Ecto Plasmer

Nothing to see here, folks. I’m just testing out a couple of offline blog editors.

I like WordPress’ visual editor. I just wish it didn’t have a little black lump of chilled steel where a human heart should be.

(Assuming for the purposes of this post that WordPress’ visual editor were a human being. But if it were, I wouldn’t waste time making analogies about its insensitivity to my needs as a fellow person. I’d just start slapping it right away, and I wouldn’t let up until it promised to finally behave.)

It does what it says it does: when I italicize something, well, by God, it looks like it’s been italicized. But it also does things that it doesn’t say that it’ll do, namely: completely screw up any formatting that I’ve socked between DIV tags.

Given that every single day this month I’ve posted something with big, complicated styled DIV blocks, this problem is seriously dampening my √©lan.

Actually, it’s giving me a keen sense of nostalgia for my old blogger. The big deficiency of CWOBber (my AppleScript blogging app) was that once a new post was published, editing it was frustratingly complicated. It’s the same deal with these “iTunes Advent Calendar” entries. If I so much as open one of those posts up for editing, it’ll be grabbed by the Visual Editor, which will then attempt to “help” me by automatically reformatting everything I’ve already styled.

And the only way out of that one, dear friends, is to trash the entire block and rebuild it from scratch.

So at some point in this little pageant, I sighed, reflected once again that Mankind is born unto trouble just as surely as sparks fly upward, and unchecked the “Use Visual Editor” option in my user profile. I’m back where I was before.

I dunno where I’ll go from here. I’ve got Ecto — oh, did I mention that this post is being written with Ecto? Sorry, prolly should have mentioned that straight away — and I’m likin’ it. But I’ve also got MarsEdit (oooh, cool; when I clicked on Ecto’s “link” tool, it automatically inserted the URL I had in the Clipboard. Ten points to Ecto), with Qumana in as a dark-horse candidate. I’d never heard of it before and it’s possible that it’s an ad-insertion tool with a posting tool grudgingly included.

Well, let’s wrap things up with Ecto. Hey, let’s throw in a picture and see what happens:


Hmm. Not a dramatically good inning for Ecto. Here’s what I want a blog image tool to do:

  • Allow me to arbitrarily choose a file from my desktop. Ecto apparently needs the photo to already be in my iPhoto or Aperture library. Which is fine with photos of my beloved niece, but when I want to put an Ecto screenshot into the post, this behavior forces me to open a whole big app to perform a function that I don’t need it to do (take a one-use picture and incorporate it into my permanent library).
  • Resize the photo on the fly. I mean, come on people…this isn’t rocket surgery. The original file is 10 megapixels. This would seem to be somewhat overkill for a blog post. Can’t you automatically resize it to a width of 500 pixels? Or at least do the proper ratio and insert a set of scaled-down dimensions into the Image tag?
  • Oh, dear…and it appears that there isn’t an obvious way to end a bulleted list, either. Do I just click the tool icon again?
  • Nope, that just increases the indent level. Click on the “left justify” icon?
  • Nope. Okay, to the Help System I go.
  • “Help isn’t available for ecto.” Whee!
  • Why don’t I just click “post” and let this bulleted list be my last memory of this test of ecto.

Edited: Okay, I told you guys that this was my first post with Ecto. It turns out that Ecto does indeed have nearly all of the image tools I wanted to see. They’re just not as visible as I’d expect them to be. To resize a photo, you have to click on a tab in the Import panel to reveal a new pane.

The label of that important tab is “Upload.” There’s already an “Upload” button at the bottom of the panel, so I sure wasn’t expecting such a basic function to be hidden under what I logically concluded was a redundant tab.

You can also import arbitrary image files. But you have to do it through the Media Manager tool, which also allows you to resize.

So: I was wrong about this being a missing feature. But if you’ll excuse my use of a hockey metaphor, the person who designed Ecto’s UI deserve an assist on my mistake.

6 thoughts on “Ecto Plasmer

  1. Shane

    I don’t know if this happened to anyone else in but in GReader all of the inline formatting didn’t work. The characters for the tags wrapped the text, almost as if you had written &lt and &gt instead of . This goes for bold and italics. Worked fine on the webpage though.

