What MarsEdit Means to Me

MarsEdit Icon

I’ve been struggling a bit with MarsEdit recently. I’m on the thirty day trial, trying to figure out if it’s the tool that will get me more productive with my two blogs.

The main “pain point” to blogging for me lately has been using the web-based interface. It’s painfully slow. Logging in takes a while, clicking “New Post” takes forever for a page to refresh. Each incremental save means I have to stop working for 15 seconds while the page saves and reloads. Previewing is pretty fast, but another lost step. And adding images is anything but a cake walk. I have tools to make it easier, but it’s still not easy. In a perfect world, I want a thumbnail that a user can click to see a larger version of the same image. It’s do-able, but it’s ultimately ugly when you open it up full-size and WordPress still shows the sidebar over top the image. (That’s a fix I can do in the theme on the back end, but I’m getting lazier with age.)

So what does MarsEdit offer? It gives me a place to create a new blog post, label it with a category and tags, set its status as Draft or Published, and then upload and post it, complete with pictures. It’ll even handle Markdown previewing, which is a writing style I’ve been adopting more and more lately. I find Markdown easy to use and, more importantly, a tool that encourages me to structure my writing a little more, just to use the simple techniques to create headers, bullet points, bold-faced words, etc.

I’ve also recently installed the MarkDown plug-in for WordPress so that I can only write in that style while formulating posts. I’m not sure how necessary it is, but I do appreciate being able to format everything without my hands every leaving the keyboard and with much simpler syntax than HTML.

The big drawback with MarsEdit, though, is that the writing interface doesn’t work for me. My text is too small, and if I zoom in on it, it only increases the font size — both as I’m writing and in the final published edition. And even with that, it just doesn’t “feel” right. I’d rather be writing in Word, at that point. Or TextMate. Something else with greater white space around the margins, at the least. (I might try out Byword or one of the other trendier Mac word processors/text editors next.)

(While editing this post, I discovered that MarsEdit does let you send the text out to your editor of choice. BBEdit is the default, but TextMate and others are also supported. That is awesome, and it comes complete with a three key shortcut.)

Previewing my final post is too simple, too. I know I can play with it and add my WordPress CSS stuff to properly preview it, but I haven’t started to do that work yet. It’s nice to preview Markdown to make sure all my formatting is what I expect it to be, but that’s about it.

So what is MarsEdit? It dawned on me this morning. MarsEdit shouldn’t be my blogging engine. It should be closer to my blogging conduit. It’s only one minor extra step, but I think MarsEdit is a great tool to use so long as I write in a different window first. Do my writing in a word processor I enjoy more, then take the one extra step of copying-and-pasting to the MarsEdit window. Apply category and tags, double check syntax through Preview, and publish.

It’s such a simple basic use of the tool, but I already feel more productive with it. I want to blog again. I’m not worried about spending as much time waiting for a page to load as I am doing the actual writing. That’s liberating. Let’s see how long that lasts. . .

So the only question now is, is that worth $40 to me? If the price was half as much, I’d hesitate, but I’d buy it. At $40, it’s just too much. I’m all for coders getting paid, but for the tools it adds to my box, I might be better off using some other blogging engine. Ecto comes recommended, but it doesn’t look like anyone’s actively updating it anymore. I need to spend some more time in the Mac App Store looking for other solutions. Heck, I think someone even has a TextMate bundle to automate this stuff. That might be worth looking for, too. Maybe even AppleScript or Automator?

One last hiccup, too: The MarkDown I generate in MarsEdit won’t translate to HTML if I publish it directly. I need to send it from MarsEdit to the blog, then log into the blog’s engine and resave and publish it to get it translated into MarkDown. I’m sure I’m doing something wrong here, or missing a step, but it’s still a step backwards.

I’ll update you as I have answers.