Zemanta – blogging tips & advice

I have just discovered Zemanta, a tool which promises to enrich the blogging experience by offering up an array of media and information rich content and sources of such content….. as you type!

Image representing Zemanta as depicted in Crun...
Image via CrunchBase

As I am typing this (Zemanta needs a couple hundred characters to start figuring out what you are blogging about) a side panel is busy recommending content.  I have the Zemanta Chrome extension installed so that, as I type, it can do it’s thing and start pulling relevant content (whether that be images, Wikipedia references or something else) from which I can then read more about a subject (research), place an image in my post (simply by clicking on one of the suggested images) or insert a reference link.

The image below is included from said Zemanta content recommendations.  The links were all automatically included at the click of one button.

I’m impressed, looks like being a very useful service.
I am @icraigt on Twitter.

 

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Logitech Tablet Keyboard for iPad

This is typed with the new Logitech Tablet Keyboard for iPad. The feel is very good. Key layout is reminiscent of the Apple keyboard in that the keys are physically spaced from one another.

The key action is very satisfying, with just the right level of resistance allowing for the fingers to depress each key positively without requiring too much pressure (but of course offering enough resistance that keys are not depressed accidentally).

It’s also nice having the basic punctuation commands at the finger tips, compared to the onscreen keyboard, allowing for much aster typing. the command and ALT keys are also very useful, allowing for quick movement of the cursor to the end or beginning of a sentence (for example).

Overall I am very impressed with it. The iPad sits in the accompanying stand very well, even with the iPad in it’s cover (I have a first generation iPad with the Apple cover). There is a little pull out extension that allows the iPad to sit at a shallower angle.

It’s a great piece of kit. Response is perfect. I can type reasonably fast when I get going (albeit rather unconventionally) and the iPad and iPhone keep up with every key press.

I picked mine up from Amazon (affiliate link) for £40. Most places (at least when I was shopping around) have it for £50.

I highly recommend this one. I’m very happy I bought it.

I am @icraigt on Twitter.

Blogsy for iPad updated to v3.2

The excellent Blogsy app for the iPad (on which I am writing this post) has been updated to version 3.2, the Minotaur release.

In this release the developers have figured out how to parse the HTML code that Apple uses in order to present cleaner and more standard code on the HTML edit screen.

This version also introduces the ability to customise the Dock Bar which I personally welcome. It’s nice to make apps your own and if there’s a particular service you connect to the most, now you can move it to the top of the bar. Likewise, if there is a service you don’t use, now you can remove it altogether.

Check out the Blogsy Blog for details of the latest release.

I am iCraigt on Twitter.

Define, another iOS 5.0 gem

Another iOS 5.0 gem is the addition of a dictionary. Simple enough but very useful for anyone churning out text on iOS devices.

To invoke the dictionary, double tap a word, click the arrow and select Define. A box appears with dictionary definitions of the word highlighted.

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That’s it. It’s simple but it’s effective.

I am @iCraigt on Twitter and you can find me on Google+ here.

OmmWriter

I’m just trying out OmmWriter for the Windows desktop. OmmWriter is a writing application that allows me to work without distraction and even has some nice background music to boot. I really like it and think it could seriously grow on me.

I think I need to invest in the iPad app, although the lack of Dropbox support makes me pause before doing so. With Dropbox support it would almost be a no brainer.

The music included with the app is very well chosen, offering a very soothing and calming ambience to the room whilst working. It doesn’t intrude into your thoughts but distracts you enough fom the background noise, if that makes sense.

The interface is minimal and whilst typing there is nothing else visible.

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Move the mouse out of the writing area to the right and a column of circles appear, each with an icon to indicate what they are for. There are options to change the music track (there’s a choice of 3 tracks), text size, font type, background and keyboard as well as the obligatory save/upload options.

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Move the mouse to the top of the screen and additional menus appear which offer more options, such as export to PDF, search and text transformations (all uppercase etc).

Working from the desktop version, I guess the Dropbox integration doesn’t really matter as you can save to your Dropbox folders but from the iPad it absolutely matters, at least to me. Yes, I could use GoodReader to bridge the gap between OmmWriter and Dropbox but it’s an unecessary step.

