A decade ago, blogging was viewed as an activity performed by those in the innermost rings of the nerd circle, but nowadays, even grandma has a blog for Mr Whiskers. If you own a Mac and want to maintain your blog without staring at the sometimes cluttered backend, or craft posts without an Internet connection, then you should check out Red Sweater's MarsEdit 3. This desktop blogging software is compatible with an array of publishing platforms, saves drafts for offline access, and includes a handy bookmarklet that reduces the number of steps involved in reblogging. In short, it's a very useful Mac app that streamlines the blogging process.
After you launch MarsEdit 3, the program prompts you to enter your blog's URL (I tested the app using my blog, the WordPress-powered 2D-X.com). Doing so causes MarsEdit 3 to automatically detect your blog's backend and ask for your login credentials (it's compatible with WordPress, Blogger, Tumblr, Movable Type, Typepad, and dozens of other platforms). If you don't currently have a blog, but would like to start one, MarsEdit 3 will suggest that you check out the free Blogger.com or WordPress.com as they're "well-supported, and easy to set up."
MarsEdit 3's has a simple, clutter-free user interface that resembles a stripped down Outlook. The UI is divided into three sections. There’s a toolbar across the top which contains a search box for quickly digging up posts, and options to create, delete, and edit posts. There's also a column on the interface's left side that stores local (offline) drafts and lists all connected blogs. Finally, there's the multi-pane main content area which displays blog titles/dates/categories/tags in the upper pane, and the actual content in a pane beneath it.
Blogging made simple
Clicking New Post opens a blank post. You select the blog you wish to post to from a dropdown menu, and add a title, tags (including Technorati tags), and appropriate category. There's lots of white space, too, which makes it easy on the eye for extended periods of usage.
Clicking Edit Post lets you make changes to previously created drafts and articles. You can edit in either HTML Text or Rich Text. A blog isn't just a collection of words; photos, video, and audio are now a significant part of the blogging experience. Thankfully, MarsEdit 3 lets you add media with ease by clicking the Media icon. Unfortunately the default folder is Picture so if you need to pull multimedia from other areas, you must drag those folders into the Media Manager box. I frequently save multimedia files to my desktop, so I had to drag the Mac's desktop folder into Media Manager. Once the desktop was in place, I was able to dictate where I wanted to upload images, their alignments, and names. Clicking Insert placed my uploaded image into a post. It’s all very simple and easy to use.
It also integrates with iPhoto, Lightroom, Aperture, and Flickr, so you have fast access to your photo libraries. MarsEdit 3 allows for the previewing of posts, too, but sometimes the image alignments were off. A photo that should've been centred would end up flush left or right. This initially caused concern, but I quickly realised that it was MarsEdit 3 throwing things off – when posts went live, the images were aligned as I intended.
Clicking Send to Blog uploads the post to your site, but you need to use this with extreme caution! The default posting setting is "Published," so articles will automatically go live when you click Send to Blog. That can prove troublesome for those of us who like to have our posts proofread before they publish, or if you're writing the post at 3 in the morning, but want it to publish at noon. Unfortunately, there's no way to change the default setting to "Draft" or "Pending," so you must remember to switch the post status if you simply want to save the article in your CMS.
To avoid that entirely, you can simply save a post offline, a feature that comes in handy when working on a plane, train, or other area with no Internet connection – this is MarsEdit 3's killer feature, as it saves you from having to write posts in separate text files when offline. Posts can be scheduled to publish at a particular time, too.
MarsEdit 3 also has a browser bookmarklet which you install by clicking MarsEdit, and then selecting Install Browser Bookmarklet from the toolbar. It lets you quickly reblog whatever page is in your browser by sending the page to MarsEdit when you click the bookmarklet icon. The page title automatically doubles as the post title, and a link to the reblogged page is inserted with a hat tip phrase. It's super easy to use and will come in handy for those who do pointer posts.
In an era of free and low cost software, MarsEdit 3's £26 price tag may appear extravagant, but if you're a heavy blogger, the Mac app is well worth the cash. There's a 30-day free trial, too, for those want to dip a toe before diving in.
I suppose that the biggest compliment you can give a piece of software is that you can't see yourself computing without it. MarsEdit 3 is now my go-to blogging tool – I only return to my WordPress CMA to monitor traffic and comments. If a future MarsEdit update provided those features – and fixed my few gripes with the software – it would make for a near-perfect blogging experience.