MarsEdit

I was telling a friend about my experience with offline blogging software. He pointed me to MarsEdit. I hadn’t heard of it before, it wasn’t a free application. I usually don’t download anything but free software. This time I did download it and after using MarsEdit for a couple of weeks I decided to buy it. I have been using it ever since. I like it a lot and want to talk about what I like and some of the things that I would like to see in the application.

Why do I need this type of software?

You may be wondering what the point is in having offline blogging software. The main reason is because when I want to write a blog entry I hate having to open the browser, go to the blog, login and make a new entry. I’ve had bad experiences with writing blog posts and emails in the browser window. I am scared to death while I write my post the browser is going to crash! I know a lot of blogging software such as WordPress saves your post while you’re working on it. In my experience though, it’s never enough!

Another reason for offline blogging software is if you are like me and you have multiple blogs, it is really nice to be able to update them all from a convenient location. Currently, I have 4 blogs plugged into MarsEdit. Whenever I need to make a post on one of them I can simply open the application and make the post. Also, if I see a mistake that I have made in my entry it’s so much easier to open MarsEdit, make the change and re-submit instead of having to go to the browser, to the blog, re-login, etc. I can blog much more easily and more often!

What I like about MarsEdit

First of all I have to say I absolutely love the MarsEdit icon! I know I don’t talk about the icons of applications a lot but this is one of my absolute favorite icons. It’s very sexy on my dock!

There are a lot of great features in MarsEdit but there are not a ton of icons cluttering up the application. It’s very simple and clean and I really like that. Instead of having an icon for every little thing there is a drop down menu with a lot of options for inserting HTML or custom tags. I also love the fact that there are keyboard shortcuts for a lot of these, especially the command to paste a link (Option + Command + A).

For each blog you have, you can set up different options. You can choose what warnings you want to receive before your entry is posted; such as warning you if you’ve not set a category or entered a title for your post. You can also choose which services you would like to ping to let the blogging world know that you’ve just made a new entry on your blog.

I also really like the simplicity of the “Save as Draft” button. You click the button as many times as you’d like while you are working on your entry. If you exit the application you can come back and work on it at a later time. But what I really like about it is the fact that whenever I finish the post and I post it to my blog it is no longer in my drafts folder. In my opinion it’s a much better option than using the typical “Save” or “Save As.”

What I’d like to see in MarsEdit

The first change to the application that I would like to see is whenever you are uploading images to your post that the application know which blog you are working on and upload to the appropriate folder.

Using MarsEdit you can choose whether people can leave comments & TrackBacks for your entries. However, you cannot make a password protected post, change the slug, or many of the other things you can do with a WordPress blog.

Although I really love this application and am glad that I made the purchase of it; there is one more thing that I would really like to see added into this application. That is the ability to make new categories. You can select from already created categories but you can’t make new ones (to my knowledge). I have to post the entry and then go to the website and add the proper categories. Granted, I’d have to go to the website anyways to make sure the entry was posted correctly. It would just be really nice not to have to log back in if everything else is correct just to add a category.

I know what you’re probably thinking after reading those two paragraphs above and I’m going to address it right now. Since this application is a cross platform (supports many content management systems) blogging tool; it would be extremely difficult to get every single option that all the blogging platforms offer into the application. I don’t think it would be impossible but it would be difficult because there are always new features to all of these blogging platforms. Also, I am sure there are some limits as to what developers can implement with some blogging systems due to the fact that some systems are closed source.

Do I recommend this application to others?

Yes, I most certainly do recommend it. Since purchasing the application I have blogged a whole lot more because of it. It’s so nice just to be able to open up an application and start blogging. I realize there are other applications out there, even free alternatives. In my opinion none of them can compare to the ease of use of MarsEdit or how fast it works (the others took FOREVER to launch and were very clumsy). MarsEdit offers a LOT of features, I barely scratched the surface! I feel as though my $24.95 was well spent!

MarsEdit from Red Sweater Software

Article update: Wednesday, October 1, 2008: I have updated this article with screen shots from the latest version. I also updated the grammar, at least, I tried to. I have been updating the screen shots on TechButter so that the pages look uniform with the new theme.

The image uploading tool has been improved. You can now specify which blog you are uploading to. When you do open the image uploading tool it connects to the blog you are currently working on. You can now choose from previously uploaded images or images in your catalog. Also, you can connect MarsEdit to Flickr and use images in your account.

The ability to make new categories has been added. Also, you can now change the post slug (what the URL of the post will be). You can also edit the post excerpt and the tags. To my knowledge there is no way to password protect a post using MarsEdit.

I have to be honest with you. Although I really love MarsEdit and have paid for the updated version, I don’t use it as much as I use to. If I were on my Mac more often I probably would. Since getting a new monitor for my PC I’ve been using my Windows machine as my primary workstation again and I post entries to my blog using my web browser. I do think MarsEdit is a great application and would highly recommend it to anyone looking for that type of functionality.