Anyway, this is my first post using OmmWriter. I’m really impressed and think I might have to dabble with the iPad app. It’s a shame there isn’t a basic free version to “try before I buy”.

If you haven’t already, check out OmmWriter (Dana 1 is a free version for the desktop, the one I’m writing this on now). I may even have to upgrade to Dana II. Right now OMMWriter is available for the PC, MAC and iPad. Interestingly, the Dana II version doesn’t have a fixed purchase price. Rather, they let you decide based on your experience of OmmWriter Dana I. Very interesting pricing policy.

I am @craigt44 on Twitter and you can find me on Google+ here.

Bamboo Paper for iPad

Bamboo Paper for the iPad is a note taking app that allows the user to scrawl directly onto the iPad using a finger or capacitive stylus (I prefer the latter). Version 1.2 (current) allows for a single notebook to be created which is presented to the user at launch.

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From this initial screen it is possible to rename the notebook (tap the title), reset it by tapping the trash can (this takes the notebook back to “factory”, complete with instructions) and output the book either by email (as a PDF) or by printing (AirPrint). Tapping the settings icon allows the colour of the notebook to be changed as well as the paper type (plain, ruled or squared).

Tapping the notebook cover opens the notebook to the first page. On first launch (and until you clear the page) this first page gives an overview of the functions along with a few tips.

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Along the top of the page there are icons for selecting the pen colour and line thickness, an eraser, for clearing the page, for returning to the main screen, undo, redo, one to bookmark the page and one for sharing the page. The options for sharing are via email (as an image), save an image to Photos and print the page.

Along the bottom of the page are the navigation icons for page forward, page backward and page scanning. Tapping the page scanning icon (the centre dot) brings up a navigation panel that allows you to scroll though the pages of the notebook, tapping the required page to navigate to it. Bookmarked pages show up in this view with a little red bookmark icon in the top right hand corner.

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Right now the features are limited and a number of additions would make it a much more useful tool. The ability to add multiple notebooks, to delete individual pages, the addition of Dropbox integration and other sharing options would take this app to the next level.

Bamboo Paper is a very useful app. Notes can be scrawled on the fly and stored and shared later. Go and grab it here (iTunes link).

15-July-2011 Update: I’ve just received an email from Wacom Europe to say that Multiple notebooks are coming in the next few days along with other “nice features”.  Multiple notebooks is a very welcome addition (looks like there will be a small $2.99 charge for multiple notebooks).

21-July-2011 Update: Wacom have released version 1.3 which includes the option to purchase multiple notebooks for just $1.99 / €1.59 / £1.49.

I am @craigt44 on Twitter.

QuietWrite

QuietWrite… an online writing tool that, once you start typing, clears all toolbars, icons and unwanted menus and text out of the way leaving you to concentrate on just your writing. It’s great!

If you write blog posts or just need somewhere to write without the distractions and clutter of all those adverts and menus then I highly recommend trying QuietWrite. Here’s a screen grab of me typing this post. As you can see, nothing but the writing! It’s pure genius. It’s pure simplicity.

I’ve written a number of posts on here which I then transfer to my blog. Ok, there’s no text formatting or hyperlink tools (you could obviously hand code the HTML tags) but it’s clean, simple, uncluttered writing bliss. It transfers (copy/paste) to your blog authoring screen/page without any formatting (plain text) so all you have to do is add the links and off you go (but read further… you can export).

Yes, there are menus, just move your mouse and they magically appear (yes, it uses real magic).

QuietWrite allows you to preview your writing, review revisions (yes, it has revision control), publish (currently within QuietWrite) and, most importantly (at least it is to me) export to your WordPress blog directly from the QuietWrite site.

There’s nothing to dislike. As the QuietWrite team say, it’s “A peaceful place to write, for anywhere”.

Have a read of the QuietWrite team blog for more information.

Drop a comment if you try it out, I’d love to hear what you think of it.

I am @craigt44 on Twitter.