How to choose the best text editor for WordPress when you want to work offline? I will compare MarsEdit, Blogo, and Desk. Why am I not choosing other existing WordPress offline editors? They have to run on my mac. They have to be nice and smart. Blogo and Desk are the new challengers of MarsEdit… The other softwares are too old to run smoothly with the latest versions of WordPress.
Having a trial… a must-have to make the right choice!
You can read numerous posts, articles, look at many YouTube videos. The finest choice will come from you. You know what you really need, you will be the only one to find your way through many criteria and get the best tool for you.
So, apart Desk, MarsEdit and Blogo have a trial version of their respective website. It is a fully functional version. Updates are available. You can edit and save without any limitation for 21 days (Blogo) and 30 days (MarsEdit). I had to buy Desk(tm) to test it, which is not fair.
Criterion #1: Dedicated tool vs Desktop Word editor
First of all, I have made my decision to use an offline editor because my WordPress website is sometimes down. Gandi is an excellent choice to host my WordPress site. They give usually a decent hosting service. However, for a few weeks, I have encountered numerous problems to reach my website while I was editing some posts! I lost some huge parts of an article, just because the virtual hosting machine went down between two updates of my work. Thus, offline editing would be a must have to avoid this kind of annoying situation.
I could have chosen to write in Word, LibreOffice or BBEdit. It would have been fine. Especially, I would have been able to use Antidote(R) software to have the right check spelling! Even so, copy and paste from Word could be a mess because some hidden characters are copied into the WordPress editor. LibreOffice may be different but – to be honest – I am not ready to install a full desktop software just to edit some articles. BBEdit is a nice text editor. It could be done with it. However, I would have to do all the editing for titles, bold, etc. by hand, while some other software could do that just by a mouse click. I did not buy a Mac to use it like a Minitel!
Result: All the three software can do it!
They connect to WordPress website (self-hosted or not), retrieve the data, list the posts. Then, you can edit them.
Desk is not easy to use because it is not focused on WordPress. It is a « simple » distraction-free text editor. It can be used for WordPress editing, but is mainly built for text editing in general: take small note, write a story, write articles,… Blogo and MarsEdit are dedicated to blog writing, especially WordPress. This is the reason why they seem to be more easy to use for this kind of tasks.
Criterion #2: More than a text editor, a content manager.
It is not an everyday task, but sometimes I like to go back to an old post to update some information, or to correct an error shown by one of my followers. This is the reason why the tool should be able to reload all the posts and pages published on my website.
I do not want to use one tool to create a new one and another to edit old ones. Also, I want to edit all the metadata linked to a post such as tags and keywords for categories, post status,… At last, the tool should synchronize all that stuff back and forth, in a seamless way. Ideally, I would like to edit the Custom Post I have, due to the use of dedicated plugins.
Ideally, the tool should be able to embed some third party plugins, well-known, and often used in WordPress, such as Yoast for Seo.
Result: MarsEdit is the more stable
Blogo and Desk can manage posts but also categories, tags,… To edit an old post with Desk, you will have first to create a new document, then switch to list on the right, choose your blog in the list and then select the post! It is clearly not created to be a content manager. Desk’s behavior is « new content-oriented » ; -). Blogo is far better to manage old post editing. However, the version that I have tested has some bugs! Sometimes conflicts appear. You cannot load the post that you want. MarsEdit is the strongest to manage content. It has the ability to edit all the kind of meta-data that WordPress is using. You can customize your own custom fields! (However, I did not try.)
Criterion #3: Preview is a WYSIWYG mode.
Even though I am able to live without that, it would be great to click and see the post in a preview mode, with all the CSS from the template applied. I believe it is possible to upload the draft and open a « Webkit » window to show the page (maybe I am too much optimistic…).
Result: Desk is pleasant to use. Blogo is nice. MarsEdit needs to improve itself.
Desk is a distraction-free editor. It is very trendy, and its use is pleasant. The background color is soft enough to smooth the screen contrast. The typo choice is also very good. The leading is clever. Blogo tries to belong to this trendy family while offering more text tools on the screen. The result is quite nice, and it works! MarsEdit is almost five years late: the text editor is simply the basic text window of OS X. You can change the typo and the background but you won’t reach the comfort of Desk or Blogo. If you increase the typo, you stay with the same leading. If you have to write a long article, you may not be comfortable.
Moreover, MarsEdit seems to add some HTML code into the text when you copy and paste text from another window. I use WhiteSmoke corrector because I am not an English native. When I make an « apply change » from WhiteSmoke to MarsEdit, it pastes some HTML code. When I do the same operation with Blogo, everything seems fine. It is an important fact: when you send it to WordPress, this HTML stays in the post and can conflict with your own CSS. Additionally, Blogo has a « remove formatting » feature very useful to correct the HTML inserted by MarsEdit ; -(
MarsEdit proposes an option to paste in « pure text » but it is useless with WhiteSmoke that launches itself the paste function.
Criterion #4: synchronize through my iMac, MacBook and iPad.
Okay, it seems weird, maybe. However, I use alternatively the three machines, depending the time and my location. If I start my post on my desktop Mac, I would like to open the post on the MacBook to edit and then open it on my iPad to attach some photos I have made during the day. It should be possible at least with the Yosemite version of OS X.
Result: Yes… and No!
Yes, you can switch from one computer to another. All three software are sold through the Apple Store. You can install it to your desktop and your portable Mac.
