A Quick Look at the MarsEdit Weblog Editor

by Derrick Story

I've been following the development of MarsEdit over at Ranchero Software, creators of the wonderful NetNewsWire.

MarsEdit is a full-feature weblog editor. The advantage to using a separate client for your Movable Type posts is that you don't have to be online as when you use Six Apart's web interface. You can create your posts locally using a variety of writing tools, then upload at your convenience.

I've been using ecto for posting to my TheDigitalStory blog, and have enjoyed it. I decided to give MarsEdit a whirl yesterday and used it to post Favorite Photo Gear of 2005. I'm a good test for a weblog client because I take advantage of Categories, Technorati Tags, Keywords, open comments, and TrackBacks.

My first impression is that MarsEdit is a joy to use. It sports a clean UI that you'd expect from Ranchero (feeling very NetNewsWire like), is very easy to connect to your MT server, enables roundtrip editing in your favorite text editor (in addition to its own friendly editor interface), has easy-to-use image uploading (uses a separate window that also catalogs your previous image uploads for easy repurposing), includes an RPC console, and is AppleScriptable.

If you post to multiple weblogs, you can easily manage your work in the side-mounted options drawer. You can access your unpublished drafts here too. MarsEdit also has a handy "edit date" feature that I think is useful for resetting when your post is timestamped.

I depend a lot on "categories" to organize my posts on TheDigitalStory, and ecto has difficulty managing these for my site. I choose a category before uploading, but it often isn't posted to the server, forcing me to repost a couple times before I can get the category to stick. I was hoping this wouldn't be an issue in MarsEdit, but alas it wasn't any better. Possibly I have a problem with my configuration...

Other than the category issue, which may be my doing, I thought MarsEdit worked beautifully. I think it's particularly well-suited for those who post to multiple weblogs. If that's you, I'd take a look at this up and coming client.

You can download a fully functional version and use it free for 30 days. If you like MarsEdit, the single-user license is $24.95.


2006-01-06 04:56:32
Minor (but frequent) frustrations
Here in the office we've used MarsEdit for some time to post to a dozen various WordPress installations. There are two minor-sounding but surprisingly painful problems with the setup, though because one never hears back from Ranchero, we've never established whether they're purely MarsEdit's fault, or a problem that comes up when you cycle a post through your blog software's XML-RPC.

I'm pretty sure they're intentionally-designed MarsEdit features that bite end up being functional bugs.

First: Posts including certain HTML entities are lost when you post an entry and then re-load it from the blog. This includes some important ones, like nonbreaking spaces. You can write a post with nonbreaking spaces, send it to the blog, but don't ever download it again to MarsEdit or it will have replaced them all with regular spaces.

In other words, you'd better never have to edit or update a post that has nonbreaking space as part of its layout. If you do, do it on the server side.

Second, and far more annoying: The same cycle of post-synchronize-repost eliminates all whitespace between adjacent HTML entitles. Sounds like a byte-saving benefit, yes?

This is a big issue when you depend on tacit markup (like the linebreaks we use here in posting comments, or in MarsEdit). For example whenever you start paragraphs with italicized or boldface content. Look at the previous paragraph in this comment for an example. The result of cycling [postinng then updating] this comment through MarsEdit will be run on, losing the paragraph break wherever the HTML markup starts or ends a paragraph.

This one is very difficult to work around, and crops up annoyingly whenever blockquote, span or div elements are used to wrap whole paragraphs, or whenever you have multiple paragraphs of italicized text. To edit a post after sending it to the server, you're better off using the server-side editor and never downloading it to MarsEdit again.

Otherwise: stellar performance. As I said, I expect these are quirks of the overall workflow, but they're still very annoying, and in some of our blogs they come about in almost every post.