One of the more popular and highly rated blog publishing applications for Mac is MarsEdit, currently available in version 3.7.11. After seven years of point updates to MarsEdit 3, the team at Red Sweater have announced a beta of the upcoming MarsEdit 4.
We’ve never used MarsEdit 3; however reports of the new beta and it’s capabilities lead us to investigate the program, and download the MarsEdit 4 beta trial.
Current owners of MarsEdit 3 can try version 4 for free ahead of its release. Others interested can download either MarsEdit 3 or MarsEdit 4 on a 30-day trial, with those deciding to purchase version 3 between now and the release of MarsEdit 4 eligible for a free upgrade.
From their blog page, here’s MarsEdit description of top new features and changes:
Beta Release Details:
- Editor Enhancements
- Visual formatting bar – Select common formatting options with the mouse.
- Typewriter Scrolling – View menu option to keep typing vertically centered.
- Multimarkdown support – Enhanced functionality when previewing Markdown content.
- Faster Preview filtering – Code-based Markdown and Convert Line Breaks filters.
- Interactive image sizing – Rich text mode supports direct manipulation of image display size.
- Improved “Split Post” UI – Splitter now presented inline in post content.
- WordPress-specific enhancements
- Faster refresh times.
- Featured Image support.
- Post Format support.
- Per-post Author editing support.
- Improved system integration. Now supports standard autosave and version history for locally saved drafts.
- Expanded post downloads. WordPress and Blogspot blogs can now be configured to download the entire history of posts instead of a recent subset.
- Automated preview templates. Click the “Download Template…” button from the template editor to automatically detect your blog’s theme.
- Safari App Extension. Active the “Send to MarsEdit” extension in Safari to easily create new drafts citing the page you are viewing.
- Application Sandbox. The app is now sandboxed for increased security.
MarsEdit 4 in Use
First up, the UI is CLEAN, easy to understand and all logical, with all the selections and information blocks right where you would expect them. There’s the usual customisations available, including typewriter mode and of course, falls green. On a 27” 4k monitor it’s impressively focussed on writing.
Connecting to a blog is where it’s at, and the process is fairly simple. if you already have a blog, select, or otherwise have MarsEdit recommend a blog service. We didn’t try the Recommend Service option first up, and once past that initial offering, selecting Start blog from the Help menu seemed the only way to get that option again. It opens the preferences pain with a pop up offering to take you to WordPress.com or Blogger.com.
Setting up the blog is pretty painless. Type a name and type or paste the URL
Just a happy note here, the Add or Edit link function auto populates from the clipboard – makes life easy!
Just a quick jump to one side, to show the Preferences window, with a wide selection of options.
For the beginning blogger, the next step may present a slight challenge with the requirement to input the API Endpoint URL. Easy if you know it, however for those unfamiliar, a web search does bring up a challenging series of responses, some of which may send you off in the wrong direction.
Once set up, it’s a simple case of logging in to your site, and from that point you’re ready for MarsEdit to connect and download the necessary bits from your site, such as your category list, and a list of prior posts, all of which can be edited and updated from within MarsEdit 4.
Once ready to go, the New Post window opens allowing you to select the blog you wish to post to (if you have multiple sites). Of special note, from within the edit windows, one can select categories to post to, a featured image for the post, and the server side options. My personal preference is to post to Drafts for a final check with an SEO plug in, though per the image below, you can publish directly.
Our Experience Using MarsEdit 4
This does have to be one of the most intuitive programs out there (apart from selecting the API Endpoint URL for those a little less experienced). We did have an issue with folders seeming to disappear and new ones dragged into the Media Manager window not appearing after we played with the start new blog window. In an example of how responsive these guys are, a quick query gave us the answer we needed. To the very right of that particular screen, the word SHOW pops up as you hover over the folder on the left of the screen. Moving across the screen to click SHOW brings all the folders and contents to life. On a small screen, probably no biggie, but on a 27” 4k screen with the editor full screen, easily missed. The red Sweater guys promised to make it more prominent in a future revision.The big (REALLY BIG) takeaway, these guys respond quickly! Once SHOW is selected, the folders remain active as long as the program is open.
How does MarsEdit 4 stack up against competition?
It’s possible to edit posts within your WordPress site. However that does require a live link at the time. As always with on-line editing, speed and stability of your internet connection dictate the experience.
Word Processing Software.
Yes, it’s more than possible to write your post using whichever word processor or text editor you favour however, that does require additional live setup, selecting categories, etc before posting.
Until now, our go-to software for blog posts has been Ulysses, from The Soulmen in Germany. Ulysses is a multi-purpose writing tool suitable for everything from a quick blog to a full novel. Its major claim to fame is the clean, distraction free writing environment with a focus on Markdown for formatting. As with a word processor and MarsEdit, there is the flexibility of writing and refining the post offline before uploading. Additionally, it has a built in blog posting feature that, after a simple setup, will upload your post as a draft. The WordPress connection is a little easier, with no need to select an API End Point, however once uploaded, categories need to be manually selected and any minor changes made before publishing. To get the most out of Ulysses it is necessary to be comfortable with Markdown.
Let’s face it, there are any number of other blogging programs out there, from the simple to the complex. Some give you only the basics, while others allow you to post the same post to multiple sites with one click (hint!). Choosing the right one for you comes down to personal preference, and sometimes, just down to an acceptable one you stumble across.
For me, the MarsEdit 4 writing window, with access to simple formatting tools such as bold to hand at the top of the editing window is a hands down winner. For those who prefer distraction free plain text and Markdown style editing, as mentioned earlier, there is the choice of Plain Text or Rich Text editing.
Though there is a little additional work setting up the link, when the Options pane is selected, MarsEdit 4 displays categories it has downloaded from the WordPress site, with the ability to add categories while editing offline. The ease of use and the clean interface make MarsEdit 4 a winner. As with any beta software, it pays to bear in mind that features in the beta may not necessarily make it to the public release. That said, everything in the beta seems stable and production ready.
MarsEdit 4 is our new go-to program for blog posts. Depending on whether you prefer the bare essential, distraction free style of Ulysses to the more powerful MarsEdit 4 (which does have its own version of a Plain Text editing function), is a matter of personal opinion.
My personal choice, give me the MarsEdit 4 Rich Text editing function with the ability to select tags and categories offline, leaving me only to check the draft post for SEO etc before selecting publish from the site. (Remember, you can select to publish direct from MarsEdit 4.)
For me, it’s a solid Editor’s Choice 5 Thumbs Up!