This is my third article today and I was contemplating why I was posting so much this afternoon and the answer surprised me — because it’s fun! I have created a toolbox of software that makes publishing to my blog quick and easy.
I thought it might be helpful to explain the tools behind mashby.com, so below are the four tools that make up my blogging toolbox.
At the heart of my tool set is the Content Management System (CMS) that I use to manage all the content on this blog. The software I use is called WordPress.
I’ve written before about how wonderful WordPress is in an article entitle Alchemy In Action, so there’s no need to to repeat myself. However, I will add that since I wrote that over a year ago, WordPress has just gotten better-and-better. It’s an amazing blogging platform and it’s what allows all the other tools I use to really shine.
As great as WordPress is, I find that I prefer to create my articles in an off-line editor versus creating the posts through a web browser. My tool of choice is MarsEdit by Red Sweater software.
Do I have to use an offline editor? Of course not, but there’s something special about being able to save drafts of posts, or easily format images in software written specifically for the Mac. There are a bevy of features, such as a robust WYSIWYG editor and the ability to have a perfect preview of your article before you publish, but the following are the key features for me:
- Ability to save drafts — I tend to write in fits and starts due mostly to interruptions. With MarsEdit I can save an article I’m working on and then finish it later.
- Easy Image Posting — Posting images is as easy as dragging and dropping directly into the article. The image will upload when the article is published, but I can position it and see what it looks like in preview prior to publishing. Brilliantly easy and this feature alone is worth the price of the software.
- External Editors — I’ll go into detail on this one in the next section, but when I really need to focus, this one little trick is worth it’s weight in gold.
- Support For Multiple Blogs — I actually use MarsEdit for multiple sites, so having one tool to publish from is a big help.
Sometimes I need to drown out some of the distractions on my desktop. E-mail, instant messengers, not to mention Twitter can make my desktop a bit of a minefield. So when I need to focus just on the text of what I’m writing, I turn to WriteRoom, by Hogsbay Software.
It may seem like a simple tool, which it is, but it can make a big impact on helping you to focus. Everything drops away behind a solid background and all that remains is the simple text and cursor. The only thing I can focus on is typing. In the immortal words of Stimpy, “Joy!”
Thankfully MarsEdit supports external editors, so I simply select “File Edit in WriteRoom” and I’m now in typing bliss. When I’m done, or ready to do some fine tuning with links and images, I simply hit escape, and save and close WriteRoom and everything imports back into MarsEdit.
The process is actually so smooth, you’d think that the two programs were written by the same developer.
Last but certainly not least in my toolbox of blogging must-haves is Skitch.
Skitch is a unique imaging tool that lives directly in your title bar. When you need to grab an image, you simply take a quick screenshot and drop it into MarsEdit. It literally couldn’t be easier.
If you need to do some editing, you can resize, crop, add text, or graphics and of course name the file. It’s intuitive and easy to use and best of all — it’s free!
I use Skitch all the time, not just for blogging and I really wish these guys would ask for money. I would happily pay for it and I want to ensure that the program stays around. It’s not a replacement for Photoshop, but for 99% of us image editing mortals, it’s more than enough for what you need.
So there you have it. My complete arsenal of tools and how I use them. Hopefully some of what I shared may be of use to you and may assist you in finding an easier way to manage, edit and publish to your blog.
To show you how all of these tools work together, I threw together a quick screencast so you can see each tool in action. Enjoy.
How I Blog from Michael Ashby on Vimeo.