No, you cannot use it on your iPad. Sadly, the iOS version does not exist. As I said, the app that seems to synchronize the best is MarsEdit, then Desk, then Blogo.
Criterion #5: a media manager
One of the hard things to manage in WordPress, even in the latest version, is the media. It still takes too much time to upload and then to edit the image. Media uploading should happen «backstage» while I work. Sizing, cropping, to apply some simple effects should be doable through the tool. At least, it should be possible to launch image editor of my choice, make some changes and upload the new version of the image (while deleting the previous one).
Result: Blogo has understood our blogging needs but did not finish the work!
I am a bit disappointed by the three apps. Each of them can embed images into the text. However, none of them do it smoothly! Desk has a simple but functional way of doing: just drag and drop your image (but you cannot import it from a menu) and click on it to resize it quickly. That’s all.
MarsEdit embeds images. You can set the size when importing the image. That’s all. However, it connects to your Flickr account to get images, which sounds great.
Blogo goes far beyond. You can import an image, resize it, set quickly the title, set it to be featured. You can also apply some effects like Instagram would do (four effects, no more). But… But… you cannot see the image in the text stream! You get an ugly grey icon in place. When you click on it, you can see the image. When you preview, you can also see the image. Why? The work is not complete!
None of them let you open the WordPress Media Manager. If you want to insert an image that you have already uploaded, you can’t or you will have to edit your post in WordPress.
Criterion #6: comments management, please!
Comments management should be integrated into the tool. Comments belong to the post: it is the contribution of my readers. I haven’t too many comments to deal with right now, but it would be great to be able to manage that through the tool. Comments ask some time to edit the article, for example, to correct a misspelling. If comments are not managed from the tool, I will have to open the back office to read them and then go back to the desktop editor or worse, edit from WordPress back office. In a few weeks, it may be possible that I will stop to use the offline tool.
Result: Blogo handles with comment management perfectly.
Blogo is the only one to manage comments. And it does it well. This is great functionality. It would be great to get a notification when a new comment is awaiting moderation. There is also a little bug with the &rsquote used in French.
Comment management from Blogo can save you time. I wanted it, I have it!
Criterion #7: be connected and distraction-free!
Yes, I need both. When I am writing a long paper without the need to collect information elsewhere, a distraction-free screen is mandatory. Distraction free means that I can focus only on my writing, without seeing anything else (icons, other windows, etc.). The distraction-free mode should be ergonomic. I should be able to add style on my text without going back to normal mode (which is often the case).
Sometimes, I need to collect a lot of pieces of information while I am writing my post: check information, get images, look at websites, blogs, videos,… Then, the tool should facilitate the collection of data: good copy and paste, drag-and-drop images, snap URL, and so on.
Result: they can do it! Surprise, the most distraction-free is the less effective!
Desk is built to be a distraction-free editor but this mode opens a large window. On my 27″ iMac, the text editing is ineffective and useless. MarsEdit does its best and Blogo manages it quite well. A weak point: you cannot set yourself the width of the editor.
MarsEdit lets the preview window visible. You can drag it on the side you want. Blogo hides it. It is not a problem for me.
Time to make my choice.
As I am writing this post, I am also testing these three apps: Blogo, MarsEdit and Desk.
I switch from one to another, just to see if some weird things happen. However, as far as I am in my writing, I haven’t noticed too many bugs. None of these software added hidden characters. They load the text. I edit. I press to update. I close the app. I open my post in WordPress or one of two other apps: everything seems clean. Nevertheless, I get some problems with the synchronize function with Blogo.
I have made a table to put all my personal criteria and compare side by side the three software. When I am looking at this table, I feel embarrassed to decide. I can list far more numerous criteria! I should order them, make an evaluation, and so on. In fact, the best software will be the one that works!
I have to explain to you how I’ve finally chosen my tool.
In the beginning, I have been quite impressed by Desk. I like this trendy software, the minimalist interface, the clever management of typos. However, the way the software is built is not optimized for a WordPress use. I am sure Desk company knows that. Desk is a swiss tool to write texts. It is not WordPress-centered.
Then, I chose to continue with Blogo. However, because of its bugs on synchronization, I stopped to use it.
Then, I went to MarsEdit. And it is a real pleasure to use it when you’re a WordPress expert, when you like to manage your data as if you were in the WordPress back office. Though, two problems remain.
(1) The copy and paste from WhiteSmoke. I do not want to know who is technically guilty. I discovered WhiteSmoke put the HTML. Though, MarsEdit is unable to parse the text to remove this HTML code, which is a shame for a text processing software.
(2) The text editor itself is too simplistic and not enough readable. There is no attention made to offer a clean and comfortable window editor. The black and white, too high contrasted window is tiresome for the eyes. The native distraction-free of WordPress is better.
Finally, I would choose Blogo… maybe because of its clean and comfortable editing space.
However, I won’t use it until the synchronization with my WordPress website will remain buggy. While I am writing this last sentence, I lost text because the synchronization process is frozen and does not stop… until I quit the program!
I ask myself: how could you write a so long article just to say that you won’t use this kind of software? I know, I am dumb.
In fact, I will use one of it, but only when I really need to write, far from the Internet.
I will keep an eye on the three software to look at their improvement. I could appreciate the vivacity of the three companies behind these pieces of software. They are great. They will do it! So far, I will keep my BBEdit.