Out of all the major free blogging websites, Tumblr is possibly the nicest. Its social aspect is fun, and it’s really easy to use and post with. Unlike WordPress, it doesn’t require a manual to understand how to use it. Unlike Blogger, it’s actually useful (and its built-in social network seems more active than Google Plus). For these reasons, and many more, Tumblr is what I use for a music blog that I host.
Because I really like the web interface for Tumblr, I have to admit I was a little skeptical of Tublme, a native Mac app for Tumblr that replaces the need to open your browser. After all, Tumblr’s interface is easy to use and notoriously simple (to the chagrin of many WordPress web developers, I’m sure). But my curiosity was also piqued. Could Tublme make Tumblr more Mac-like and feature-filled without sacrificing any of its flexibility? Read on to find out.
Native App Design
Tublme looks like a modern Mac app. It’s very dark, not unlike Pixelmator or Tweetbot, and fits in with the aesthetic that the most accomplished OS X developers seem to be going after. Thanks to that, Tublme is initially a little off-putting. Maybe I’m used to Tumblr’s brighter colours, but it took me some time to really appreciate what I was looking at here.
That design does influence the way I feel about the service in a magnitude of ways, though. The first is that Tublme makes Tumblr feel much more like a social service. I’ve already compared the aesthetic design to Tweetbot, an obvious influence (both even put many of their toolbars on the left side of the app). But this comparison is extremely relevant. Just like in Tweetbot, I was very interested in actually taking a look through some of my friends’ Tumblr posts to see what was new. I might be a rarity, but I rarely feel compelled to do that in Tumblr’s web app.
Sadly, the app doesn’t memorize your place in the timeline. Every time I opened it, I always saw the newest blog posts right away. This is exactly how Tumblr presents itself on the web as well, but it’s a shame that the developer isn’t making use of a small Cache on your Mac hard drive to remember your spot.
The Little Flourishes
Of course, because it’s a native app, the interface also has a little more flexibility. The app can allow for popup menus that a web interface simply can’t provide. If you want to see Notes on a post, you have to tap on a button that looks a little bit like a bookmark. This frees up a considerable amount of space in the interface for your posts, and puts a focus on reading what other people have to say.
That being said, I wish that level of minimalism reached through other areas of the app. It’s odd to me that Notes are only visible by clicking on a button, while Tags are always visible (especially since some people will be using Tumblr templates that make Tags invisible by default).
But every type of post looks beautiful. I was particularly impressed with photo slideshows, which I don’t think I’ve ever seen in Tumblr itself (or maybe I’m just not following the right Tumblr blogs). Regardless, the layout for the slideshows is gorgeous and had a friend nearby ooh-ing and ah-ing. Everything is responsive, and fast.
Finally, Tublme brings some things to the table that Tumblr’s native web interface simply doesn’t. You can add users to Lists (just like Twitter), if you’re the sort of person who needs to manage the dozens of blogs you follow. You can also navigate almost entirely with the keyboard, which should save you a ton of time if you prefer to avoid your mouse. (In fact, if you prefer to use keyboard shortcuts for navigation, I’d stop reading this review immediately and just go buy the app. It will be perfect for you.)
In other words, if Tumblr is your main source for social media, Tublme is going to be your best friend. It’s fast and consistently checks with Tumblr to see if new posts are available. It has a menu bar icon for notifications, which is handy, and can handle multiple account logins. Thanks to the ability to handle multiple account logins, some social media managers might find the app extremely useful. Of course, the app also allows you to post from multiple blogs with one account, which is the setup I use.
Writing a Post
This is the part of the interface where I usually end up spending most of my time, particularly in a native app that attempts to replace a web app for me. I occasionally write simple posts, but most of the time I’m writing longer and more complex pieces. I like to preview my work in a web browser as I go, which means that Tumblr’s ability to preview my work on my blog is important to me.
I also write in a combination of Markdown and HTML, usually compiling chunks of each of my posts for one of my blogs in particular in both. Thankfully, my first observation with Tublme was that it allowed me to write in either HTML or Markdown. Since I do most of my prep work in Byword, I chose to write in HTML. I can copy and paste the HTML directly from Byword, and Tublme will render it perfectly.
That being said, as nice as the interface is — and it’s lovely — it is lacking some functionality. As expected, Tublme allows me to post anything: text, images, quotes, links, chats, video, and audio posts are all supported. Sadly, though, I can’t find a way to mix them up. I frequently add photos to text posts, so this is a little sad. I tried dragging and dropping, which connected the URL path to the local file to the post, but it didn’t upload the image to Tumblr’s servers. (If there is a way to do this, then the developer needs to make it much clearer.)
The app also doesn’t allow you to preview anything before you push it live. In other words, if you want to see your post before everybody else does just to make sure it actually looks good, you’re not going to be able to preview it anywhere — not even in the web browser. It also loses the smart scheduler with natural language parsing, so instead of telling Tumblr to schedule a post tomorrow at 8, you’ll have to manually select tomorrow’s date and time. This doesn’t sound like a big deal, but it is — those few seconds will add up.
At the end of the day, some people will be able to get by just fine with Tublme. But my needs are a little more advanced when it comes to writing post, and Tumblr already has a difficult time catering to HTML-loving writers. For me, I still spend most of my time putting a post together in the Tumblr web app.
One appreciable difference between Tublme and Tumblr itself is offline saving of your post, so if you don’t have an Internet connection or lose it, you don’t lose all your work. That’s a huge perk, particularly if you want to make sure your post is perfectly prepared.
Tublme is a smartly-designed piece of software that improves on the social side of Tumblr in all the right ways. It makes browsing through posts a lot more fun, and even makes it a bit more social with features like Lists. I wish you could customize a bit of its visual experience, but it’s not like I was left wanting either: it’s a beautiful Mac app.
That being said, the writing experience can leave something to be desired. It doesn’t support all the flexibility that Tumblr’s website does, and despite the fact that it offers me the ability to save my work should I lose connection, I still found myself doing most of my post prep work in the browser. A Preview feature would be really nice, but it would be even nicer to add any kind of media to any kind of post. $10 is a lot of money to spend on a Tumblr app exclusively for an admittedly excellent social experience, and I’d love to see the developer refine Tublme’s posting experience to match.
Tublme offers a rich social experience for Tumblr fanatics, but needs a little polish when it comes to posting anything more advanced than a basic post.7
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