By Glen Stansberry
Desktop blogging tools can benefit designers-bloggers in a number of ways. They provide extra functionality that can significantly speed up the blogging process for both newbies and professionals.
One of the main benefits of using a desktop client is the ability to comfortably write a post offline, and publish it later. Many clients also have a scheduled post feature, so you can define what time you would like to publish your articles. Some editors provide a spell checker, drafts saver, remote publishing and WYSIWYG-editor with advanced formatting options such as inserting media or structuring the post — they may be hard to deal with using standard online blogging-engines.
Let’s take a look at 15 desktop blogging editors which can speed up the blogging process. Some are free and some cost a few dollars, but in the end all of these editors can significantly improve your workflow, regardless of your skills.
Windows Live Writer (Windows)
Windows Live Writer is an impressive blog editor, and is probably the cleanest one. It provides the familiar user interface that one would expect from usual Microsoft applications. Writing a blog entry with intuitive features like a rich text editor and spell checker is easy. Users also have the ability to quickly add images and other media.
The distinctive feature that puts Live Writer ahead of the competition is that you can can add plugins to the editor. For instance, there are plugins that seamlessly integrate with Flickr and Facebook photos; word counting as well as many further features are available as well.
Live Writer is useful for people who don’t necessarily want to mess with HTML and just want to quickly write a blog post, but it’s also great for more advanced users with the ability to add specific features with plugins.
The main advantage of MarsEdit lies in its ability to integrate with other text editors. The client integrates cleanly with BBEdit, SubEthaEdit, TextMate, or TextWrangler. It has a simple yet robust user interface. Users can define powerful markup macros to insert commonly used snippets of code. The tool works with WordPress, Blogger, TypePad, Movable Type, LiveJournal, Drupal, and Vox. You can also quickly scan your Flickr library, then insert an image into your blog post with the click of a button.
Another nifty feature is the preview functionality. The tool allows you to build a template to match your blog, then let MarsEdit’s live preview show you how your posts will look before you publish them. Extensive AppleScript support makes it possible to add further features. Price: $29.95. A free 30-days-trial-version is available as well.
BlogDesk is a robust, multi-language blog editor that supports all of the popular blogging platforms except Blogger. If that isn’t a problem for you, then you’ll love the unique and intuitive features BlogDesk provides. The Image Wizard allows you to upload and edit pictures, without editing images in image processing applications. You can also define frequently used phrases and keywords to speed up your writing time, much like TextExpander (Mac).
Links can be easily inserted and edited. If you link to local files (such as MP3 or PDF), BlogDesk will automatically upload them. Dictionaries in 14 languages are available for the integrated spell checker. Posts already published can be edited afterwards and deleted directly from the server. In the Notebook you can insert and rearrange text before you actually use it in your weblog entry. For your convenience you can create multiple categories where text can be saved separately.
Zoundry Raven (Windows)
Zoundry Raven is a free advanced WYSIWYG-blog editor with XHTML editing, drag and drop from browser-functionality. It also provides the Unicode (UTF-8) support, quicklinks and a template-based preview. Users can manage multiple blogs online and offline and use a built-in indexer that allows to see posts by blogs, links, tags and images.
Zoundry Raven supports Blogger, TypePad, MovableType, MetaWeblog and LiveJournal. The tool is available as a portable application which you can use on your flash/thumb drive. Finally, you can use Raven to create and modify your WordPress Pages just like any other blog post and set WordPress tags as well as import tags from all of your posts.
It is worth mentioning that Zoundry Raven also has an integrated HTML validator built into the code view and includes a publish menu to finalize your decisions, tags, trackbacks, etc.
Ecto is one of the most popular blog editors, and has earned the respect of some top bloggers like Darren Rowse. It’s a powerful tool with all typical features (Rich text editor, spell check, draft saving, etc.), but it also allows you to extend the functionality by using plugins, much like Windows Live Writer. Amazon’s affiliate scheme seamlessly integrates in Ecto and makes it easier for you to link to a particular Amazon product page.
Ecto also has support for Flickr and del.icio.us. In addition, ecto also lists the tags you have used with del.icio.us and Flickr, so that you can reuse them for your blog entries. The only drawback is that the software costs $17.95, but you can try it out for free for 21 days.
w.bloggar is a professional blog editor for advanced users who are fairly technologically savvy. It’s snappy and has a lot more advanced features built-in than Live Writer. While the interface isn’t as intuitive or elegant as Live Writer and some of the others, it’s a useful little editor.
With w.bloggar you can save posts locally for further publishing, import text files, post to many blogs and ping to Weblogs.Com, blo.gs, Technorati and ping-o-matic. Also, you can download a portable version that you can take with your anywhere on a USB drive. Perfect for bloggers on the go!
Thingamablog (Window, Mac, Linux)
Thingamablog is a hybrid of a blog editor and RSS-feed reader. It’s not quite as polished as other blog editors, but is great for someone needing a cross-platform blog editor. Setting up the blog is a bit cumbersome for the first time, but not unbearable. You’ll need to have Java Virtual Machine downloaded and running on your machine to work.
