A few months ago Joi Ito was encouraging me to try using Ecto, a desktop blogging app written by Adriaan Tijsseling. I downloaded it but events got the better of me and I never installed it. Recent conversations with friends about Ecto and its compatibility with nearly every blogging platform out there reminded me that I’d not yet tried it, so I nabbed the latest build and, this time, remembered to actually install the thing.
Ecto is, simply put, excellent. I have set up almost all my blogs in it (apart from Blog-City, which doesn’t seem to play nicely with anyone else anyway) and can easily write posts for any of them all in the same app. Ecto’s wysiwyg editor makes writing posts simple – I can adjust font, text justification, add bulleted or numbered lists, indent, use blockquotes and insert links and images without ever needing to resort to code. Yet Ecto also allows HTML control freaks to perfect their code by providing an HTML view as well so if you want a minimalist post you can easily strip out any unwanted tags that have accidentally crept in. Having Ecto installed on the Mac means that it can make use of Apple’s ‘as you type’ spellchecker too, which is very handy for people like me whose spelling tends towards the random. You can also blog when you don’t have a connection and save your post for uploading later.
I have eight blogs set up in Ecto, and another five or six yet to sort out. Some of them I never post to anymore, some I post to irregularly, but I can now get at all of them using one single UI (except Blog-City, and the only reason I want that in Ecto is so that I can more easily copy old Chocolate and Vodka posts over to Blogware). I am hoping that this will mean I’ll post more, and more often, as I no longer need to swap between web-based admin pages.
Ecto is also far more user-friendly than a lot of blog backends. One of the reasons that I used to dislike Movable Type was because the admin pages aren’t very nice, and that same reason was one very large part of why I moved from Blog-City to Blogware earlier in the year and why I slated the Blogger redesign. The blogging user experience is in general still lacking, with many tools seemingly created for the benefit of developers rather than end users – notable exceptions to this are Typepad and Blogware. Ecto overcomes all UI problems by sidestepping the need to use them at all. The only reason I now have to visit Blogger, my various MT blogs or Blogware are for functionalities that Ecto can’t give me, such as comment spam management or viewing visitor stats.
I can see great potential for Ecto as a business tool too. MT is an obvious choice for businesses wanting to set up blogs internally or externally, but the UI can be very intimidating for non-techies. One option is to design a wrapper for MT that disguises the nuts and bolts by providing a more intuitive set of admin pages. Ecto, on the other hand, provides a simple solution for smaller businesses that can’t afford to have a custom-built system installed. It is just like a stripped-back version of Word, using instantly recognisable icons and a wysiwyg editor that most newbie bloggers would find comfortable to use and which businesses will be able to install without a massive outlay (licences are less than £10).
If you haven’t tried Ecto yet, give it a shot, even if you have just the one blog. The offline editing and simple interface are well worth a tenner.