Friday, May 14, 2010

Bloggermania!

In this corner, the heavyweight MacJournal faces off against the trendy MarsEdit and the relative new comer Blogo in this knock down, drag out contest to see who will be the the reigning blogging champion. Ok, boys, let’s have a clean fight!

Now I know three’s a crowd, but there are a crowd of applications that are fighting for your attention, I picked these three in a completely subjective manner. After a recent scare when I thought I had lost one of my posts to espionage, I finally realized that if something catastrophic happened, I would loose everything I had ever written for my blog because I had no local backup (don't get me started with the whole notion of cloud computing). So now I need to decide upon an application that will aid me not only in keeping local copies, but maybe even help to facilitate how I write my posts.

MacJournal 5.2.3 $39.95
tzb_mj2-thumb.jpgSetup was confusing, like the software was designed to make the signup process more generic, but ended up making me crazy as to where to put my password in for the blog. I deleted the journal and tried again, this time I just entered a name for the journal (“TeKno Ziz”) and Whammo! Everything materialized without a single input from me. Was that because my user and password were already in the keychain? Did it look at common blog sites for my blog? Frankly, it was kind of scary.


tzb_mj1-thumb.jpgInspector is a little confusing, maybe it could use a feature that would highlight the section you're in like Document, Journal, Article. The layout seems hierarchical, but is a Journal within a Document? Maybe a tabbed interface like Apple's inspectors would be more appropriate (and smaller).








Gak! I just uploaded and previewed my document and all my images are missing! I panicked for a minuted and realized they were still visible in the document, so that must mean I was not doing something right. Opened the manual and read that MacJournal usually will setup the blog automatically (and correctly) but in some instances, manual adjustments may need to be made. I saw I needed to set my image upload settings using Picassa for my Blogger blog. I didn’t have to do anything for the other two apps. Silly me. 

Pros: Articles all maintained locally (this is key for me). Preview mode (whoo-hoo...). Spelling & grammar checker. Can record audio and video for blogging or personal journals. Drag resizing of images. Can create other types of documents other than blogs. Uses Growl notifications. Can post as draft. 

Cons: Can’t publish in draft mode. Auto-format can be vexing. Inspector too unwieldy. Expensive. Images can be side-by-side but apparently only locally. Cannot numerically determine size of images. Images don’t link to full-size versions. Can’t see any indication of upload progress until finished. Annoying error message when editing previously uploaded document. 

Conclusion: This program was not designed specifically for blogs and therefore does not directly address all the specific needs of a blogger. That and at almost double the price of Blogo, makes me hesitate to recommend this specifically for people wanting just to blog.

MarsEdit 3.0.1 $29.95
Logo reminds me of MarsRising from Ambrosia, fun game... The 2-step setup process is dead-simple. Enter the address of the blog and then the user name and password and poof!, you're all set. In the MarsEdit main window – I would opt to add the "-" button in the bottom left next to the "+" to remove blogs as is typical in addition to putting it into the popup. Standards are beautiful... but otherwise, no complaints. Standard Apple app interface, clean Mail-like appearance. Images appear in your posts with previews, which I like. There is a preview mode, but it looks nothing like the actual layout of your blog. You can customize it some degree, but it ain't nothing like the real thing, baby.


tzb_me4.jpg
Windows, windows, too many windows. There is the Main window, the Edit window and the Preview window. Makes it hard to keep track ofeverything, especially on smaller screens. Also what is in the Edit window won't be what is in the Main window until you send it to the blog. I thought I had lost a chunk of text until I figured that one out. Again, enter the tabbed interface or maybe just allowing editing in the Main window. Format commands available via popup or keyboard commands. More than what is available in Blogo's main window, but maybe not as convenient.