    I don’t know if this is an Ecto thing or a GReader thing or the fact that you used the deprecated italic and bold tags or a devious combination of all 3. Just thought I’d share (because if there’s one thing you need, it’s more stuff to fix…)

  2. Shawn Levasseur

    I used ecto when I had a WordPress blog, but I find that that in WYSIWY(sorta)G mode a lot of things don’t translate to the blog all that well.

    I find working with the HTML mode much better. But don’t switch between the two modes much, as your fine tuning in HTML mode often goes away the second you do any WYSIWYG editing.

    I still use it from time to time, even though I’m now on Blogger, and prefer to use it’s online editor. If nothing else, it’s still a good backup tool for my blog posts.

  3. Ihnatko Post author

    @Shane – On Google Reader? Hmm. Looks just fine in my subscription (Firefox).

    And I’ll never figure why they deprecated the ital and bold tags. That’s the result of beard-stroking, methinks. You know what I mean…when a committee of people change into white robes and lean back in their chairs and Do What’s Best For The Future Of The Standard instead of doing the useful and practical thing. If I want italic, make it italic, dammit. Don’t make me type twenty characters’ worth of style instructions to do the job of one letter…!

    (When I examine the HTML generated by Ecto, I am cheered to note that when I call for Italicized text, it embeds explicit SPAN tags around the text that applies italics via CSS. Well-done, Ecto. Take twenty bucks out of the petty cash drawer and eat lunch at the Olive Garden today.)

    @Shawn – Hmm. I think I’ll add ecto to the usual rotation (along with the standard WP web-based editor) and see how things go. The bottom line is that I don’t know of any solid reason why blog editing shouldn’t by WYSIWYG. It just sort of rankles that I still have to look at a block of tagged Unicode. It’s not as bad as having to walk up to the TV to change the channel or adjust the volume, but it’s in that same category. One does it for the nth time and wonders just why one bothers to live in the 21st century.

    Any particular reason why you’re using Blogger?

  4. Shane

    @Andy, maybe it was all combining with a third element that I didn’t think of until just now – IE 6. It’s nasty I know, but in a locked down corporate Standard Operating Environment with hidden proxies, I have no choice. As for deprecation, I don’t have an issue with the decision as such because I can sort of (kinda, maybe, I think…) see the logic in moving towards a more XML-type format that provides greater freedom to the browser in how it chooses to implement the tag. However, I do object to having a one char tag (b) being changed to a 6 char tag (strong). For someone who likes to use italics and bold liberally sprinkled through text, it can be a right bugger.

    As for blog editors, it’s a shame that Mac doesn’t seem to have an equivalent of the Windows Live Writer. I have no particluar love for Microsoft but WLW is a slick piece of software that (I think) does everything you are looking for. It makes me wonder if the Live team really are a part of Microsoft, it’s that much of a pleasure to use.

  5. Shane

    …and it may well have been none of the above. I think it was actually an iGoogle Google Reader gadget problem. I’d forgotten that was how I had viewed this particular post. The Google Reader gadget is actually a pest as it doesn’t allow you to do any of the interesting things like “share” or “email”. I don’t know why I use it, now that I think about it.

    It still doesn’t explain how the CSS appeared as , but I’ll leave that one for greater minds than my own.

  6. Shawn Levasseur

    I’m using Blogger because I’m pinching pennies.

    Up until this past spring I had been using a hosting service for my blog and e-mail. My finances had been getting tighter and tighter and noticed that Blogger now allowed for using your own domain with a blog hosted on the Blogspot servers. Combine that with Google Apps for Your Domain allowing me to have my e-mail hosted by gMail, and I was able to say goodbye to my hosting bill.

    It isn’t as flexible and extensible as Movable Type or WordPress, but it’s good enough. For my purposes, CSS tweaks are pretty much all I needed to do to the template. The only real headache I encountered was adding Project Wonderful ad boxes, which required some kludgy alterations to the sidebar item code.

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