Red Sweater Software has released MarsEdit 2.0, the first major release since acquiring the weblog publishing software from NewsGator Technologies in February 2007. Originally developed by Brent Simmons of Ranchero Software, MarsEdit had languished somewhat after NewsGator purchased Ranchero for the NetNewsWire application. Daniel Jalkut of Red Sweater has been hard at work ever since, refining the user interface, making it significantly easier to add files and images to posts, creating seamless integration with Flickr for posting photos from your Flickr account to your blog, adding markup macros to simplify entering HTML tags, building in printing support, and more. MarsEdit 2.0 supports blogs that are served by Blogger/Blogspot, Blosxom, Conversant, Drupal, LiveJournal, Manila, Movable Type, Radio Userland, TypePad, Vox, and WordPress, although some of those don’t fully support the APIs MarsEdit needs, thus limiting the interaction. Other blog servers may provide the necessary MetaWeblog or Blogger-compatible APIs too.
I’ve primarily used Ecto for posting to weblogs over the last year or so, and although a new version of that program is also in the works, it looks as though MarsEdit 2.0 has caught up with Ecto’s capabilities while providing a simpler, more elegant interface (I find Ecto somewhat boggling much of the time).
What I find interesting about both MarsEdit and Ecto is that they’re essentially word processors, but they focus much more of their attention on the online publishing aspect of writing than on the writing itself. They’re generally capable editors, but since most people aren’t writing long blog posts, there’s no need for them to sport the kind of features a full-fledged word processor has.
That said, I see two significant directions for these programs to evolve. First is in support for different markup languages. Right now, both can preview various languages, such as Markdown and Textile, but neither allows you to write in Markdown, for instance, but convert to and post HTML to the destination blog. As a result, if your blog server software doesn’t support Markdown, you can’t write in it without performing a conversion manually. Implementing this in MarsEdit shouldn’t be difficult; it could transform the text to and from (for editing existing posts) HTML on the fly, enabling the user to write entirely in Markdown (which is what we use to compose TidBITS articles).
Second, as I outlined in “Wanted: Better Document Collaboration System” (2006-04-03), it is possible to use a weblog editor like MarsEdit along with a shared weblog to enable small group document collaboration. Unfortunately, as we discovered, it’s extremely clumsy and error-prone, since there’s no way to know who is editing what, and overwriting of posts is all too common. One solution might be for a future version of MarsEdit to act as a client for version control systems like Subversion, which provide locking and versioning to prevent destructive conflicts. Another approach might be for Red Sweater to figure out a way that copies of MarsEdit could communicate status to one another, thus enabling each authorized copy to know what others are editing.
MarsEdit 2.0 requires Mac OS X 10.4 or later. It costs $29.95 and is available as a 30-day trial (4.1 MB download). Upgrades from previous versions cost $9.95; the new version is free if you purchased MarsEdit 1 after 01-Jul-07.