First Flight: ScribeFire

Time to test one last blog editor. This time, we have one from out of left field: ScribeFire, a free blogging plug-in for Firefox. It’s potentially a v.meaty idea. See a page you wanna talk about on your blog? Just click on the ScribeFire button in the corner of the browser window and a blog editor appears in a new window pane, thusly:

Okay, weirdness already: I’ve hit “return” to get to a new line, and find that it’s done a simple linefeed instead of what might be termed a “Please start a new paragraph, Mr. Editor.” Let’s hit “Return” again and see what happens.
Nope. Same thing. That’s weird. The first line of the first paragraph was even indented like a real paragraph…though now I notice that it’s just a batch of spaces. Return
Damn. Does it expect me to tap “Return” twice to communicate a new paragraph?
Easy way to find out: this editor has both Rich Text and HTML views. Let’s just flip on over to the crunchy-wheat HTML side and see how it thinks this should be formatted.

Ooof. That’s no good. Not only is it not wrapping these paragraphs in paragraph tags, but those four spaces have been burned into the post as nonbreaking spaces. Meaning, the indent will be there even if my style sheet says “No indent, please; we’re English.”

Okay, I’m doing double-returns at the end of each graf.

(Note: I’m inserting these graphics after having finished the First Flight. I’m putting this one a couple of paragraphs “late” so that you can see how the earlier grafs got formatted before I started doubling the space between manually. Anyway, here’s what i was seeing in the editing window:)

(Back to your regularly-scheduled First Flight.)

I keep meaning to mention: command-I is intercepted by Firefox’s “Page Info” menu item. So you can’t italicize a word via a keyboard shortcut. But if you click the ital button in the editor, at least you “see” italics.

Like I was saying: I’m now doing double-returns at the end of each graf. Now will ScribeFire wrap the paragraphs with the right HTML tag?

Assuredly not.

Hmm.

Yeah, that’s a problem. In a “first flight” situation, I have no idea how these double-returns I’m inserting are going to be parsed. I assume that it’ll be handled the same way that WordPress’ online editor handles them (meaning: correctly) but I won’t know until I push the magic button.

On the whole, I like the richness of this editor. There’s this little yellow notepad icon in the bottom corner of the Firefox window and hey-presto, clicking it panes the browser window into the page you were viewing and an editing deck so you can comment on the page you were viewing.

I just wish I could easily work out how to pop stuff out of that page. For reference, I’m looking at the World’s Hardest Easy Geometry Problem. I’ve just selected that title and clicked the “Add A Link” button. You’re guessing that ScribeFire automatically chooses the URL of the page that you were viewing when you opened the editor? Nope.

Okay. I’m clicking “Cancel,” I’m selecting the address, doing a Copy, selecting the title here in the post again, and clicking the “Add A Link” button. Paste…good, ScribeFire didn’t screw it up.

Oops. The editing pane here isn’t scrolling down properly. I’m now at the bottom of the pane. It should automatically scroll up far enough to give me plenty of white space to edit in. In reality, it hasn’t even scrolled enough to display the descenders of the letters (oh, seems to be working now. But at first, the “p”‘s and “y”‘s were being cut off.)

Hmm. I’m having one of those moments where my thoughts begin with the phrase “It can’t be like this, can it? Because that would be idiotic.”

Specifically I mean that an embedded blog editor would almost automatically have all kinds of features for quoting and incorporating content from the original webpage I was visiting, right? Right?

In truth, I’m not seriously interested in ScribeFire as a main blog editor. But I want a good “Blog This Here Page” tool and this would seem to be just the ticket.

But I don’t see any tools like that. Hence my confusion. They have to be here; I’m just not finding them.

So let’s look for Help.

Mmmm…

mmm….

….

Can’t find any Help. Nothing more than ToolTips, anyway. Okay, here’s the “ScribeFire” logo in the toolbar. I bet this takes me to online help…

…Nope, it opens a new tab and loads in the main ScribeFire page. Maybe the little graphical dingus on the left of it is a separate button?

…Nope.

Hmm, again.

Oh! There’s a dingus on the extreme left of the top toolbar, which some certain misguided individuals think means “There’s more menu items hiding here somewhere.” I patiently explain to the ScribeFire author who isn’t here in the room with me: no, it doesn’t mean that. It’s pointing in the wrong direction, for one. You need an image thingy here that makes it clear. See, sir, I am now going to click that thingamabob because I don’t think you’re such an idiot that you didn’t include either system help or that…what was I looking for? It seems so long ago…oh, right: tools for including content from the current webpage.

