- Cost: US$17.95
- 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: Although the feature set is phenomenal, the interface is somewhat uncomfortable, and there are some stability issues.
It wasn’t until I started looking online for blogging software that I heard of Ecto. It’s a blogging application with lots of very useful features.
The design is fairly standard, with the list of blogs on the left, and both a list of posts on the right and the text for the current post selected on the right. (Just like my mail reader! Sort of.) However, adding a new blog was a bit of a challenge. To add a blog, you have to click Edit accounts, then select “Assistant” if you want the new blog assistant, or “New” if you want to simply add a new account. Of course, then you have to know not the blog address, but the actual access point (http://example.com/blog/xmlrpc.php, for example). I had some trouble using the Assistant, which wouldn’t pick up a self-hosted blog under another domain (http://gnorb.net/sandbox, my test blog), even though I had no problems setting it up to publish to Gnorb.NET (self hosted), WordPress.com, or Blogger. In order to get it to work, I had to enter the access point (XMLRPC) information manually.
Unlike other software I tried, Ecto has so many features it allows you, by necessity, to edit which icons appear on your toolbar. This is especially useful in the editing screen.
Like most other systems, Ecto uses a WYSIWYG HTML editor. You can write using code, but it won’t automatically convert line breaks: you have to use P and BR tags. This can get annoying if you ever have to edit a post using the backend, but aren’t using a WYSIWYG editor. Otherwise, this really isn’t a big deal.
The writing screen is fairly simple as far as the actual writing is concerned. As I said, there are lots of features, aside from basic WYSIWYG functionality.
The Import Media feature allows you to upload audio, video, photos, and movies from a number of default sources within your system (iMovie, iPhoto, GarageBand, iTunes, etc.) as well as dragging and dropping. The image uploading functionality allows you to resize images and even create thumbnails, a very good feature which should be a lot more common. If you’re not hosting your own images, the Flickr Helper makes it easy to link your images from Flickr, if you’re into that sort of thing.
Speaking of linking, a feature I found of particular interest is the Amazon Helper, an integrated Amazon Associates wizard which makes easy to find and link to items from Amazon using your associate link. Very useful if you do a lot of reviews and are interested in monetizing using the Amazon Associates program.
Once you’re ready to post, you can check your count, define your categories, and even schedule when the article is to be posted. One nice feature here: if an article exists in more than one category, you can select which of the categories will be the primary category, instead of simply using the oldest category as the default. The system also allows you to define tags for posts, and includes a list of pre-existing tags. Very nice.
On the downside, the extra functionality means that some functions are easy to miss, like the notifications, trackback, and comments parameters, which are neatly hidden as tiny icons in the lower left side of the screen.
While there are interface issues which make this a very attractive package, the one issue I encountered which became problematic was stability. More than once, the application either ate up almost all my system’s resources (to the point of locking the system; this happened once, when uploading a large video file) or simply crashed. Mind you, I never lost any work. Most of the crashes occurred during my use of the interface modification functionality, which allows a user to define what colors are presented on the screen. Very nice to have if you dislike the basic, very Mac-like color scheme, but not worth the stability issues.
So is the package worth the US$18? Maybe. If you don’t mind some instability (mostly very minor; over-represented for the sake of the review), the plethora of features, particularly the image uploading/resizing functionality, tagging and tag tracking, and the Amazon linking make this a very attractive package.
Next review, MacJournal.
Of course, if you just want to go ahead and skip to the conclusion, by all means do so.