Simple Dropbox-powered Blogging with Scriptogr.am

One of the recent trends in blogging has been the implementation of flat file blogging systems that take your Markdown files and render them as blog posts in beautiful website form. However, a lot of these are self-hosted and for those who may not have the technical knowledge to get one of these set up, or perhaps just want to get on with blogging, they’ll be pleased to know there’s a pretty good solution that aims to get bloggers up and running in mere minutes.

That solution is Scriptogr.am.

Scriptogr.am is both a frontend and a backend for your blog, taking the Markdown files from its designated folder in your Dropbox and collating them into a fully-featured and working blog. Also, did I mention it’s free? Find out more after the fold!

What’s Scriptogr.am?

Scriptogr.am is a very promising entry into this growing field of blog platforms that work with the rendering of flat files as websites and blogs but unlike most of these others, Scriptogr.am requires zero technical knowledge and you can add content simply by saving a Markdown file into your Scriptogr.am Dropbox folder and hitting the ‘Synchronize’ button in the Scriptogr.am web app.

Scriptogr.am

Scriptogr.am

Each post or page of the blog is a Markdown-formatted file pulled directly from the aforementioned Scriptogr.am folder that the app creates during set-up and when syncing, Scriptogr.am then renders a blog collated with each of these individual formatted posts, perfectly contained within the custom or preset template, based on your choosing.

Setting Up Scriptogr.am

To get started with Scriptogr.am, all you’ll need is a Dropbox account. When connecting, you’ll be directed to the Dropbox website where you’ll be able to authorise the app to connect to your account, just to ensure that you’re happy for the app to work with your Dropbox account.

Connecting Dropbox to Scriptogr.am Account

Connecting Dropbox to Scriptogr.am Account

The app then creates a new folder just for Scriptogr.am to store posts in and you’re then directed to the final stage of setup where all you then need to do is enter your email address and choose a username which forms part of the URL at which the blog can be accessed.

Writing Posts

Posts can be created through one of two methods – either by creating the post file manually and syncing with Dropbox or through the control panel that Scriptogr.am provides. Either way, the creation process is pretty similar and each post consists of a Markdown-formatted .md file that contains all of the relevant meta information and the body of the post. It can be a little bit confusing at first to get to grips with the way that Scriptogr.am publishes each post and uses metadata at the top of each raw Markdown post file but Scriptogr.am’s documentation is pretty explanatory so a quick read will ensure that all users can get to terms with the app pretty quickly.

The Scriptogr.am Post Editor

The Scriptogr.am Post Editor

The great thing about the choice that the app brings is that whether you’re the sort of person that prefers having a visual post editor akin to that of WordPress or you’d rather boot up your favourite text editor and start writing in there, Scriptogr.am fits both of those needs. I was able to boot up my Markdown editor of choice, Mou, and easily edit posts without being tied to their control panel. Once a post is added or updated, the blog can be rebuilt using the ‘Synchronize’ button in the dashboard.

Editing Posts with Mou

Editing Posts with Mou

Customising Your Blog

As well as all of its tools for writing blog posts, Scriptogr.am also offer a way to customise the look and feel of each blog to make a better impression to readers. It comes with a selection of built-in themes created both by the Scriptogr.am team and contributors from the community, and also provides a CSS/HTML editor that can allow users to edit existing themes or add code from scratch to mark up their own.

Selecting a Theme

Selecting a Theme

The theme system in Scriptogr.am is pretty simple but it certainly does the job and if you’ve ever trawled through the nightmare that is WordPress’ theme structure, Scriptogr.am’s is certainly a pleasant surprise. Its theme system is definitely one area where Scriptogr.am excels – a┬átheme is essentially a HTML file with a bit of custom template language and an associated CSS stylesheet so it’d be easy to theme for, regardless of design or development experience.

The Scriptogr.am HTML Editor

The Scriptogr.am HTML Editor

What Could Be Improved?

As a whole, I was generally impressed by the ease of use and general quality of the app, but there were some areas that left a little to be desired. One of the things that I found quite confusing whilst using Scriptogr.am was the process of deleting posts. There doesn’t appear to be an easily-accessible button to do this and even after deleting the post manually within Dropbox, it takes a while for the post to disappear from the list in the Scriptogr.am control panel. This may just be a bug but even so, it can be pretty confusing for the end user.

As well as this, the only other real problem I found with Scriptogr.am was its interface. While it does the job incredibly well and from a visual standpoint is incredibly pleasing to use, I found it to be fairly clunky at times. I can understand the recent trend of making interfaces more JavaScript-based to prevent additional page loads and overall quicken the load time but this had a slightly reverse effect on Scriptogr.am – it’s just a little bit too slow. This could be down to the fact that the info’s being pulled from Dropbox but even so, it’s something worth looking at.

Conclusion

Despite these minor flaws, I was overall quite pleased with the whole idea and implementation of Scriptogr.am. I’ve come across a few similar solutions in the past but these have generally been either quite expensive (especially for a small website with no budget) or require a very high level of technical expertise or time investment. With a very low price tag of free (providing you have enough storage on your Dropbox account), Scriptogr.am proves to be a very cheap and easy service for facilitating plain and simple blogging.

I never hide the fact that I’m a massive fan of Markdown so I’m a sucker for any blogging platform that supports it – this is partly the reason I found Scriptogr.am so appealing when I first came across it. Coupled with the fact that posts can be edited in essentially any editor that can handle text, it makes it a great alternative for those that want the freedom of not being locked into any particular interface but it’s there for those that need it.

While there’s room for improvement, Scriptogr.am is, all in all, a great app.


Summary

Scriptogr.am allows anyone to start blogging, easily syncing with each user's Dropbox account to allow for reliable and simple blogging.

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