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Desktop Blog Editing Software Roundup—Which Tool is Right for the Job?

Blogging

Even with the development of web-based editors, there is just some things about them that do not match up to the quality of an offline editing equivalent. One day, in the future, we will find the perfect solution for a web based editor, but for now, if you are looking for speed and efficiency, you might very well use one of the applications mentioned in this roundup.

The requirements for consideration were as follows:

  1. The editor must interact with major blogging services (WordPress, Movable Type, Drupal, etc.)
  2. The editor must allow HTML editing capabilities
  3. The editor must allow the insertion of media such as images and videos.

Each application will be judged on two specific criteria—interface and features. I will then post my final thoughts in the “overall” section of each application.

So, let’s jump right into the reviews.

Mac

Ecto (ecto)

Ecto is by far my favorite tool that I have found so far on the Mac operating system. Considering that there are only two well known competitors on the Mac OS that I have heard of, the other being MarsEdit, ecto makes things interesting by providing a better set of features than their competition. This review is of the latest beta release (ecto 3.0b44) as it has performed well in a production environment—mine anyways.

Interface

The interface design is pretty good, and although there are some improvements I would like to see implemented, I am satisfied with what it offers. Contrary to MarsEdit, ecto provides more features with a nice rich text interface. I also enjoy how you can access most features with one click, as I hate having to access drop-down menus. I do wish that the tags and categories section was a little less glitchy, and I also wished that removing special formatting was easy, but fortunately, these are some things that can be addressed with a simple patch.

Features

Ecto has an impressive set of features, but I am most impressed with how little work I have had to do to setup everything. I installed the application, added my blog, and started writing. Importing media is also no big deal, and it all works very nicely. I did not notice a way to place media that already exists on the internet (like an image on Wikipedia) without having to go into the code view, and that is definitely a problem that needs to be looked at, but if you know basic HTML, this is only a minor setback. There is absolutely no reason why ecto can’t be an amazing addition to your blogging workflow.

Overall

If you are using a Mac operating system, ecto is my recommendation. This is based off the fact that I want an editor that will allow me to jump right in and be creative, not have to deal with editing markup and other things. Thankfully, ecto makes this easy by giving us a lot of control. I also really like the HTML that ecto generates. The ecto blog editor for Mac OS X is available for $17.95 at the time of this writing, and it is certainly worth every penny.

MarsEdit

MarsEdit—the more expensive option—offers a more simplistic experience, and still accomplishes what it was created to do. With MarsEdit, you are essentially given a notepad equivalent with the ability to add markup to your posts. It will appeal to those that like to interact with code, but for others, it will not be the best option.

Interface

MarsEdit features a similar interface to ecto, but there is less emphasis on the rich editing environment—fortunately, this means less clutter. Truth be told, if you enjoy manipulating HTML and having absolute control over your content, MarsEdit should be great for your needs; however, if you are looking for an experience where you don’t need to edit HTML to complete a post, then it all can end up being a deterrent.

Features

As far as features are concerned, MarsEdit does not have some key features that I would have liked to see when compared to other blog editors. There are some innovations I do like though—the ability to use AppleScript to increase the functionality of the editor is key (e.g. the ability to perform a Google search on your post) and the text (e.g. add paragraph tags automatically). Still, it could be better.

Overall

In the end, MarsEdit would be a worthwhile purchase to those that like to tinker with HTML code. MarsEdit can be purchased for $29.95, and while it is slightly more expensive than ecto, it does have better backing. I just think there is room for improvement, and ecto has the features to get the work done faster.

WriteRoom

Check out my thoughts of WriteRoom (and its Windows equivalent) here. It doesn’t meet the requirements for this roundup, but it is still a worthy editor.

Windows

Windows Live Writer

Windows Live Writer is one of the first free products from Microsoft that I have thoroughly enjoyed. Trust me when I say that I have been extremely disappointed with Microsoft products in the past; however, Windows Live Writer makes me feel like there is still hope for Microsoft to release quality software. It is a great editor, and it is free.

Interface

The interface of Windows Live Writer ties in with the rest of the Windows Live products released by Microsoft. The interface is one of the most complex of all the products reviewed. The bread and butter of the application is the “web layout” view—I absolutely love it! I think it should be standard on all new blog editors created in the future. A true WYSIWYG environment.

Functionality

It would also be a fitting end to say that Windows Live Writer has some of the most impressive features of all the reviewed blog editors—this is exactly the case. From the ability to enhance the application with plugins, to the impressive web layout view of your content, Windows Live Writer really does excel. It really ties in well with the Windows operating system, and I also enjoyed the fact you could easily add existing content from the web.

Overall

Amazingly, I believe that Windows Live Writer is one of the best products offered in this lineup—that is, if you are on a Windows-based machine. I actually believe it is quite unfortunate that Windows Live Writer is not available for other operating systems. As weird as it would be to see Windows Live Writer running natively on a Mac or Linux operating system, it is such a great application that should be available to everyone. Let’s hope that Microsoft continues support for WLW.

