The rise of blogging online has lead to a number of new desktop applications which assist with the process. Often it can be useful to benefit from integration with other desktop apps, whether for posting RSS links, or adding media to an entry. MarsEdit is arguably the most popular blog tool for OS X, and is able to integrate with a range of different blog platforms.
This review will outline the main features of MarsEdit and how the software works, it will explore a few limitations currently present, and suggest a few other alternatives for those looking for a free solution.
Setting Up Your Blog
When opening MarsEdit for the first time, you’ll need to set up your blog. It’s widely compatible with many different systems, including WordPress, Blogger, TypePad, Movable Type, LiveJournal, Drupal, and Vox. Depending on your system of choice, you may need to alter a setting in its administration panel to allow MarsEdit to interact with your blog – you’ll be notified if this is the case.
All the information you need to enter is the URL and Name of your blog:
Providing everything goes according to plan and MarsEdit can talk to your blog, you’ll then be asked for your username and password. After authenticating your account, you’re all set up and good to go. Your posts should load in the main interface.
The main interface you’ll see in MarsEdit will look similar to the following:
By default, it will show a listing of all your most recent posts. The number displayed can be customized (along with various other settings), by right-clicking your blog name in the sidebar and selecting ‘Edit Settings’. Clicking ‘View on Web’ in the toolbar will take you directly to the post on your website. It’s also worth noting the ‘Media Manager’ at this point, a system for storing and uploading all the images you use in blog posts:
The media manager consists of three sections:
- Upload: For sending a single image to your blog, automatically uploaded for you
- Catalog: This stores all the images you’ve used in the past, and allows you to easily re-insert them to new posts (across all your blogs)
- Flickr: MarsEdit works well with Flickr, and once authorized can access and easily insert any image from your Flickr catalog into a post
Without a doubt, this is one of the big time-savers provided by MarsEdit; it’s far easier to have the uploading of files handled automatically for you. It’s also possible to instigate adding an image by dragging and dropping the file over your current post window.
Adding and Editing Posts
The main reason for using MarsEdit is the ability to edit and publish your blog content. The interface for doing this is simple, effective and reasonably well featured, but does require that you’re confident with HTML code (there’s no visual editor).
Two windows run at the same time; an editing view, and a preview of what the post will look like (updated live). It’s possible to edit the preview template, so that you see exactly what the post would look like on your blog. This can be especially useful if editing without an internet connection.
The ‘Body’ and ‘Extended’ tabs split up the parts of your post which fall before and after the ‘<More>’ tag (or similar), which can be a little confusing at first. MarsEdit will download all your categories, though doesn’t support any form of category hierarchy display.
The feature of MarsEdit I really love is it’s ability to respond to a browser ‘Bookmarklet’ – When clicked, it will load up MarsEdit pre-populated with the link and content of the page you’re currently browsing. It makes posting links remarkably easy, and can be a big time saver. It also supports integration with NetNewsWire, for directly linking/re-posting RSS feed articles.
The main limitation of MarsEdit stems from the wide differences between different blogging software. It needs to maintain a feature set which works well across various platforms, which means lacking support for the advanced features of any one particular platform. I’d really like to see custom fields support for WordPress, as this would make the app much more useable for me. It would also be great if it could automatically download your theme, to provide a preview based on whichever theme you’re running at this point in time.
I’m sure that users of other platforms will have different requirements and requests, but it’s difficult to satisfy them all in one central application without a huge amount of extra development time.
Other Solutions & Conclusion
I think that MarsEdit does a very good job of providing a reliable, cross-platform, desktop blogging app. It makes a very complex task look easy, and particularly shines in the simplicity of setting up a new blog for editing.
A few other solutions may be available for those looking for a local blogging solution. Google Gears is growing in popularity, and allows you to edit your blog whilst offline, automatically merging the changes back when you connect to the internet.
Another popular app is Ecto, which also comes in slightly cheaper than MarsEdit. It has a decent interface, and offers a visual editor for those who aren’t all that HTML savvy. It’s definitely worth trying out before deciding which app to purchase, and we’ll be reviewing Ecto on AppStorm at some point. If you’re looking for something really simple, Blogo may fit the bill.
Whichever app you choose to use, I hope you find desktop blogging useful. As blog system admin interfaces improve, I find myself increasingly happy to use them directly. That said, several systems are still far from perfect and MarsEdit’s ease of use is something I certainly appreciate.