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App of the Week: MarsEdit – My Mea Culpa [Mac]

Marsedit app of the week

This week’s app of the week post is a mea culpa of sorts, instead of a full review. Several 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 because of the way that it handled images. Since then, I’ve seen the light. I’ve purchased a MarsEdit license, and haven’t looked back.

The reason I looked away from ecto in the first place is that it almost seems to be abandonware. The last update to ecto occurred in May 2010. Obviously, OS X has seen some significant updates since then, including a little update called Lion. I started to experience some strange anomalies with ecto, including graphical smearing in parts of the app. To be fair to ecto, I didn’t submit a support request. The lack of updates, though, didn’t instill confidence that I wouldn’t run into other problems.

MarsEdit, on the other hand, gets updated frequently. I’ll gladly spend money on a reasonably priced app, that I’ll use often, that has a committed developer behind it. MarsEdit fits the bill.

What about my prior gripes? In the earlier review, I complained about how MarsEdit handles tags. I said that the app doesn’t present you with a list of tags from which you can choose. That’s still the case, but MarsEdit does autofill tags for you as you type them, letting you see a list of tags that match the letters that you’ve typed. Given the lack of screen real estate on my Air, I now actually prefer this to a pre-populated list. My only gripe is that tags are case sensitive, so, for example, if you start typing a tag with an uppercase letter, you’ll only see a choice of tags that start with uppercase letters.

I also preferred ecto’s image handling. MarsEdit’s options here are still basic, so not much has changed on that front. If I need to really tweak the position of an image, such as modifying the padding, then I do it by hand. My only other gripe is that once I started adding images to a post, the app can feel slightly sluggish on my Air, with a lack of immediate response after entering text. That only seems to happen sporadically, though.

The feature that I’ve really grown to love with MarsEdit is its preview feature. While not as easy to use or as helpful as the wysiwyg editing on Windows Live Writer, the preview feature lets you input some of your blog’s code, and then see, in real time as you edit, what your post will look like on your site. If you have even rudimentary coding experience, you can probably figure out how to visit your blog in your browser, view and copy the source code into settings in MarsEdit, and then remove portions of the code and insert placeholders. All that sounds harder than it was, at least for me. I’m very limited in what I can do with code, and had the preview of 40Tech set up after a few minutes of trial and error.

Because MarsEdit is regularly updated, it has been updated to take advantage of Lion. On my Air in particular, I enjoy the built-in support for Lion’s full screen mode. When I’m researching for a blog post, I enjoy the ability to swipe between MarsEdit and my browser, while enjoying the full size of my screen.

MarsEdit allows you to set up custom fields in the editor. If your blog theme supports custom fields, gone are the days of waiting until you upload your post to finalize it. You can also input your excerpt (the part of the post that is shown on the front page of a blog with many themes) right from the editor.

All in all, I find that I can pretty much compose posts now entirely in MarsEdit, and I enjoy using it. I wandered in the wilderness a while with the wrong choice, but I’ve been happy ever since making the switch. MarsEdit has that intangible “it” that certain Mac apps have, that make them fun to use. I’ll be updating the prior review to point over to this one.

MarsEdit is currently costs $39.95, either on the developer’s website or in the Mac App Store, so it isn’t cheap. If you’re a light blogger, perhaps you can do without it. But for anyone who blogs on a Mac on a regular basis, and isn’t running Windows Live Writer via a virtual machine, it is almost a necessity.

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