June 28, 2009

Ecto 3: A Brief Review for Blogger Users

I have been playing with the Mac version of Ecto 3 for a couple weeks now. After investing several hours into not only using the application but also reading all available documentation, I thought I'd share my thoughts. I've been using Ecto with Blogger, so this review will be most useful to those of you with Blogger blogs. However, those using other platforms may still find something of value.

I came to Ecto after reading many glowing reviews. Again and again, Ecto was described as the best desktop blog editor available for the Mac. I downloaded the 21-day trial and have been putting Ecto through its paces.

What Do I Like?

The main reason to consider a tool like Ecto is that it makes it easier to write blog posts when one is not connected to the Internet. For me, this is not a big deal because I rarely do this. However, I can see how valuable this would be if I was traveling regularly. In such a situation, I am fairly sur01328_cannonbeach_2560x1600.jpge I would want an application like this.

The clean interface has grown on me, and I do like the Rich Text editor. The built in integration of Amazon and Flickr (now that I've managed to get the Flickr part working) are really nice touches. Not only is it easy to add my own photos from Flickr, but I can search all of Flickr by photo tags. Some of the image setting features are nice (i.e., being able to specify margins, float settings, and padding around the image). They do take awhile to learn, but it is clear that they are more powerful than I initially thought.

I also like how easily Ecto handles multiple blogs. It allows me to set general settings and blog-specific settings. Users with multiple blogs will find this valuable.

What Do I Not Like?

One of the first problems I encountered with Ecto was that there does not appear to be any way to replicate Blogger's post template functions. I have this set up in Blogger to do two things. First it contains the code to allow peek-a-boo posts. Since I can find no way to get Ecto to do this, I'd have to add the code manually to every post. Second, it contains the code to include the reminder to subscribe to my RSS feed at the bottom of every post. You'll see that I added that manually at the bottom of this post, but the point is, I had to do it manually.


Aside from the Flickr integration mentioned above, I am not crazy about how Ecto handles images. While it couldn't be any easier to get an image into a post, positioning it where one wants it is an entirely different matter. Of course, one can always move the image to the desired location in the source HTML, but being able to dragging it to the proper location in the text editor would be so nice. When one moves the picture around, the text which was repositioned to accommodate it, does not always return to where it was and has to be adjusted. I was also surprised that there weren't any options to add effects to images. Live Writer does this well, and this seems like a major oversight for Ecto not to include anything along these lines.

The primarily flaw with Ecto 3 concerns the documentation. This is not the most intuitive application, and the "extensive documentation" the developers claim is built into the Help menu is anything but extensive. Although Ecto 3 has been out for roughly a year, virtually all of the supplemental how-to material I could find on the Internet was based on an older version with a very different interface. In other words, it really wasn't of any value.

Ecto does have a support forum, but most of the entries you'll find there are old. Those providing the support do not seem to be particularly responsive. Worst of all, each time I tried to start a new thread to ask one of my many questions that had not previously been asked, I was treated to an error message.

Blogger-Specific Problems

Unfortunately, Ecto 3 suffers from at least one problem which appears to be specific to Blogger: extra spacing between paragraphs will appear unless one changes a setting in Blogger. This sounds like a minor problem except that as soon as one changes the setting in Blogger (i.e., Convert Line Breaks = No), all posts written prior to using Ecto will have their spacing messed up. If this is a new blog with only a handful of posts, this could be fixed fairly easily. For established blogs, it cannot realistically be fixed.

What this means is that one is likely to be stuck with Ecto's extra paragraph spacing on Blogger (you are seeing what that looks like in this post). Only you can decide whether this is a deal-breaker for you.

Although I am not 100% sure that this problem is specific to Blogger, I will mention it here as well because I have not seen it reported elsewhere. Whenever I publish with Ecto, I receive an error message about invalid HTML. It appears that ecto is somehow pulling text from my RSS feed and trying to add it to the end of the post. Fortunately, it will work if I just hit "ignore," but nothing I have tried will stop this error from occurring.

Lastly, it does not appear that there is any way to implement Technorati tags on Blogger blogs with ecto.


As much as I want to like Ecto 3 and as often as I keep coming back to play around with it, I have a hard time recommending it to those who use Blogger and are not just starting their blogs (so that the paragraph spacing being wrecked on previous posts would not be an issue). All other issues aside, I think I'd be tempted to stick with it if it wasn't for that problem, especially if I regularly wanted to write posts while not connected to the Internet.

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