Ghost Beta Review

October 31, 2013 // Tagged in: software, review, blogging

I've been using Ghost as my blogging platform for a couple of weeks now, and I wanted to give it a brief review. It's important to note that it's still in a fairly early beta stage, so many features are absent and bugs are present. However, I can give it an initial review, taking this into account.

Writing

Writing is awesome. Writing blog posts in markdown, with no WSYIWIG + hidden markup, you are left with the bare minimum - always certain of what the post contains, and how it will be displayed. Not only is the markdown syntax easy to remember and use, but Ghost already includes keyboard shortcuts for even faster writing.

Markdown help

Images

Adding images is especially cool, because you just type a placeholder for the image, then go back and add it in later. This lets you quickly speed up your writing process, without letting you forget to put in an image you wanted. The "add image" box on the right brings up a file open dialog when clicked, and supports file-drop, too. When you pick the image, the file automatically uploads and inserts itself into the post.

adding images

One issue with this that I've noticed is that if you've already added your image and it's tall, if you continue to type your post, it tends to screw up the side-by-side writing/viewing pane, as the view pane flickers, trying to properly scroll to the right position. It's hard to discribe, but a big headache.

Overall, the writing process is great. The only options for a post are tags (which currently display above the post when reading, but there's no way to filter on them yet), publish date, and slug. It makes for quick and easy writing/publishing. Unfortunately, the writing functionality is currently pretty broken on iOS, so it's hard basically impossible to create/edit posts from my iPhone or iPad.

Oh yeah, it's also misssing spellcheck, which it needs pretty bad.

Reading

I love the way my posts turn out. If you really want full control over your post format, you can either create a completely custom theme, modify the default theme, or even put inline styles in your post. However, if you stick with a good theme, and allow consistency in your content (don't try to float images here and there, with some full width, etc), the reading experience is much nicer. It flows well in the post-browser, and on each post's page. I may experiment with creating my own theme at some point, but for now, I've been happy with tweaking the default one.

My Ghost instance is running on an extra small vm (Ubuntu) in Azure, and it's super quick. I haven't had any issues with latency yet.

I'll be really happy when I can filter posts by tag, like xdumaine.com/tagged/software, and I think it would be really nice to support subreddit-esque chaining like xdumaine.com/tagged/software+climbing to get both tags.

Administration

One big feature of ghost was the dashboard. It's mocked up on their feature page, but it's not yet implemented. This will be a big win, but for now, the only administration is editing posts and basic header settings. Adding support for analytics (without having to edit a theme file) would be great, as well as custom permalink structures, and it'll be pretty nice.

Overall, I'm very happy having switched from Wordpress. I don't have to worry about comments, spam, or capcha (because I added comments via google plus (not that anyone ever comments on my blog anyway)), sidebars, menus, widgets, users or analytics (analytics are already in Google Analytics).

It's like the saying "keep your bed associated with sleeping in order to sleep better" - keep your blog associated with writing, and you'll write better. Ghost does this very well.