Witch

When I first got my Mac there was a productivity plunge. I knew it would just take me a while to build up speed with OS X but this application helped me out a lot. On Windows whenever you Alt + Tab you get a list of the open windows. Whenever you Command + Tab on a Mac you get a list of the running applications. I prefer the Windows way because I like to quickly get to the window I am needing access to.

Whenever you are simply switching between running applications you have to take a couple of steps, you have to switch to the application and then you have to select with your mouse which window in that application you are wanting to focus in on. The less I have to take my hands off of my keyboard the more productive I am.

I have my old Windows keyboard connected to my Mac through my KVM switch. This allows me to be even more productive, at least on my setup. I can use the Alt + Tab command on my Windows keyboard and it will bring up the Witch task manager. I can quickly go to the window I need access to. This is really great for instant messaging because I can quickly get to the IM window and then back to the application I was previously working in.

Installation is fairly simple. Double click and it installs into System Preferences. You have to go to “Universal Access” and check a box beside “Enable access for assistive devices.” Once you do that, Witch will work.

Witch has a lot of customization options. You can choose the key commands, animation options, applications to ignore, etc. If you’re coming from Windows to Mac OS X you’ll probably greatly benefit from this application the most.

Witch Homepage

MAMP Web Server

When I am designing a theme for WordPress I always install a copy of WordPress onto my local server. I have my server set up in a virtual machine. It’s aggravating because I have to wait on that virtual machine to start up before I can do anything. I have been thinking about installing Apache, MySQL, PHP and phpMyAdmin onto my Mac so I can just leave it running and have a copy of WordPress running locally for whenever I need to test something. I just haven’t had the time to do this yet.

On my Linux virtual machine I have a copy of XAMPP running. I got to looking around and there is a version of XAMPP for the Mac but it only runs on Intel Macs. The iBook that I have has a PowerPC G3 processor, so that won’t work. Fortunately there is an alternative called MAMP. It’s got the basics of XAMPP and works pretty well. I downloaded it this morning, extracted and installed it.

I guess I should say what XAMPP and MAMP are. They include Apache, MySQL, PHP, phpMyAdmin and a few other things all in one package. They’re usually meant for developers on a network to test out projects and usually not meant for deploying websites publicly. You usually just install a package and you have a web server.

In under 20 minutes I was able to have WordPress up and running. It would have been quicker had I not run into a database connection issue. Also, the download was quite large, over 100 megabytes so I had to wait on that. The database problems that I ran into was that you can’t simply use ‘localhost’ as the MySQL server address, you have to use a port. I tried to use ‘localhost:8889’ but that did not work either. I then used the IP address of the machine ‘192.168.1.44:8889’ and that worked.

This is a great option for testing websites. I haven’t looked into it yet but if MAMP can be secured then I think it would be a good option for someone wanting to play with hosting their own websites or blogs. If you use XAMPP on Linux then you’ll know that you can easily secure XAMPP by running a simple command from the command line and answering a few questions. However, if MAMP can’t be secured then I think it’s still a good option for testing websites locally.

Other than making sure XAMPP is secure you’ll want to install an FTP server. There is an FTPd daemon already included in OS X. You can use PureFTPd Manager for Mac OS X to manage it.

If you’re not on a Mac I would recommend Uniserver or XAMPP.

MAMP

Unsanity ShadowKiller

Since I got my iBook G3 I have been searching for ways to increase it’s performance. Last night I was doing a search and started reading through an article that I saw a while back that I didn’t read before because it was quite long. In the article I saw a link to an application that would disable the shadows around window borders and speed up your system. The application’s website said that it would significantly improve performance on older G3 Macs.

I downloaded, installed and ran the application. I was immediately blown away. The application disabled the shadows and my system was much more responsive. The mouse felt much more responsive and windows opened and closed much faster. I opened up iTunes and could even use cover art. I’m not sure if this is because of the latest iTunes update or because of ShadowKiller. I do know that before I upgraded to the latest release of iTunes that I could not use the cover art browser.

When I first ran this application I was very pleased with the added performance that I gained from disabling the shadows. I had to reboot my system last night and when I logged back in the shadows were back so I had to disable them again. I can simply add the application to startup items to solve that problem. After I had rebooted and disabled the shadows I was not as blown away with the speed increase. I’m not sure why this is and would welcome feedback on that. Maybe my system was just needing to be rebooted. I’ll continue to use the application because it does speed up the system somewhat, just not as much as it did when I first killed the shadows.

It takes a little bit of getting use to not having the shadows. As I was typing this entry I had the window in front of another window with a white background and could not tell that the window I was typing in was shorter than the other window (I hope that made sense).