Here I go, clicking the dingus.

A stacked column of buttons appears. A road trails off to W. You hear a babbling brook to the E. ?

Umm…okay, I’ll take “Page Tools” for $500, Alex.

No, that shows you Technorati stats for the page. Useless for the task at hand, which is writing a blog post.

Let’s go to “Bookmarks,” same dollar amount?

No, sorry…the answer were were looking for was “What is ‘Bookmark this page in del.icio.us’?” Here’s an intersting fact: this, too, has nothing to do with creating a blog post. Alice, you have control of the board.

How about “Settings” for $600.

An audio daily double! Alice, you are currently in the lead with $7300. You can risk as much of that as you want on your ability to predict that this menu will be the correct answer.

Uh, I’ll wager $100, Alex.

Nooooo, sorry: this, too, has nothing to do with editing blog posts. Wait, that’s not entirely true: you can do things like choose whether it uses CSS or HTML styles and other options.

Okay, let’s close out the board with “About.”

SO close! It’s a list of links to the ScribeFire RSS feeds, blog, etc., and a link for “Help”…aha!

Mmm, no, it just takes you to the main ScribeFire.com page and leaves it up to you to find its Help system.

Honest to God, I have now spent so much time searching for Help on this plug-in that I’ve forgotten what I wanted to get Help about.

(Right, right: integrating content from the webpage you were visiting before you activated ScribeFire.)

Sigh. So it’s willing to tell me to check the website for help. Which is what the airline does when it screws me at the airport. “Our main 800 number can help you.” “But you’re standing right here!

Ohhh-kay. I’m clicking the “New users: Read This First” link. Yes, dear readers, I am now liveblogging what it’s like to read a webpage. This doesn’t bode well for me (what, I think you’re interested in this?) nor for you (what, there’s nothing else on right now on the whole Internet?) and certainly not for ScribeFire.

(Seriously. A button or a link marked “Help” that takes you right to a QuickStart guide or something. I can whiteboard you an explanation of this concept if y’like.)

Annnd the “Read This First” contains four (4) one-sentence items, explaining that the software won’t work until it’s installed and that it won’t run until you run it. Whoah…slow down, Professor Feynman!

I see a “Support Forum” link in the sidebar. I could click that. Or, I could take this Uniball Signo model UM-153 black gel pen from my pocket, ask it “Signo, how do I integrate content from the webpage into a ScribeFire-generated post?” and then sit patiently until it speaks the answer.

Don’t know which one is the smarter play. Same result, same wait, but if I ask the pen, I’ll won’t have to type anything.

Okay. I’m going to just let this go. I should mention that ScribeFire adds a new menu to the universal Firefox contextual menu and one of the items therein is “Blog this page.” I’ve just tried to activate it via a new window but ScribeFire failed to load itself. Maybe because I had another instance of SF going in this window right here?

Well, I dunno. Later on, I’ll see what happens when I try that contextual menu.

(Incidentally, when it creates new tabs, the embedded editor belongs to the window, and not to the individual tab that was open when I activated ScribeFire. I don’t know that this is the wrong answer, but this definitely disconnects ScribeFire as a “this webpage was so interesting that I had to blog about it right away” sort of tool.)

Here’s what I would expect an embedded editor to do: you activate it and you see pretty much what I’m looking at right now. Except there’s also a whole palette or menu of “this page” buttons. Click this button, and ScribeFire embeds the page’s title, which has been wired up as a hyperlink. Click another button, and whatever text you’ve highlighted on the page copied into your post formatted as a quote. In fact, if text is already highlighted when you activate ScribeFire, the quote is already in the editor.

Bonus points: a JPG thumbnail of the page. Double-bonus: a “gallery” of all of the embedded media on the page so I can “quote” an image (though, hmm, whether it’s a hotlink or a downloaded JPEG served from my own server, there’d be some ethical dilemmas, I guess…)

I mean, anything would be better than what I see here in ScribeFire now…which is nothing.

But let’s move forward. Time to post. Installing ScribeFire in my browser and configuring it for the Celestial Waste of Bandwidth was so fast and trouble-free that both tasks were successfully finished before I started talking about them. So that’s all you need to know about that. Bravo, well done.

(Not me…ScribeFire.)

