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Mac Blogging App Comparison – MarsEdit vs. ecto vs. Blogo

mac blogging app comparison

September 27, 2011: I’ve reconsidered the decision that I made in this post. Check out my update, where I explain why I’ve now switched to MarsEdit.

The hardest part of making the switch from Windows to Mac is often on the software side of things. While there are many great OS X apps, sometimes it can be hard to find the perfect replacement for an app that you’ve used on Windows. Since I’m not dual booting or running virtualization on my MacBook Air, I ran into that issue when searching for a replacement for Windows Live Writer. Cast whatever stones you want at Microsoft for other reasons, but Live Writer is an excellent blogging app. My search for a replacement for Live Writer focused on three choices: Blogo, MarsEdit, and ecto.

All three apps offer a fully functional trial version, so you can try out each and decide which one you prefer. You should do that, as there’s no right or wrong answer here. Each app has strengths and weaknesses, so your choice will come down to your workflow and your personal preferences. Don’t expect any of them to be as easy to use as Live Writer, though, as none of the apps offer an easy way to import your theme for WYSIWYG editing, as with Live Writer.

What I was looking for was an app that handled images easily (especially padding between the image and the text), something that integrated well with WordPress, and something that just let me write. I know that some of you are coders, and like handcrafting each post, with minute control. Not me. I just want to write, without thinking about HTML.

 

Blogo

When I first started, I thought that Blogo would be my choice. It has the most attractive interface of the three, and is also the most simple. That simplicity can be good, but also comes at a price. Unlike MarsEdit and ecto, Blogo just doesn’t give you as many options to tweak to your liking. If Blogo works for you out of the box, great. If it doesn’t, you’re kind of stuck.

Blogo’s image handling is as simple as the rest of the interface. You drag an image (I did it from LittleSnapper, but you can do it from Finder as well) into a post, and then specify the image size. Short of editing the HTML of your post, there are no other options readily available to tweak an image, such as adjusting padding and margins.

Blogo

Blogo’s other functions are basic, with buttons to bold, italicize, underline, or strikeout text, and to block quote text, create a list, and insert a link. You can also select your blog’s categories from a dropdown list. From the interface, you can publish a post to your blog (immediately, or scheduled for a future date), send a draft to your blog, or preview the post. The preview functionality is quite good, giving you a look at what the post would look like on your site. It’s a shame that this look couldn’t be carried over to the editing interface, like Live Writer’s WYSIWYG mode.

Blogo’s simplicity initially appealed to me, but over time I found too many limitations. I wanted more control over images, and, worse yet, I encountered a few bugs. On one occassion, I couldn’t get my cursor back to the Title box to edit the tile. Also, I’ve found that toggling between Rich Text mode, and back again, would add white space between paragraphs. Worse, this switching between modes inserted HTML code into my posts.

Blogo was an attractive, simple blogging app, but it left me wanting more. It can be purchased for $25.

 

MarsEdit

While using Blogo, I also was using MarsEdit. MarsEdit isn’t as simple as Blogo, but provides more options. MarsEdit has a dropdown formatting menu, that allows you to easily format your text. The image editing options are as basic as Blogo’s, and pale in comparision to what is found in Live Writer. You can set image size and alignment, but can’t do much more than that. As of this writing, I still haven’t found a way to edit an image once it is inserted into a post (short of editing the HTML, or deleting and reinserting the image). This is such basic functionality, that I may just be missing it.

MarsEdit

MarsEdit allows you to easily select post categories from your blog, and to input tags. While MarEdit retrieves your category list from you blog (or, at least it did with my WordPress blog), it does not do so with tags. This means that you have to recall your tags from your own memory, assuming you want to be consistent with your tags on your site.

MarsEdit has a nice Server Options interface, where you can use a dropdown menu to set a post’s status as published or draft. I preferred this over the interfaces in Blogo and ecto, where I sometimes held my breath clicking a button, not sure if I was unwittingly sending an unfinished post to 40Tech.

MarsEdit is a well-rounded app, and a strong choice for someone who likes to tweak options. Ultimately, though, I wasn’t happy with the image handling options, and how MarsEdit handles tags. If MarEdit suits you needs, you can purchase it for $39.95.