Unsanity ShadowKiller

Would you like .BIZ with that order?

On the post that I made earlier today I mentioned that I would be moving some things on AndyMelton.net to their own domains. Tonight I was finally able to purchase those domains as well as pay for continued hosting at GoDaddy. Let me tell you, just trying to purchase a domain at GoDaddy made me want to pay more for a domain elsewhere. I didn’t, but I wanted to. I can’t because I wouldn’t be able to afford one elsewhere with everything I was needing to purchase.

So, I’ll first tell you what I purchased and then I’ll give you the steps that I went through to make those purchases. I bought 2 domains, AndyNotAndrew.net, which will become my new Audio & Video Journal website. I purchased FatTrackBlog.com for the weight loss blog that my friends and I occasionally contribute to. I also needed to renew my domain for AndyMelton.net. Then, I also needed to pay for hosting for 12 months so I don’t have to worry about it for a little while.

OK! Let’s go and order a domain name. We of course are on GoDaddy.com and logged into our user account. We then do a search for the domain that we want to purchase to make sure that it is available. Good news, it is available. More good news. We can purchase the same domain with the following top level domains (TLD): .com, .info, .net, .org, biz, and .us! More good news! We can also purchase similar domain names. We can also purchase the domain with a TLD of .mobi, .tv, and .us. We can also purchase domains that aren’t quite what we wanted but are similar with an added word, like, “Sucks”. Don’t get me wrong, being able to show you the available options is great if the domain you are wanting to purchase is already taken, but, they just give you so many options!

So after you have scrolled through all of those options you find the “Continue” button. You click on it and you get a page that says “STOP! You’ve found a great domain. Now protect your name, increase your traffic and more!” OK! First of all, I don’t like the fact that you are telling people to STOP, it made me feel as if I had done something wrong and I am usually always nervous when I’m buying anything anyways. Come to find out, I have done nothing wrong, they’re just telling me that I can also buy the domain with a TLD of .net, .biz and .info for just a few dollars more! To top it all off, they have “Add these domains now for just $16!” already check marked. If someone was to accidentally click the green button below to add those to their order without knowing, the person would have to come back and go through the process again. SO, if you’re smart you will scroll down until you see a link, a link that’s not as large as the green button I might add, that says “No thanks. Continue to checkout.”

OK! So you clicked on “No thanks. Continue to checkout.” You should come to a page that has even more options and more places to add more stuff for super low discounts. The first row of information is where you choose how long you want to register your domain name for. Then you decide if you want it to be automatically renewed or manually renewed. Then you decided whether you want to spend $2.99 more to get the domain certified. Lastly, you choose if you want deluxe or premium email services added to your order. I might be wrong on this, but I do believe you already get email services with every domain your oder. Hmmm. They don’t tell you that on this page. You scroll down and you see a section that asks if you want to show exclusive offers to reduce the cost of your order or if you want to quit the checkout process. Your only option is to select the show special offers and click on continue.

Did you think I was finished, yet? HA! Hardly! Once you click on the continue button you are presented with another page that gives you options to customize your order even more. This page asks you to select a hosting plan, a WebSite Tonight package, MORE options for email AND a section for adding Traffic Blazer to your site. Oh, I thought I was done naming off the stuff you could add. I wasn’t: Quick Shopping Cart, SSL Certificates, Turbo SSL Certificates, High-Assurance SSL Certificates and finally, a 6-in-1 certificate. FINALLY, after you scroll through all that without checking any of the check boxes, you can click on Continue.

The next page again asks you if you want to make your domain name private. Granted, this is a great idea but I’ve already told you that I DO NOT WANT THIS! I DO NOT CARE! COME STALK ME ALL YOU WANT! (Ok, NOT REALLY!). I click on continue without clicking any check boxes.

OH MY GOSH! CAN YOU BELIEVE IT! WE ARE FINALLY AT THE CHECKOUT! This part is pretty simple. You choose your payment options, give a promo code (don’t forget Madge1, Madge2 and Madge3) and pay. I don’t want to pay just yet. I want to add the other domain name I am going to purchase and add the domain renewal. I had to go through the entire process again to buy another domain. To renew the domain it was slightly different and it kept asking me if I wanted to protect my domain name.

The other thing that I was needing to do was to upgrade my hosting account from Economy hosting to the Deluxe plan. I done this the other day, but still had some issues. I didn’t know if I was suppose to upgrade my account from within my hosting control panel or through the “front door” of GoDaddy. I emailed support and they said to do it from within the control panel. The other problem that I had was that I was not able to choose how long I wanted to upgrade for when I initially upgraded my account. I had to upgrade my account and THEN I could extend the length of my account.

So many annoyances. Why do I deal with it? It’s cheap! But it’s REALLY annoying.