BlogDesk

BlogDesk might have a following, but the author of the application really needs to keep up with current standards if this application is to survive. BlogDesk might be perfectly fine for a few of you, but for most—especially when compared to the other applications in this roundup—it just will not be sufficient.

Interface

The interface of BlogDesk certainly will not win over anyone that is looking for a pretty experience. It is just a bare-bones blogging client. Unfortunately, I could not recommend this application to anyone if the interface design was of importance to the user. There just isn’t enough here to impress anyone, but I believe if the author spent some time to catch up to the competition, it could become bearable.

Functionality

In the functionality department, BlogDesk falls short when compared to the competition as well. The lack of built-in tagging is a huge disappointment [Update: BlogDesk does support tagging with its latest version], and it almost led me to not include it in this review—I decided to do so anyways. I also was disappointed with the fact that the previewing options for the final output are relatively non-existent when compared to the competition. I also could not recommend BlogDesk for its lack of features.

Overall

BlogDesk suffers from not being updated to support the latest and greatest features. Primarily, this would be the tagging feature from WordPress. There are solutions, like adding a plugin to a WordPress installation, but if you are using a service like WordPress.com, it will be impossible to insert tags without having to re-edit the post after publishing. [Update: BlogDesk does support tagging with its latest release]

Personally, I think this would be a prime candidate for being released as open source software. Linux—as you will soon read about—is lacking in quality blog editing software.

At the time of this writing, I was not using the latest version of BlogDesk. There is a new version, BlogDesk 2.8, which addresses a serious issue I had with the application. Please check it out.

Linux

When I got the initial idea for this article, I was confident that all three major operating systems would have great blog editing tools available, and while I knew Linux would not have an ecto or Windows Live Writer, I was sure someone would have created something near either of those. Unfortunately, this was not the case at all. This is especially concerning considering how popular blogging has become.

A Few Words To Open-Source Software Developers

There is a huge opportunity for someone to create an amazing blog editor for the Linux operating system. Believe me—it is a way to generate a name for yourself. As Linux slowly becomes a serious contender in the desktop market, people are looking for applications like this, and the first person to really make something extraordinary will be on the receiving end of some great publicity.

Things that are desired in the first great blog editor for Linux:

  • Complete modular design
  • A true WYSIWYG view similar to the web layout view in Windows Live Writer
  • Ability to have full control over the CSS for this web layout view.
  • Ability to extend the application with plugins
  • Ability to create custom tags and markup for easy insertion within posts (like ecto)
  • Easy editing of the location, size, style, and link of media (e.g. pictures and videos)
  • Connectivity with most major and popular blogging services and ability to connect with any service support XML-RPC
  • On-the-fly spell checking
  • Ability to specify upload locations for images and media via FTP, SFTP, and other commonly used file transfer technologies.
  • Support for categories and tags
  • Support for excerpts

I would love to have an experience similar to Windows Live Writer available on the Linux operating system. Any software developer or development group that would like to begin working on a project like that, I would be happy to assist with the testing and promotion of this application to help the open source community. I am still disappointed that I didn’t find anything that lived up to my expectations.

Multi-Platform

Scribefire

ScribeFire

Scribefire, a Performancing product, is the only product that was not designed for an operating system in this roundup. Ironically enough, it is also the only editor that is compatible with all operating systems! Granted, Scribefire is designed for use within the Firefox web browser.

I decided not to review Scribefire as there is, obviously, a conflict of interest, but I will instead point you to two reviews by others, and you can make the call for yourself:

  • Dan Harrelson
  • Soft Inquiry

The Rest

There were a few blog editors that did not make it into this roundup which might also be worthy of a try:

The Finish

The writer in you now has the opportunity to go out and download some of these impressive applications to create your content. I am a big fan of desktop editors, and I think they provide a much better workflow than web-based editing environments (e.g. the built-in WordPress editor). You should also check out ScribeFire if you would like to do your editing within Firefox—it is a Performancing product.

Do you use any of these products? Do you use something else for creating and/or editing your blog posts? Let everyone know in the comments section, and if it looks good enough, I might just review it in the future.

Author: jamesm

31 thoughts on “Desktop Blog Editing Software Roundup—Which Tool is Right for the Job?

  1. Hi
    I need to make an e-portfolio and want to use a blogging tool for it. I’m just wondering if there is one that I could download that goes onto my computer but does not post anything on the web. I love the layout and functions that they have to offer. I just do not wish to post this information on the web. Thanks,

  2. Windows Live Writer is pretty awesome. I don’t use it since switching to Mac, but it really is one of Microsoft’s best products.

  3. Windows Live Writer did make a lot of noise when it first came out. It is a shame that many don’t know about it. I would hope that if many people used Windows Live Writer, Microsoft might get their act together and put out similar software of great quality. That is a long shot, but hey, we can all hope.

    However, Microsoft has apparently done an amazing job with their WorldWide Telescope application. Maybe there is hope after all?

  4. I enjoyed the previewing features. But I was shocked to not find the ability to post to Blogger.

    But it’s support for Drupal was great. It even uploads pictures into Drupal once your Drupal File System settings are well configured. I will recommend BlogDesk on my Drupal based blog host.

