Wind the clock back a decade and if I told you that one of the “Best in Market” software programs was made by Microsoft and it was free and you’d have had me committed. Fast forward to 2012 and against all expectations Microsoft offers Windows users not only one but two very useful and free applications – the highly acclaimed Microsoft Security Essentials, and the WYSIWYG blogging tool Windows Live Writer. Powerful enough to satisfy the needs of most casual bloggers, WLW is a pleasure to use and has become the standard by which other blogging software is compared against.
The problem with WLW is that it is available for Windows only, and Mac users need to perform fancy tricks by dual booting or running Parallels to use it. For many Mac users it remains the one last bastion of holding onto the Windows OS, but with MarsEdit 3 the long awaited WLW equivalent for Mac may answer their prayers.
Other blogging editors exist for Mac, but none seem as well supported and regularly updated as MarsEdit. MarsEdit has been around a few years but version 3 first released in 2010 offered a major upgrade from previous editions, and subsequent updates have refined the software to the point where it seriously challenges WLW.
MarsEdit supports WordPress blogs as well Blogger, Tumblr, Squarespace, TypePad, Movable Type and others that support web standards. It doesn’t take a lot of work to get set up, with settings being automatically detected for major blogs simply by entering the URL and login credentials.
The main MarsEdit window lists the most recent x posts on your blog, and allows you to review and edit these if this is required. It provides a good overview of your most recent posts. Selecting an already live post, or click on “New Post” opens the editor which is where the bulk of your time will be spent with this software.
An HTML editor is available, but most casual bloggers will appreciate the WYSIWYG editor they have become accustomed to in WLW. Text can be formatted easily using keyboard shortcuts or a formatting menu, and images can be easily pasted from your Mac, Flickr account, or iPhoto/Aperture libraries. Images sit in a queue ready to be uploaded as required as posts are published, making the process effortless.
The main editor window is fairly basic, but perfectly functional. The interface won’t win any awards for fashionable design but the simplicity does help bloggers focus on their task at hand, especially when using the excellent Lion full-screen mode. Categories are displayed in a side panel as well as post options to complete the main editor window. Drafts can be saved offline or uploaded as a draft to your blog. You can compose posts and save them offline without requiring a constant connection to the internet like the WordPress interface, which is a Godsend for bloggers that are subject to constant interruptions throughout their day or who are often on the road. Images and posts are earmarked for upload when you eventually click to publish to your blog.
MarsEdit has some neat features such as automatically recognising when you copy a URL or link to an online image to your clipboard so that the link can be pasted to selected text in your post. It saves a lot of time and is a smart implementation. Images are automatically formatted to fit the theme of your blog, though manual edits can be made to this.
Windows Live Writer has a funky tool which allows a preview of how a post will look on your blog once published, based on your blog’s theme and styles. WLW achieves this by publishing a test post which is immediately removed. MarsEdit has not yet automated this process, but has a guide on how the same result can be achieved with just a few steps.
MarsEdit is an excellent blogging editor that will suit casual bloggers as well as power users. Those who are familiar with Windows Live Writer and who are looking for a Mac equivalent should feel that their wishes are generally met by MarsEdit. No longer do you need to turn back to the Windows platform just to have some decent blogging software. There are a few nuances such as not being able to currently resize images once they have been inserted (to resize you need to delete the image then insert again with the correct size attributes), but they are minor annoyances and with the track record of regular updates one would be confident that Red Sweater would address these issues eventually. The major barrier for most will be pricing, and at USD $39.95 (NZD $49.99 on the Mac App Store) only you will be able to judge whether it is value for money for your usage. A free 30-day trial is also available to download from Red Sweater to help you decide.