Oh, right…pictures. I’ve been taking screenshots as I go here. I bet that inserting pictures into this post is punitively hard. Deep breath: let’s see how hard it is to insert an image from my local drive.

Click the “Add an Image” button. Hey, very nice. A dropdown dialog appears, inviting me to select either a local image or an image URL:

And what’s this? If I click on it, standard resize handles appear and I can scale it down proportionately. Awesome. Every editor should do it that way. I can select it and center it on the page, right?

Yup, apparently so. Good, good.

(No, bad; it means that now, I have to go back through this post and add the images I’ve been shooting. Sigh. Let me get a Fresca out of the fridge first and then I’ll be right on that…)

The bad news is that you can’t get access to the image detals without going into HTML mode. I’d like to say “please slap this little image on the left and allow text to flow around it” but there doesn’t seem to be a way to do that. ScribeFire also got discombobulated pretty easily about where the images ended. I centered an image and then couldn’t type “un-centered” text anywhere underneath it until I clicked into some text that was already left-justified.

Okey-doke. Time to post. ScribeFire lets me add WordPress categories, Technorati tags, trackback URLs…cool, the whole schmeer.

If the “Publish” button works as advertised, this will be my last chance to talk about ScribeFire “live.” Time to sum up:

I should say that this tool seems to be a man without a country.

It’s just another blog editor, in a field filled with apps that are far more than merely adequate. If ScribeFire were a standalone app, it would have lots of advantages over an embedded tool that’s dependent on the infrastructure and UI of FireFox. If it had a level of intimacy with the content of the webpage you were viewing when you brought up the tool, it’d be able to do things that no standalone editor can even touch.

As is? There’s no advantage to this. It works just fine, but not in any particularly good way that causes it to distinguish itself. I can’t really see why ScribeFire needs to exist. Unless it’s for the carnal glee of telling people “It’s a blog editor…as a plug-in!!!

Kids, we were all once excited about the ability to make a phone call…from the car!! But eventually, we realized that the technology sucked until it also let us play Freecell.

Push the button, Frank…

9 thoughts on “First Flight: ScribeFire”

  1. I happen to like ScribeFire a lot. You can use it on any OS, since it is a Firefox-Addon and it even has one feature which even MarsEdit is missing: It can edit “Pages” in WordPress.

  2. andy, you should try flock. its a browser that integrates with media sharing and social networking/bookmarking sites. it has a blog editor build in and it works great with the flickr integration and what they call web clipboard, a visual trapper keeper for content you can drag into a sidebar. plus its based on firefox, so you can use all the extensions…

    for the stuff your trying to do here, it works perfect… for me at least

  3. I have no suggestion for you, Andy… :(
    It does sound like you’re looking for an interface like what tumblr offers. A javascript bookmarklet that opens a tumble page, which in turn offers simple posting of images, quotes, videos or whatever from the page you were viewing…
    Perhaps there is some way to have a secret tumblr that pushes content to wordpress? or maybe a similar wordpress plugin?

    Good luck
    (ew! got a terrible “The network is busy” note when I attempted to post – bad juju)

  4. I’d love to hear your thoughts on MacJournal during your ongoing rundown of blog clients. It’s sort of a second-rate blogging tool, as that’s not its main focus, but that’s really what makes it interesting.

  5. @all – I have to admit that I’m ignorant about tools that help you blog about a current webpage. Again, I’m the victim of my own GEEE-nius. On CWOBber, it took me less than an hour to create a tool that presents you with a list of every open Safari webpage, with the topmost one already selected. You click a button, and it slaps all of the particulars into your current blogpost.

    So I don’t think ScribeFire is a bad tool at all. My negatives are associated with what I expected it to do, and those expectations may or may not be fair.

    I must admit that I’m a bit lost about the advantages of a blog editor as a Firefox plugin. If you’re sitting at your own computer, you might as well have the added sophistication of a standalone app. If you’re looking for “blog without leaving my web browser” functionality, why not go with a completely server-side solution (like WordPress’ own web-based editor) that lets you do it from any browser in the world?

  6. Andy, if you wanna to “blog this here page”, you could modify performancing.jar\content\scribefire.js,
    such as you wanna auto fill title, you could add “win.performancingEditor.setTitle(‘cite:’+this.getLastPageURInTitle()[1]);”
    before “win.performancingEditor.setTitle(‘cite:’+this.getLastPageURInTitle()[1]);” in performancingUI.doInsert = function(textToAppend) {…}.

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