMLCode. Then a blank line. And then… the HTMLCode does not work at all if it is the first item in the post. I had to put a blank line above it to get it to work. This is why there seems to be some extra empty space above the cake picture in the post below. This is not a workable feature, in my opinion. I want the ability to insert HTML at will. This and the next point are the most important issues for me.
  • The program does not generate valid XHTML code. Each page has the doctype XHTML 1.0 Transitional, but the default template uses tags such as CENTER, which are not XHTML. That was easily enough fixed, but the entries themselves continually add more invalid code to the pages. Paragraphs are not proper paragraphs — they are just separated with two BR tags. The FONT tag is deprecated, and it’s all over these pages. (I don’t want it there. I specified my font in the style sheet. If I wanted to change it within an entry, why not use style=”font-family: whateverfont”?) I would also like the option to use EM and STRONG when appropriate instead of I and B. It’s important to me to use good structural markup as much as possible. I don’t mind some tables-based layout at the moment (I haven’t had time to redesign to eliminate them, but that is coming), but I really hate the fake paragraphs and FONT FACE appearing in my code. I teach HTML and I don’t want my code to include things I don’t allow my students to do. (Why use iBlog if I know HTML? Because it’s faster. If I have to manually edit the entire page, and the archive pages, every time I post, I will just never post.)
  • Every time you make a hyperlink, the program inserts an extra space that doesn’t belong, and I have to edit it out. Small annoyance, yes…
  • The free .mac version doesn’t include FTP, which is not mentioned in the documentation. This strikes me as relatively chintzy. The other software I’ve gotten free from .mac hasn’t been crippled of basic functionality, as far as I recall… at least the ones I’ve used. In my case it’s no big deal at the moment since we host our own server and I can mount the server as a HD on my Mac, and then use the local upload option. If I could not do that, though, I would not be willing to pay the $20 to get the FTP ability, what with these other problems. (If they were all fixed, though… that would be another story. The software would be worth it to me then.) Some people asking about these problems on the iblogger.net support board are told “have you upgraded the software?” with the implication that they are freeloaders who should pay the developer for his hard work, and why haven’t they done so? But the software was given to us free from Apple with the permission of iBlog, without any obvious indication that it was crippled. I think it is not good to browbeat people who, having received software through .mac, are wondering why the software doesn’t do what the documentation advertises. Yeah, sure, it’s a gift, but we sort of paid $99/year for the privilege of getting it.
  • Apparently the software has somewhat frustrating registration issues, though I haven’t personally run into them — people trying several times to enter their reg number and then being locked out, etc. This makes me wary of ever paying to upgrade the software, though I have heard that getting the problem fixed is not difficult. Still, I prefer software companies to be a bit more trusting of their paid customers. I hate the assumption that I must be trying to rip them off; it leaves a bad taste.

Now having said all of that, it probably sounds like I hate the software. I don’t. It beats Blogger all to heck. But these issues do concern me, and make me reluctant to recommend iBlog at the moment or to be sure that it is a permanent solution for me.

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