Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Red Sweater Love

This is a hat's off to the folks at Red Sweater software. This blog is created using their wonderful and lightweight little blogging application, MarsEdit.

Picture 2.jpgI'd been using their free trial since I created The Noodle Book and, last weekend, it expired. I was fine with that -- I love the free trial culture that is endemic among Mac developers. There is no way I can really get the feel of software without using it, and I've definitely bought programs because I could try them when, without a demo, I'd have done nothing and soldiered on with what I had.

Anyway, I unflinchingly spent the thirty bucks and picked up a license. What followed amazed me. In the order form there was a little space for comments. I put in a couple of notes. I normally wouldn't bother (who reads these things anyway?), but did have one suggestion. I commented that it'd be nice if Picasa was more effectively supported by the media manager built into MarsEdit. I use blogspot and have hesitated to get too hooked into too many services (i.e. Flickr) for too many different reasons just for fear of loosing track of everything.

I got the confirmation mail, registered the application, and resumed cheerfully nag-free blogging. Then I got another mail from Red Sweater. I assumed it was another irritating double-mailing (I'm sure you get those too -- where you sometimes get two receipts from an online order or a charge receipt and then a product receipt and then an unlock key...). But instead of trashing it, I read it.

Hi Nick - glad you are enjoying the app! I want to open up the media browser to support other image-hosting sites, and when I do, Picasa will be high on the list!


So, not five or ten minutes after I placed my order, the developer of the application got back to me with an update on the status of my request. Try that with Microsoft or Adobe or Apple...

Now I'm going to thank Daniel by telling you why I like MarsEdit and why, while I do admit it is imperfect, I think you may want to consider using it as well.

First off, it is a classic "just enough" application. There is not a lot of fat here. A place to compose your blog, do some basic management of entries, and upload some supporting images and files. There is no WYSIWYG capability -- there is a rather nice ability to insert HTML tags into the text, but they show up as, well, HTML tags rather than as the promised formatting. I'm fine with that -- actually I rather like it -- since I'm pretty familiar with HTML and tend like the ability to easily go in and edit the code myself.

Images can be uploaded with some basic formatting -- but again they can be edited inline if necessary. This is the area of my one mild unhappiness -- Mars Edit only works with Flickr galleries. My stuff is uploading to Picasa through Blogspot, of course, but there isn't a way that I can go "back" and review or reuse the images in that gallery from within MarsEdit. If I was hardcore making it happen with Flickr for my photography (which is pretty non-existant) then I could actually manage all the images there with a great deal more flexibility. But again, MarsEdit is doing fine for what I need. I can put pictures into my postings and am happy.

The main reason that I use an offline blog editor -- for you might say "Blogspot offers great editing capabilities!" as indeed they do -- is that I often blog during my commute. On the train, on the bus, at cafés during lunch, at all kinds of crazy locations. Not all of them provide reliable Internet connectivity. And without reliable Internet, the online composer becomes a high-risk environment if it is even possible to get started at all. As a footnote, I'm actually writing this entry in the Seattle Bus Tunnel, an area devoid of any valid connectivity.

Picture 3.jpg
I can compose using the online tool and the suck the post down to MarsEdit as well, though when a brainstorm hits me at work I usually write it in an email and send it to myself for copy-and-paste treatment. I also have a fat roll of half-started postings waiting for the brainstorm of completion to come along. I can grab one of these and flesh it out for a few minutes and then save it for later review (yes, I know that Blogspot supplies this ability as well, but I find MarsEdit does so much more cleanly). It also nicely handles my two (and eventually, I hope, three) blogs.

For formatting changes and re-arrangements of the various components of The Noodle Book, I use Blogspot's tool set, of course. That's fine -- these are periodic tasks involving dramatic changes in format, new bits of content, and the like.

Anyhow, this MarsEdit is a great example of that sort of cottage development that is part of why I like my MacBook so much. And as for responsiveness -- I've never sen better! So check it out and show these guys some support if you like what you see.

And now, thanks to King County Metro, I'm going to post a blog entry while riding the bus.

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