 

ecto

The third and final app that I tested was ecto. ecto is closer to MarsEdit than it is to Blogo. As with MarsEdit and Blogo, you can select categories from a list, but you also can select your blog’s tags from a list as well (at least on a WordPress blog you can). This gave ecto a leg up on the competition.

ecto1

The expected text formatting options, such as bold, italics, and text justification, are present in a smaller toolbar in the editing window. One selection that isn’t present is the ability to designate a heading for text. For example, the word “ecto” at the start of this section of the article uses heading 4, which is set by a tag in 40Tech’s CSS. Blogo didn’t have this option either, but it was present in MarsEdit. That doesn’t mean you’re out of luck with ecto. You can use this heading selection, if you know some basic CSS. All it took was setting up a custom tag using the “Custom Tags” button. In my case, I had to insert the letters “h4″ into the custom tag field, give it a name, and highlight text and select that tag whenever I wanted to implement that text styling.

I liked ecto’s image handling the best of the three apps. When you drop an image into ecto, you can select the image margins, padding, float, border, and class. You can also scale the image, and select the file format and quality level.

ecto

At first glance, ecto doesn’t appear to let you post only a draft to your site. If you look closely, though, you’ll see a button (among other buttons) at the bottom left of the composition window that lets you change the behavior of the “Publish” button, so that you only publish a draft to your site. You can also set a publish date and time from within the app. To be safe, though, I went into ecto’s settings and set the default behavior to only publish drafts to the site.

ecto wasn’t perfect, but came closest to what I was looking for in a blogging app. Fortunately for me, ecto is also the least expensive of the three apps, at a current price of $19.95.

 

Conclusion

Each of the apps have other features and tweaks not mentioned here, that may or may not be important to you. Your best bet is to download the trial of each, and see which one works best for you. For me, ecto won out, due to its image handling, and also because of how it handles tags.

Do you use blogging software, or compose your posts directly on your site’s backend? If you do you use software, what do you use?

 

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About Evan Kline

Evan started 40Tech to write about tech from his perspective – that of the average 40-something tech geek. When not writing about tech, you might find him with his beautiful wife and baby girl, out on the ski slopes, at his real-life job as a lawyer, over on Google+, or scrounging for followers on his personal Twitter account after years of focusing on the 40Tech account.

9 Responses to Mac Blogging App Comparison – MarsEdit vs. ecto vs. Blogo

  1. I’ll often write the text in a Word Processor or text editor, and then will dump it into WordPress when I’m done. I don’t use images and other graphical elements as much as you, but when I do, I just write the raw HTML.

    • I’d thought about just using a word processor on the Mac. I’ve been trying to put my finger on why I need a desktop app in both Windows and Mac. It may come down to image handling. With a good app, it is so easy to just drag the image into the app and set the padding. In the WordPress backend, you have to navigate to the image on your drive, upload it, etc.

  2. Thank you for including MarsEdit in your thoughtful review. I love to read posts about the app that include really clear statements about how it can be improved.

    You’re right to find fault in the image management features of MarsEdit. Not a defense, but for perspective, all the “Rich Text” stuff in MarsEdit is new as of the 3.0 release. I hope to improve it over time.

    Thanks again!
    Daniel Jalkut
    Red Sweater Software

    • Thanks for checking in, Daniel. I’ll be keeping an eye on MarsEdit to see how it changes over time. But for the image handling, it might have been my first choice. Still a great app!

  3. Moving from Windows to Mac, a decent blogging app is probably the most missed piece of software.

    I ended up finding ecto the best of the bunch but recently I’ve started drafting my blog posts in Scrivener. It works surprisingly well because I can’t use images so I’m forced to focus on content.

    • Thanks for mentioning Scrivener, Catherine. I had heard of it in my pre-Mac days, but had never checked it out. I just browsed around on the Scrivener site, and I may have to download the trial and test it out (not so much for blogging, but for fiction writing).

  4. Ahh.. finally found a decent post and review among the three apps :) Great post.
    I still think Windows Live Writer is the best but I don’t want to install Windows on my Macbook Air

    Like you, the image handling is a must to have and also being able to save drafts. From your post, looks like Ecto is the winner so far and probably the one that I’m planning to get

    • I agree – I still like Windows Live Writer. I’m in the same situation, though, as I don’t want to bog down my Air by running a Windows virtual machine on it.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. App of the Week: MarsEdit – My Mea Culpa [Mac] | 40Tech - September 29, 2011

    [...] months ago, we compared MarsEdit, ecto, and Blogo, which are all Mac blogging apps. Head on over to that review for a more detailed look at MarsEdit, and the other two apps. At the time, I favored ecto, largely [...]

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