Images are next. So I started writing this in Blogo and now am in MarsEdit. I go to the Media Manager to see the images associated with this article, and... nothing. There is nothing there. But I had already uploaded a bunch of images and they show up in the Edit and Main window. So... where are they in the Media Manager? I go to the On My Mac tab and find the pictures locally but I can only select one a time. Yes, I can scale it proportionally (though there is nothing in the interface that mentions this, I was just playing), but what about multiple add? Another bonus, I can drag pictures side-by-side, I couldn't seem to do that in Blogo. Paragraphs and text wrap appear automatic, although not always consistent, sometimes there is a pad of space, sometimes not. It would be nice to have a "stick to paragraph" option. Images placed with MarsEdit also don't have an option to view the full-size image. D'oh! Hard to do reviews if you can't show screen shots full-size. Blogo does this auto-magically. Ohhhh, CRASH! Program just crashed on me. But I lost no text! Auto-recover saved the day. Nice. Makes me wonder if they expected this to happen...

Had to turn off the option to close the edit window each time I post in Preferences, because I send my post to the blog many times before I publish. Trust me, you want to do this too. 

Pros: A specific blogging app, no unwanted features. More affordable.Uses Growl notifications. Can post as draft.Auto-recover. Can work offline. Has bookmarklet to Blog This! from a web page.Less expensive than MacJournal. Can edit in external apps. Can have side-by-side images.User can edit Preview template to reflect actual blog design.Maintains copies locally.

Cons: No full-sreen mode (not that I care, but someone might). Only app to crash on me. Tough to position graphics even though you can make them side-by-side. Seems not to be able to find previously uploaded images not uploaded through the app. Preview pops up every time I open a post to edit. No resizing of images in edit window. No links to larger images. No view published version in website. 

Conclusion: I want to like this app. It definitely hits closer to the mark than MacJournal. It's less expensive and can preview in the design of your blog, if you are willing to tweak the template code. But image handling isn't quite perfect, side-by-side, yes, but no links to larger images, no spaces between images, no resizing in edit window. If you can live with these, then MarsEdit is the one for you.

Blogo 1.3 $25.00tzb_bl1-thumb1.jpg

A 2-step process as easy as MarsEdit, with the addition of some helpful tools like a bookmarklet that sends content from specific sites direct to Blogo or the ability to send highlighted text as a quote. Pretty nice.

 

Adding graphics is a drag and drop affair, drag them into the image list window, size, align and link the thumbnails and throw them into the page. Easy. Click once to preview the image, click twice to edit. Would have liked to see the preview of the image right in the article just to verify the right image was in the right location. I don't think I would use full-screen mode in general, but I like the way Blogo looks over MacJournal's green-on-black display. Completely personal preference.

tzb_bl6-thumb.jpgAlso sports a "Mircoblog" interface for Twitter and Ping.FM, for posting to all your social software services. What goes out is posted to all your favorite social sites.

Pros: Modern, sleek interface, love the logo (Lugaru anyone?). Awesome preview feature shows you what the article looks like with the real format of your blog, complete with graphics (best feature of all 3), no coding or tweaking required! Formatting commands on screen or as shortcuts. Full-screen if you want it. Images link to larger versions. 

Cons: Only maintains local copies of new articles. Articles don't appear if you are not connected to the internet, even draft ones. Preview refresh sometimes is longer than it should be, especially if it's caching the files. 

Slight annoyances: Splash screen appears where main window last was, not in center of the screen. However, you can turn off the splash screen in Preferences. Sometimes it appears that the program isn't keeping up with your typing. There is also a slight drawing error in the bottom right corner of the Preview window. 

Conclusion: I really like this app. Clean, fresh, functional. Has more features at a better price than MarsEdit. If the author could take care of the archiving of existing articles, and off-line editing, it would be perfect. But for people just starting out with a blog, or starting a new one, it's just the thing, especially at the price of $25.

Addendum: Having reviewed and re-reviewed this post, I happened upon an issue I needed to fix, so I went into Blogger instead of one of the editing apps I reviewed. Somehow the paragraph spacing got all messed up while editing inside of the web app. So if you plan on using one of these apps, plan on using it solely to write and edit your blogs. Otherwise, you might get cranky... and have to fix the code in BBEdit, like me.