Blogging Software (Mostly) for the Mac

MarsEdit

  • Cost: US$29.95
  • Requires: Mac OS X 10.4 or later. Servers that run any weblog system supporting the MovableType, metaWeblog, and Blogger XML-RPC API, as well as the Atom API (Blogger).
  • Synopsis: MarsEdit is intended for one thing: blogging, something it does very well. It has some integration with Flickr, but otherwise it handles much the same way many blog engine backends do, particularly in the area of image uploading. While it’s not WYSIWYG, it allows users the ability to treat code in the same way as if using a number of HTML editors. Very, very comfortable to use.

I’ll start with Mars Edit because it’s the most basic of all the blogging software tried.

I first heard about MarsEdit about a year ago, after getting my MacBook. Used it for a while, liked it, but didn’t pay it much attention. After all, why should I pay $30 for something I could do for free? I mean, sure it works well, but so does the WordPress backend. That’s what I thought until I decided I needed something that could work offline. Then I realized exactly how well MarsEdit does what it does.

MarsEdit1.png

When you first open the application, you’re presented with a very basic screen, one that should be fairly intuitive, especially to people familiar with the way Mac OSX does things. To add a blog, click the “+”. If you already have a blog, just enter the information and follow the wizard. If you don’t already have one, the program allows you to create a new one with either Blogger or WordPress. If you already have one, the 10 most recently inserted posts will be available for display and editing.

This interface is fairly minimalist and intuitive to anyone who’s blogged from most blogging software. In fact, in the post listing sections, this looks more like an RSS reader than blogging software, which is great: I just wish I could add in other RSS feeds.

The icons at the top of the screen allow you to add a new post, delete or edit a selected post, refresh the list of posts, view a post on the web, toggle the list of blogs, and view the media manager.

The post editor isn’t fancy, so much as it is simple and beautiful. Very true to Mac philosophy. There you can select the blog you’re posting to, select the categories the post will be filed under, and the various server options which determine the post status upon saving/uploading (one and the same).

MarsEdit2.png

As far as writing goes, it’s not WYSIWYG, but rather HTML code. The preview screen allows you to preview using “Convert Line Breaks” (this is the same as the WordPress HTML editor, though it’s easy to add paragraph tags: just go to the Scripts menu in the menu bar and select “Add Paragraph Tags”), Markdown, SmartyPants, and Textile. Since the preview is realtime, it updates as soon as you stop typing for a second. The fact that this is both automatic and visible as you type means you never have to say, ”Oops, missed closing that anchor tag, now everything’s a big link.”

Uploading media is very easy: drag the image (or video, PDF, document, etc.) to where you want it in the article and drop it. The media manager will appear and you’ll be able to select how it aligns. With images, unfortunately, you can’t actually edit the image’s size, nor can you define whether you want to use a thumbnail with a link. In that way, the image uploading is very limited.

You can also use images from your Flickr account, which is nice if that’s where you store your images. I don’t, at least not any more. Still, this is a common limitation: the only software I’ve seen that has built in support for other types of image accounts is the Flock web browser (reviewed later).

Once finished, posting is a matter of clicking “Send to Weblog” with the “Post Status” of “Published.” Very simple, clean, and to the point.

While MarsEdit is very clean software, it’s also very vanilla: it has exactly what you need and no more, meant for blogging and not much else. If you consider its lack of both post tagging and scheduling, then it has a bit less than what you need, and if these are necessities for you you’ll need to go to the site’s backend to perform these tasks. Both of these are potentially major omissions. [Edit: Reader Scott Jarokoff pointed out that “MarsEdit *does* allow for post tagging. By default that field is not displayed, but can be shown using the View menu (I think – can’t remember off the top of my head and I’m not at a Mac [at the moment]). MarsEdit supports all standard WordPress fields.”]

Is it worth the US$30? Depends. If you’re looking for something more than what you already get in your blog software’s backend–other than a one stop shop–then look elsewhere. If your interest is in software that simply gets out of your way and works well, then this is definitely worth a look.

Next review, Ecto

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Of course, if you just want to go ahead and skip to the conclusion, by all means do so.

4 thoughts on “Blogging Software (Mostly) for the Mac

  1. Hey there, i read about your switch from Linux to mac os x.
    How is it going, are you still happy with you macbook?
    I am considering the purchase of a macbook too.
    Since 2003 i used Llinux for all my home-purposes, i tried different distributions, started with Slackware, switched to gentoo, ended up in Kubuntu since i like the advantages of Ubuntu/Debian and the KDE environment.

    Have you ever regret buying the macbook, did you switch back to ubuntu for some reasons?

    Would be nice to get your opinion on that .-)

    BR – Jens

  2. Hey Jens,
    If I were any happier with my MacBook my wife would be jealous. I highly recommend it if you do a lot of typing: they keyboard is wonderful. As far as software is concerned, it’s nice to have your system get out of your way, and the Mac does that better than any system I’ve ever tried. Ubuntu gets close, though and I might instal it on this system to see how it goes: the fact is that, philosophically, I’m still attached to the Free Software and Open Source movements, although I’m far more interested in simply working than spending time evangelizing for it, and on that front the Mac just can’t be beat. (I will tell you, I miss working on the command line: I still haven’t gotten used to the Darwin file structure.)

    I will tell you, after a short while, you start seeing some of the flaws, and as great as Mac OS X is, you realize there’s no such thing as a perfect system.

  3. Mac OSX is built over the code base of FreeBSD,but FreeBSD still scores mightily as a suitable free (as in freedom)OS, and closer to Unix than Linux. My favourite FreeBSD variant is GhostBSD, but my favourite BSD is OpenBSD, which must surely be the most secure OS on the planet. You might take a look as these too.

    If you want a Linux variant that run on a Mac (ppc type) you’d be better off with Debian than Ubuntu. I’ve had it running on my Linux box for over 10 years. I COULD get a more efficient (for older machines) distro but this has served me well, as have my BSD boxes.

    Good luck!

    Graham Todd

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