I have a client for whom I do regular ghost writing of blog content. Writer’s block aside, this is easy enough to do at a computer but somewhat challenging when I am on the road. Thanks to an eyesight-friendly large screen, my laptop weighs a ton. I loathe carrying it with me — yes, defeating the whole purpose of having a laptop at all. But my iPhone is always with me and, in a pinch, serves as a perfect tool for drafting content on the go.
I am a devotee of both the the Drafts notetaking app for iPhone and WordPress for publishing content. Since I discovered Markdown, a plain text to HTML converter, it is now even easier for me to create blog content with my chosen formatting — content that I can drop directly into the client’s CMS with HTML tagging intact.
While I have perfected a Drafts_App-to-Evernote_App-to-Review_Cycle for my client, what about my own writing? I manage many WordPress sites but, frankly, keeping my own WordPress blog up to date is often an “I’ll get to it eventually” chore. To make the from-my-brain-to-published flow happen, I decided I needed a more direct workflow.
Building on a tip on iPhone blogging from Bojan Djordjevic, writer and editor at Alpha Efficiency, I created the following solution using Drafts and two freely available and well-reviewed tools from the WordPress Plugin Directory: Postie and WP-Markdown. If you follow the step-by-step instructions below, you too can move your blog content from smartphone to screen at the push of a button.
This tutorial presumes that you have purchased and installed Drafts for iPhone. If you’re a writer who is often on the go, run do not walk to get this app. It’s worth every cent.
This tutorial also presumes you are using a self-install of WordPress rather than WordPress.com. New to WordPress and not sure of the difference? Read this: .Com Versus .Org
Set Up A Secret Email Account
WordPress recommends that you set up an email account that you use exclusively for posting to your WordPress site. Agreed! But let me HIGHLY recommend that you create one using your hosting package. I tried this set up with GMail and, instead of writing, spent my hours reading the support forums trying to understand why it repeatedly failed.
Avoid the hassle: With one of your WordPress install’s randomly generated strings handy (Dashboard > Settings > Writing > Post via e-mail), log into your hosting provider’s cPanel and use that string to create a new email account. Write down all of the details — email address, password, mail server, and port — because you will need them later in this setup.
Install Postie and WP-Markdown
Postie, which is available for free in the WordPress Plugin Directory, “offers many advanced features for posting to your blog via e-mail, including the ability to assign categories by name, included pictures and videos, and automatically strip off signatures. It also has support for both imap and pop3, with the option for ssl with both.” (Postie)
WP-Markdown, which is also for free in the WordPress Plugin Directory, “allows Markdown to be enabled in posts, comments and bbPress forums.” (WP-Markdown)
From your website’s WordPress Dashboard, search for and install each of these plugins (Dashboard > Plugins > Install New).
What I write here won’t work for everyone, but it will work for the average user and are Postie’s default configurations. (If you need help with your particular WordPress setup, do consider booking a WordPress consultant. We’re here to help!:))
Where it says “youruniquestring” and “yourdomain.com” and “youruniquepassword” below, be sure to use what you wrote down in the “Set Up A Secret Email” step above.
These are the settings that Postie will use to fetch email from your secret email account as content for a new post.
Mail Protocol: Pop3
Mail Server: mail.yourdomain.com
Login name: email@example.com
Check for mail every: daily*
* Tip: You can trigger Postie to check for mail at intervals as often as “every five minutes” or as infrequently as “manually.” If, like me, you’re an occasional blogger who wants automation, then “daily” should be sufficient.
These are the settings that will keep your website secure from unauthorized emails, much in the way that a list subscription works per subscribed email address. If you have regular business and personal accounts from which you send emails, place them — one per line — in the space provided as so:
Authorized addresses: firstname.lastname@example.org
These are the settings that will control how the post is displayed. Since we are using Markdown, I adjusted these settings so that I can get the best results.
Default Post Status: Published*
Preferred Text Type: plain
Wrap content in pre tags: no
Filter newlines: no**
Send post confirmation e-mail to: sender***
* Tip: Test in draft mode until you are confident of the results. In any case, it’s WordPress! You can always go back and edit what you have published.
** You’ll notice that Postie conveniently adds help text for Markdown users there!
*** If, like me, you prefer confirmation messages, this option is for you. If not, the default is “none.”
That’s it for Postie for the average user. Want more control? Postie offers a host of WordPress Dashboard- and text-triggered controls that include specifying categories, post status, post date, and more. Simply work your way through all of its options or see them explained in WordPress Plugin Directory: Postie > Other Notes
Once you have installed WP-Markdown just a couple of clicks on its configuration settings will be right for you. Since I am using this for post content, just the following is needed:
Enable Markdown for: Posts
Finally, Testing Your Results
This is the final beauty of the whole procedure: Once you’ve reached this point, it’s normal email sending ahead!
To preview your Markdown, compose your text with Drafts and choose the “Markdown: Preview” function before sending your content as an email. Don’t forget the subject line — that will be the title of your WordPress post.
Want to get fancy? Use those Postie syntax options mentioned above to set publication date, to open or close comments, and everything else — all directly from within your email content.
I of course want to hear from you who have tried out this setup. What worked for you? What didn’t? More importantly: if you have another workflow that you believe accomplishes the same results with fewer steps out of the box, please share that in the comments.
Happy publishing, my fellow writers!
Flickr photo credit: twicepix