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MarsEdit not yet ready for launch…

Sunday, 17 June 2007 — by

Every now & then, some software comes along that raises the bar. And quite surprisingly, MarsEdit does exactly that .. for the user, that is. You see, MarsEdit, the ‘blog authoring tool is for the likes of me, the code warrior, the tinkerer, the writer of HTML code and not the less technically well hung casual ‘blogger…

Don’t get me wrong, we’re not talking about rocket science here, and MarsEdit is nice ‘n’ all, but you do need to be familiar with HTML.

The guys behind MarsEdit claim it’s a: “Powerful blog authoring made simple. An email-like interface for editing and publishing your words.”

Which is true. I looked around their website for a while, and I couldn’t see any mention of a mission statement – who they’re pitching MarsEdit at, but with a notable mention of a review by Derrick Story, of O’Reilly, I suspect MarsEdit is aiming somewhat higher than the casual ‘blogger.

So what’s good about MarsEdit? Well, the application weighs in at a svelte 6 megabytes, which is a plus and makes for a prompt enough download.

The set-up is simple, albeit a little muddled, given that I got asked two things at the same time, and I can’t dismiss the first dialogue box until I’ve filled out the second. So there’s a need for some in-flight tuning.

The layout of MarsEdit is clean, simple and will be familiar to anyone who uses either Apple’s Mail or iTunes, or even those like me who use MacJournal, by Mariner Software.

When you choose to create a new post, there’s an Options draw that slides out to reveal the Categories from your ‘blog platform of choice.

Because I’m on Google Blogger, this is a longer than usual list, ‘coz they use Labels, which are neither one nor t’other. But that’s Google’s fault, not MarsEdit’s.

In the left-hand draw from the main MarsEdit window, you see (at the very least) two items. The first of which is a folder called Drafts, and the second is your ‘blogging platform, which when clicked on reveals your most recent articles.

At the bottom of the draw is the customary plus and minus buttons, which allow you to add or remove assets of that type.

There’s also an Edit button, which gives you a bunch of options to edit your ‘blogging platform setup, as well as posting options (such as warnings for in case you try to post without a title) and Ping services.

I use Pingomatic, which seems to do the trick for me. And since I’d previously bookmarked my Ping with all of its attended services, I just copied the URL and added that as a new Ping service.

Sorted!

Now as for posting articles, well, this is where I now talk about what’s bad about MarsEdit…

For those that find themselves sifting through their back catalogue of posts, creating a mesh of internal ‘blog linkage, MarsEdit’s got little or nothing to offer.

The reason being that you’re only given a list of your most recent posts, which really doesn’t help much.

Additionally, there’s no search tool, which struck me as being quite odd. Even odder for the fact that there’s support for Spotlight search within the part of MarsEdit where you create new or edit existing posts.

I don’t like Spotlight that much, and it’s inclusion as a search option is totally pointless. If I’m in a document, why would I then want to search inside other documents stored outside of MarsEdit? The context is hopelessly wrong.

If I wanted Spotlight search at all, I want to be able to search within my list of posts first and outside second.

Yes, I understand that’s probably beyond what Spotlight can do, but as a user of this software, I don’t care too much about the technical hardships suffered by the developers. As a feature, it’s what I want to be able to do.

What really should be happening here is the editing process should be in-line, which is to say that editing HTML should be the second option and not the first.

My disappointment deepens when I see that there’s no style menu, certainly not in the regular Microsoft Word sense of things.

Instead, you’re given a drop-down / pop-up menu called HTML which lists a bunch of styling options one atop the other.

Far be it for me to dictate to the guys at Red Sweater Software how things ought to be, but…

Let’s have a proper in-line editor, and let’s have a proper style menu with buttons, so we can add in links, embolden text, apply block quotes et cetera.

Going back to the Options draw for a moment. While I can select what Categories I’d like to be associated with my article, why can’t I add in a new Category?

Or, at the very least, add in custom one-off Categories for a particular post.

A coming together of software

The reason I mentioned MacJournal earlier is because I have to wonder what the love child of MarsEdit and MacJournal would look like. I’d say we’d have the best damn ‘blogging client for Mac bar none!

But to just balance things out a little, MacJournal doesn’t exactly shoot through the clouds into the stratosphere. I’ve yet to see the facility to post directly to my Google Blogger account work.

I’ve written this article in MarsEdit, and I’ve yet to see what happens when I post it.

[Ed. I did post the article with MarsEdit, and aside from an unclosed tag, all was well. But, the article has since been deleted and revised.]

For all I know, all may go according to plan, but that wouldn’t make up for the shortcomings mentioned earlier.

Permission to land?

In fairness, there are some nice touches, but there’s a long way to go before MarsEdit is ready for prime time.

So with all things considered, I can’t say that I’m over the moon, and it looks like it’s back to the hanger for upgrades, after which maybe we’ll see MarsEdit star side in the not-too-distant future…

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