Trying out Mac blogging apps

I am still experimenting with blogging software. I have to say that Windows Live Writer is unique in its combination of power and simplicity… I don’t think there is a proper Mac counterpart. I wrote this post over a few days, experimenting with three different solutions:

ScribeFire

I started by experimenting with the latest revision of the ScribeFire extension (1.4.something, a.k.a. ScribeFire Next) for Safari and Chrome. It seems to be a bit nicer than the old ScribeFire, although it’s not perfect. I have also tried Blogo and MarsEdit; they are nicer on the eyes, and they are true apps, but they cost money, and I’m not sure (yet) the additional niceness is worth it.

Relative to the TextMate blogging bundle, one of the advantages of using either WordPress’s Web interface or one of the many blogging apps is the visual editor. However, I noticed that virtually all the ones I tried provided a fairly limited interface to the underlying HTML. I can choose bold and italic fonts, and even striketrough, etc, but for example I cannot enter the HTML code tag visually; I have to drop down to the HTML editor for that (I just did!).

Similarly, to enter WordPress shortcodes, (in particular, I often need the sourcecode keyword), a trip to HTML-land is required. This leads to a ScribeFire pain point: to preserve spacing, you need to wrap the sourcecode statements in a <pre> tag (of course, using the HTML editor). However, when you push the post to WordPress, you get both the nice source code box, surrounded by a gray box:

def test:
  return 1

If you don’t use the pre tag, as soon as you switch from HTML view to Visual view you lose all spacing, and you get this:

  def test:  return 1  

One alternative is to just use the <pre> tag, like so:

def test:
  return 1

This works, but it’s not as pretty, and you don’t gain access to the additional functionality provided by the sourcecode shortcode.

Bottom line: I’m getting used to this idea of jumping back and forth between HTML and Visual editor (which, again, is not ideal), but I think I have hit upon a limitation of ScribeFire.

MarsEdit

MarsEdit is a very polished app, now at revision 3.1.3, that comes highly recommended (for example, by Gruber). The one nice thing it has is instant preview: you type in the visual or HTML editor, and the preview window is automatically updated every few seconds. Very cool! Also, you can enter the pre tag from a menu (but not a keyboard shortcut).

However, going back and forth between visual and HTML editor may change things a bit. In particular, it suffers from the same issues as ScribeFire as regards WordPress shortcodes. Moreover, the cursor is also always placed at the end of the post, which is often not what you want. Overall, as far as actual text entry and editing is concerned, it’s not much better than the ScribeFire extension.

Blogo

Blogo is a newcomer. It has a super-slick, super-Mac-like UI, which is neat. However, as far as functionality is concerned, it seems more limited than MarsEdit. In particular, going from the HTML editor back to the visual (or rich) editor messes up the generated HTML considerably. Furthermore, Blogo generates a fairly “noisy” HTML (Live Writer does that, too). Finally, it does not have an instant-preview feature.

Conclusions

Bottom line: I’m back to Textmate for now. I just wish the bundle was a bit less Spartan in the way it handles posting and the like, but for actual text production, I do not see a significantly more productive alternative on the Mac.

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