MarsEdit came to my attention after reading an interesting article by Daniel Jalkut, founder of Red Sweater Software. In the article, he defended the opinion that there is still value in developing for the Mac (as opposed to iOS). Made sense to me and made me aware of MarsEdit. This got me interested in giving it a try, as compared to MacJournal, which I have been using from the beginning for this blog (except for an initial foray using the WordPress editor, which I didn’t care for).
MarsEdit gets you up and running very quickly. Start it up and you get this window:
If you have a blog, give it a name and type in the URL. Very, very easy. If you don’t have one, hit the GO BACK button and then it will help you select a blog site. Assuming you already had a blog, one you enter the ID and password, MarsEdit will go out and download your posts for that account. By default, it will download 30 posts. You can change this by editing the settings for that blog.
At that point, you are ready to begin adding posts or pages (if you have a WordPress page).
For each post, you’ll see an entry in the main screen. There is a table view of posts and below that, a view of the selected entry:
You can look, but you cannot touch. The page view does not permit editing. Double-click the post to open an edit window.
It’s quite easy to add tags, categories, and to set the server options for the posting.You edit in the main window. The typical word processor formatting options are available. You can drag media into the editing area or you can insert it. The Media Manager allows you to find pictures and supports iPhoto, Aperture and Lightroom. When you drag an image into the document, you’ll get a window like this:
This gives you more absolute control over the image than MacJournal but MacJournal is easier because you’re concerned with relative image size change, rather than having to calculate pixels. When you select a style, you’re indicating where the image should go on the page. If you align right or left, you may get text beside the image. Center it and you typically will not (unless your image is small).
Although the tool is called a Media Manager, and the icon shows a film reel and a speaker, the utility seems focused on images. Attempts to add folders with video or audio files were fruitless. You can add an enclosure, which allows you to link to other content on the web, but I was unable to add audio or video from my computer. The Upload Utility DID let me select non-image files (an audio file was included below). We’ll see how it posts. Update: it didn’t post. It could not find the audio file, which suggests that maybe I should have uploaded the file prior to attempting to post the entry.
A big difference between MacJournal and MarsEdit is that MarsEdit allows you to also create/edit/tweak your blog postings in HTML. MacJournal does not. You can convert your MarsEdit postings back and forth between rich text and HTML (although this could impact formatting). So, if you’re a control freak or you just love dipping down into the HTML, MarsEdit gives you this flexibility. Even further, you can tell it which text editor you want to use for doing the HTML work, if you don’t want to use the editor provided with the product. Here is a posting converted to HTML.
Another potential reason to want HTML access (if you use WordPress) is that WordPress gets rid of extra spaces in posts. To avoid this, you need to add HTML. With MacJournal, I have to add the spacing HTML from the WordPress editor, after uploading the posting. With MarsEdit, you could add the space while creating the blog posting and know that what you’re seeing in the preview is really what you’re going to get.
MarsEdit vs. MacJournal
So, how do the products compare?
First, two screenshots. Although MacJournal allows editing in the main window, MarsEdit opens a separate window for editing (and a third preview window). The first screenshot shows the main windows. Since the MarsEdit main window doesn’t show the editing environment, the second screenshot shows the MacJournal main window again, beside the MarsEdit editing window. It should be noted that MacJournal allows you to view your entry in a browser as well. You select it from the Share menu.
This is purely subjective but MarsEdit does seem leaner and “snappier” than MacJournal. Unfortunately, there is very little substance I can provide to back this assertion, other than the fact that MacJournal comes in at 71MB and MarsEdit is a svelte 14MB. Clearly, all of the additional functionality provided by MacJournal comes at a cost of disk space and speed.
Both provide similar editing tools but the editing tools in MacJournal are more convenient to get to, especially if you modify the toolbar to reflect your needs. Although MarsEdit provides the opportunity to modify your toolbar, there are far fewer options:
Both apps do well with tags. They remember past tags and help to speed that along. I have never had luck with categories in MacJournal. As I’ve worked on this post, I learned that in MacJournal you must refresh the categories in WordPress. To do this, you edit the blog settings. Tab 3 has a slide out drawer that should display the existing categories. Mine was blank. Hitting the refresh button updated the drawer and the categories now display. As you can see from the second screenshot above, MarsEdit displays the existing categories, allows you to add more, and properly transfers them to the posting within WordPress.
If you want to do video or audio from within the app, MacJournal is your only choice. It will let you record audio or video directly into your posting. MarsEdit will require that you perform those duties separately and then upload the file. If you want a client on the iPad/iPhone/Touch that will synch with your Mac app, you’ll want MacJournal.
The important point to consider is that the apps serve different purposes. MacJournal is a journaling application (whether that be text, audio, or video journaling) that also provides blogging tools. MarsEdit is a blogging tool. If you want to journal and you want to password protect and encrypt your genius, you’ll want MacJournal. If you want focus primarily on text blogging and want a lean client that lets you create your posts whether online or off, MarsEdit is an excellent choice. If you want complete control over your postings and like to dabble in HTML, you’ll need MarsEdit over MacJournal.
Here is the obligatory table. I tried to make it as accurate as I could. I will certainly update any errors if notified:
As I have played with MarsEdit, I like it very much. It would be nice to be able to tinker with the HTML and feel like I have more control over how my posts look. The Media Manager is nice for dealing with images, especially if you’re using iPhoto, Aperture, or Lightroom. Since I’m not really into journaling, nor do I care about podcasting or videocasting yet, it would probably be the better choice for me. However, both products come in at $39.95 and I already own MacJournal. At this point, I can’t see a compelling reason to drop another $40. If I did more with HTML (and maybe I’ll get there), I would definitely opt for MarsEdit.