  5. I didn’t even realize that Microsoft had a free product available for this, but even if I did, I probably wouldn’t have given it much though though!
    Thanks for posting this review, I think I’ll go and check it out.

    Kevin

  6. Interesting. I didn’t know Live Writer was so widely used before this =) So all of these can work with WP? Is there such thing as an offline WP editor?

  7. ummm did you not read the whole post? Seriously James doesn’t play with readers. If there is something he likes he makes it known (Windows Live Writer), if he doesn’t like it–you know that too, and everything thats wrong with it (BlogDesk). He obviously had no problems w/installing Windows Live Writer, so he didn’t say anything about it…BTW your opinion didn’t bother me, it was the way you ended your comment that thoroughly annoyed me, was uncalled for.

  8. I willingly have installed Windows Live Writer on my Windows XP machine, and it is the only editor I use for Windows XP. It is one of the only products I actually like that have come from Microsoft. So, it was not bundled on my machine, but it might be required on Vista. I’m not sure though.

    Just FYI, I have publicly criticized Windows Live Writer in the past:
    http://www.techindemand.com/2007/08/21/windows-live-writer-review.

    Regardless, I don’t use it anymore because I use my MacBook for editing. As I said, I use ecto and WriteRoom almost exclusively.

    I am not the only person that shares this sentiment:
    http://paulstamatiou.com/2006/08/14/review-windows-live-writer-beta.
    “For an application that came out of no-where and accomplishes so much, I have to hand it to Microsoft. Microsoft, take that compliment while you can – before you can say “Let’s so double the killer delete select all,” I’ll probably be looking for employment with Apple.”—Paul Stamatiou

    http://gigaom.com/2006/08/13/windows-live-writer-write-on/
    “It is not often, I say good things about Microsoft products, but with this free-blogging tool, I have to say: write on! And just to set the record straight, the current post was written in Ecto.”—Om Malik

    I’m a Mac user, obviously I have a ton of problems with Microsoft products… that is why I own a Mac in the first place.

    Windows Live Writer is actually a good application by Microsoft, but if you don’t like it, please visit this link: http://support.microsoft.com/kb/938275

  9. This is a disappointing turn for you.

    Windows Live Writer, though it may very well be good software (I did not let it complete the install), is a nightmarish clusterfuck of extraneous installations of Microsoft products, just like Yahoo is famous for. I’m stunned and appalled that you failed to mention this in your review.

    They pay you well?

  10. Please note, I have updated the article to address an issue that BlogDesk support noticed. I was not using the latest version of BlogDesk at the time of writing this article. This article was completed well over a month ago, but was only posted yesterday.

    Apologies to the BlogDesk author and/or team. Next time, I will ensure that the products and services I evaluate are up to date before publishing.

  11. Unfortunately, Drupal does not natively support strikeout or strikethrough text. I would simply do that. Where I have previously written, it is bad style to remove content. I will make further modifications. Please let me know if they are satisfactory.

    Update: Apparently Drupal does support strikeout text. I was not aware of this until now.

    I have modified the article. Please let me know if it is satisfactory as far as the tagging is concerned.

    Thanks.

  12. Adding a notice instead of removing all the wrong facts? Well, maybe it’s a question of style. And no, there are no plans to release BlogDesk as an open source application.

  13. It is not the big things, but the little things that keep turning me away from BlogDesk. I want to like it, but I just can’t convince myself amidst the competition. Glad you like it though, and I really hope the author of the application will consider releasing it for open source development. The author would also likely receive more recognition for his/her efforts that way.

  14. Appologies. I started this article more than a month ago, and I did not have the latest version installed.

    I have put a notice that you have added that functionality.

    Are there any plans to release BlogDesk as an open source application?

  15. I have been using BlogDesk for about half a year and feel pretty happy about it. It’s very light and performs admirably, with cool tools like an ad-hoc, simple image editing function.

  16. I just tried Scribefire on a blogger account and it returned a error. It said check the Performancing page for help.

  17. Thanks for your insight. ScribeFire is sure to get better and better with time. Also, you did a great review on your site. Appreciate it!

  18. In recent months, ScribeFire has been, well, on fire. After a brief hiatus the lead developer, Christopher Finke, has re-engaged in a big way. He’s released the code into open source via Google Code and has a couple of additional developers working with him. With the renewed focus and man power, the extension has released over 10 new versions since the start of the year with features such as Firefox 3 support, Flickr search, better text formatting, better Blogger support and numerous fixes and tweaks. The ScribeFire web site has be redesigned with a much more professional look and the site’s blog is a source now for both ScribeFire downloads and advice on how to be a great blogger.

    ScribeFire has quickly become my favorite desktop blogging tool.

  19. I have not tried Ecto for Windows. Only on the Mac. However, I really enjoy Windows Live Writer (and if they had it for the Mac, I’d probably use it exclusively).

    However, there should be a free 15 or 30 day trial. You should just give it a shot and see how it works out.

  20. If you have a suggestion for a blog editor I didn’t include, please let me know!

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