Thingamablog has a few advanced features that are different from other blog editors. You can import RSS feeds, and you can post to your blog while reading your RSS feeds. It’s a nice program for bloggers who typically write news-related posts. The editor also allows publishing remotely to your blog via email and saving entries as drafts. Thingamablog is released under the terms of the GPL.
Qumana (Windows, Mac)
Qumana has an interesting feature that isn’t found in other blogging platforms. If you are interested in joining an ad network for your blog, Qumana has a built-in ad network (Qads) that allows you to insert ads into your post.
You can use Qumana when you are offline. Save your blog posts to your hard drive and upload whenever you like. Useful for bloggers on the move. Apart from standard features the editor has a handy little feature called the DropPad, which adds drag-n-drop capability to snag links, pictures and text to a desktop pad. Qumana is very intuitive and is definitely an option worth consdering for both newbies and advanced bloggers.
Scribefire is quite different from the other blog editors as it is a Firefox extension. When you want to blog about the page you are currently viewing, hit “F12″ and the scribefire extension pops up in the lower-half of your browser. You can blog about a specific web page without having to leave the browser. You can also click an icon to move blogging frame into a separate tab, if you’re going to need some more space.
Scribefire isn’t as feature-rich as an editor like Ecto or BlogDesk, but it is fast and easy, and works well for everybody in a hurry.
If you are a power blogger, BlogJet is definitely a solution worth considering. While the application costs around $60, it manages to combine a number of useful tools in one clean, intuitive interface. It supports most blogging services, integrates with RSS-readers and also allows you to use keyword-shortcuts (like BlogDesk).
BlogJet cares about typography: it automatically replaces quotes and dashes with proper ones as you type. If you are on the road and there is no Internet-connection, or if you want to finish your post later, save it as draft. Then you can get back to finishing and publishing it. The tool also has Flickr and YouTube support, Spell Checker, Word Counter and Blog Statistics, Post Management and Searching. And BlogJet can automatically insert the title and the artist of the song playing in iTunes, Winamp or Windows Media Player.
If you are looking for a free alternative, stick with BlogDesk. It has almost the same features and is free. However, if a beautiful, intuitive design is important to you, then give BlogJet a shot. You won’t be disappointed.
Flock (Mac, Windows, Linux)
Flock is a web-browser that has a built-in blogging tool. The blogging tool allows you to blog directly from the page, similarly to Scribefire, with a keyboard shortcut or a mouse click. However, the interface on Flock is a bit nicer, and has a slightly more seamless integration than in case of Scribefire and Firefox. Also you can use the web clipping tool to save and store clips of information in your browser.
Flock is an optimal tool for simple bloggers who don’t need a lot of bells and whistles that come with other blogging editors.
On the surface, Post2Blog appears to be a very simple blogging tool. If you dig under the hood for a bit, you’ll notice that this lightweight blogging tool has some pretty nifty features. You can quickly add amazon affiliate links to your posts. It even has plugins for Firefox and Internet Explorer for quickly blogging a web page.
The tool also has a “Portable Mode” support, integration with RSS Bandit and Sharp Reader — you can post selected items from these RSS readers using Post2Blog plugin. You can also add Technorati, Del.icio.us, Buzzwords, 43 Things tags to your posts and earn money using “Insert Amazon Link” feature.
The only drawback is that the interface isn’t as elegant or intuitive as other Windows blogging platforms, and the tool isn’t supported by the developers.
Bleezer (Mac, Windows, Linux)
Bleezer is a light piece of software that has all standard features as well some advanced functionality which one would expect from robust editors. Spell checking, pinging services, uploading files and FTP capabilities are available. It’s a handy little tool that is quick and efficient. Again, it doesn’t have the beautiful design that BlogJet has, but it’s free and works smoothly. Bleezer is an optimal choice for advanced bloggers who can appreciate the advanced functionality that the software provides.
Using Bleezer you can work with every blogging service (even Blogger). You can also create custom markup by defining your own key strokes for custom HTML markup. As usual, you can also compose posts offline and post them when you want to. Windows and Linux users should extract the .zip file into a directory and double click the .jar file to run. You will need Java Virtual Machine.
Further Desktop Publishing Tools
Let’s take a look at the brief overview of further desktop blogging tools which may be also useful:
- AirPress (cross-plattform, Adobe Air)
- SharpMT (Mobile, Windows Mobile 5/6, PocketPC)
harpMT is an offline blogging tool that is designed for MovableType-based systems. There are three versions of the application: desktop, PocketPC, and SmartPhone, all of which share the same file format for offline drafts. The application uses text boxes for post entry: it was a design goal to not support WYSIWYG. It also includes the infrastructure to support plugins and XML-RPC calls that were designed to inteface with MT or TypePad. Freeware.