Create a Beautiful, Writing Focused Blog with Anchor

Blogging. It’s taken over the web and with its rise in popularity, several blogging platforms have emerged that have taken this incredibly popular media by storm. You might have heard of WordPress (it’s hard not to). Over 62 million websites across the globe use the software and this is probably down to its incredibly user-friendly interface, its ease of setting-up and its general communal adoption.

However, there are times when WordPress can be a little too bloated and it’s often been noted that it’s almost shifted its focus towards being a framework as opposed to a tool to encourage and enable blogging. In short, WordPress can sometimes feel too big for small sites.

If only there was a new, simpler tool, ready to change the face of blogging. Enter Anchor. It’s beautifully-designed, a pleasure to use and the theming system is so simple, you can mock up a theme from HTML/CSS in less than an hour. I did.

Let’s take a closer look.

Anchor, what is it?

Anchor is a new, lightweight self-hosted blogging platform for users that want to focus more on writing and less on other distractions that may hinder the process. Though its focus is shifted slightly towards art-directed posts, it seems to work incredibly well for those that just need a simple, distraction-free blogging set-up. The installation process is incredibly quick and walks the user through each step required and Anchor can be up and running in a matter of minutes (two, apparently).

Let’s go!

Overview

Overview

Writing Posts

One of the main advantages of Anchor is its post composition interface. The interface of the whole app is exceptional and a pleasure to use but it shows the most on this particular part of the process. One of the deciding factors for me when choosing Anchor to power my own blog was the support for Markdown. I’d much prefer to write my posts in Markdown in a decent plain text box than a WYSIWYG so Anchor ticked the box here. When adding content to the article, clicking in the box triggers a nice little feature which fades out all of the other elements of the text box except for the title, providing a nice little distraction-free interface in which creativity can really flow.

The Post Editor

The Post Editor

The rest of the post composition interface will be pretty standard to you if you’ve written using another blogging platform before but the fields that may be slightly new are the custom JavaScript and custom CSS ones. In addition to being a solid platform for publishing the written word, Anchor also works incredibly well for those who create the more art-directed posts. The main developer’s blog is a good example of this (and definitely well worth checking out, some of the posts are genius) and Anchor allows you to style each post individually, meaning that it can be great for artists and designers that don’t want the creativity to end after the theme has been designed.

Distraction-Free 'Focus Mode'

Distraction-Free ‘Focus Mode’

Theming

One of the definite advantages that Anchor has over its various competitors is the ease of theming. Though there are various frameworks and templates out there set to help the process, the truth is that if you’re not a professional, developing a theme for WordPress is an incredibly daunting experience. With Anchor, things are very different.

I set out to create a theme for my own installation of Anchor and though I’ve done it before, I’m always surprised at just how easy it is. There’s not much to an Anchor theme and all one needs to do is look at the default theme and work from that to get going. Each theme consists of several PHP files which are easily labelled and even to the most novice developer, can be understood without any documentation. In addition to this, there’s also a neat little Anchor reference that makes the process even easier to get – meaning you can get themes mocked up and live within a matter of minutes (and I threw together my website’s current theme in Anchor form in less than an hour).

A Theme Created for Anchor

A Theme Created for my Anchor Site

Areas for Improvement

Anchor is a product with ongoing development and as such, it’s not quite perfect… yet. It’s currently lacking a complete plugin system which I believe would definitely cement Anchor’s title as a serious competitor in the blogging field but when this is implemented, it could provide developers with an easy way to add extra functionality to Anchor’s already-solid system.

Plugins... not yet

Plugins… not yet

Other than that, as it stands, Anchor is pretty much a complete solution for anyone that wants a neat little blog on their website. It turns out, everything else I needed was in there, even image uploading, which I didn’t notice at first.

Conclusion

I’ve been searching for a blogging platform that suited me for a while now. I came across Anchor around a year or so ago and it was still in the early stages of development and as such, wasn’t quite ready. I recently revisited it and was pleasantly surprised at how far it’s come along.

I’ve never really needed a load of plugins so the two main things that won me over with Anchor were its amazing interface (which, honestly, makes writing a pleasure. I’m a massive fan of distraction-free and this ticks all of the boxes, for certain) and the fact that it allows me to throw posts together in Markdown.

As much as we all love it and it’ll be a long time before the vast majority of people stop adopting WordPress, I believe that Anchor’s on the right path to becoming one of the best platforms for smaller content-focused and art-based blogs. It’s also great for newbies who perhaps may get confused by the more advanced of interfaces and designers that don’t want to have to trawl through a mountain of PHP files to convert their themes to Anchor. Though I’m certain it will evolve even more, at the current stage, Anchor definitely deserves a well-earned 8/10 and a look!


Summary

Anchor is a blogging platform that aims to make blogging beautiful again, providing a killer interface for art-directed and general posts.

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  • Looks interesting. So can we make a website in html and transfer it to anchor for CMS purpose?

    • Certainly, best way really. A simple html prototype can easily be converted to work with Anchor.

  • Pleased with your positive review of Anchor CMS. Hoping the theming community will expand, especially since I have a website dedicated to showcasing themes for Anchor CMS: http://anchorthemes.com