April 06, 2012

Review of Blob- first ever Symbian app for Blogger


It has been many years since Blogger was started (1999) and later on, acquired by Google (2004). And Symbian platform has been around since 15 years. Surprisingly, Blogger never thought of developing an app for Symbian nor did the developers. To be fair to Blogger, the Android and iOS apps were developed by them only recently. But at this point of time, no US based service will probably invest their time and money on developing for Symbian (Kindle is another such service).

But in the last one year, Symbian has perhaps seen the birth of several apps for the platform than it did in all those years of existence. But none of them filled the void of a missing Symbian app for Blogger services. That is why I was overjoyed when I saw this blog post by developer Anand Bibek.

The app went live last night on Ovi Store. But is it really worth the wait or is it just another QT/QML app? Read on.

As you start the app, a fairly simple Sign in/Sign up screen shows up. I would believe anyone purchasing this app would already be an user of Google's Blogger service and hence would not require using the sign up process. Still, if you press the sign up button, it will take you to the native browser for signing up process. On pressing the sign in button and logging in, it will ask you to “allow access” to your Gmail/Blogger account just like few of the other QT apps.

initial screen showing list of blogs
confirmation dialog
Once you are logged in, the list of blogs which you own or part of, as a group blogger, will show up. This being a pro version, there is no limit on the number of blogs you can manage through this app (there will also be a free version, I'm told, which is on it's way to the Store at present, with the limitation of three latest blogs and blogposts in the list see update).

If you have used any of the other popular QT apps for Symbian, then you would be familiar with the UI settings of the Blob. From the top of the screen, you can access the Belle notification bar and on the bottom of the screen, there are three buttons, Quit, Reload and Options. One little thing which I liked about this Quit (or the “back”) button is that you don't have to worry about pressing it accidentally-I have many times exited from Nokia Store unintentionally by pressing the X button. It will ask for confirmation on pressing the back button. I hope other QT apps will come up with similar arrangement.

Settings screen
list of blog posts
The options button displays Settings, Logout and Quit options. In the settings menu, it was a pleasure to see the way font size settings were implemented. You can select any font size setting as you wish (from 8 to 18). But the best part of settings menu is the option to enable white theme. I liked the white theme better than the default black theme. I simply couldn't go back to the default theme after using the white theme (never mind the AMOLED screen).

It is written on the about page (which is curiously same as the settings page) that “more features and lots of updates are planned” I'm glad that app will receive updates. Though we usually pay for the app in it's present status, it is nice to know that there will be updates and improvements.

Now, coming back to the blog list, once you click on any of your blogs, the list of your recent blogposts and drafts will appear in sequential order just like it does on Blogger website. On pressing the settings button, one can access “All comments”, reload (useful if you have any data connectivity problems like me), settings, logout and exit. Settings here are same as the settings in the home page of the app.

By pressing the “all the comments” option, you can see all the comments of your blog. But you can only do that. I wish one could post or delete comments them from this screen itself. When I asked the developer, he said that one could do so only from the individual blogposts where those comments are actually posted. Hope this feature will be added in future.

black theme
white themed post editor
The all important blog post editor-the middle “plus” mark button at the bottom bar takes us to the “create new” screen. As you can see, there are four options below the “title”, text editor, text formatting, labels and blog post scheduler for scheduling posts or changing the time of the posts. Apart from the label settings, what impressed me most was the rich text editor with bold, italics, underline, strike through, link, paragraph break and embed image options. 

text formatting
landscape post editor

Formatting is very simple too, select the written text and then apply which ever formatting options you want to. The option to upload photo does not exist right now. But when asked, Anand Bibek, the developer, said that it was a planned feature. So, right now, you cannot upload photos directly through Blob. But there is a workaround. Upload photos through cuteBox or Dropian and then embed the link here. I know, there are no formatting options for photos, but in case you are so particular about uploading them, then this is the only way.

While on post creator, if you wish not to upload the blogpost, you can save it as a draft for later revision. Though offline saving of draft is not present right now, I'm told it will be present in the upcoming update for Blob. 

blog post with images
in-built browser
Regarding the comments, you can access the comments from the published posts by pressing the comments icon from the bottom bar of that particular blog post. I wish there was an option to reply to comments apart from the now existing delete option. 

One of the good features of this app is the in-built browser for viewing the links inside the blog posts. That is really a relief, since I do not want the app to open the default Belle browser just for checking the links (for that matter I do not want to open the default Belle browser for anything. Opera Mini and Mobile both do better job than Belle browser).

I have been using this app since almost a month (beta testing it). And I have seen it improve in leaps and bounds since the first version which I tested. To conclude, I'm more than impressed with the functionality of Blob. All the basic features required for the using the services of Blogger are present. Agreed, there are few gaps (very few indeed) like absence of sharing options and not being able to reply to comments, but that is not going to stop me from recommending this app to any Symbian user who uses Blogger regularly. With promised updates, things can only get better with Blob.

Ovi Store link of Blob 

Update: Ovi Store link of free version of Blob 

Update 2: The limitation is actually with regard to creating of blog posts. One can only view and delete blog posts in the free version. But with free version you can have a first hand experience of the text editor of Blob.