I’m Shocked

Both my previous post and an update I did to it went through properly to my server. The Reaper didn’t kill either. I don’t dare hope that either pair.com has changed things to allow XML-RPC to function properly or MT3.1 changed things enough that it’s no longer a problem. More likely this is more of the same thing I’ve been seeing for the last several weeks. Sometimes the posting works. Sometimes it doesn’t.

I might let myself have a little bit of hope though. Ecto really is a great piece of software and I really would like to use it.

Movable Type 3.1 & Ecto 2

I upgraded to MT3.1 last night. I haven’t really done anything with it other than check out all the different interface pages. Since I had already been using MT3 for several months, 3.1 did not seem like that radical of an update. Obviously its support for dynamic pages is pretty huge but since as far as the interface went, that was relegated to 3 radio buttons on the Templates page it didn’t appear significant.

The subcategories looks pretty cool too. Very simple interface. As much as it sometimes pains me, I don’t use multiple categories, I don’t think I’ll get into the whole subcategory thing. At least not with this blog. It could definitely be helpful, I wouldn’t rule it out for the future.

I’m typing this up on yet another ecto 2 beta. I don’t have much confidence that it will get properly published. I think that The Reaper will probably kill it. And since I can’t reliably use it with my host, I probably won’t use it at all. It’s really too bad because Adriaan really does have a nice program.

I had never used ecto before going into this beta. I didn’t really come with any expectations—though I had read lots of people mention how much like liked it, so I figured it would be pretty good. And it really is. For me the two best things are the database and the spell check. Maybe I’m not very demanding with my publishing needs, but it’s true. I love the fact that I can search out old entries and paste the URLs to them into newer posts. And the fact that ecto points out my spelling errors immediately after I type them is a god-send. Everything else is icing.

I don’t need it to do a ton of things. Probably the next biggest thing that I do that’s a bit of a pain is deal with images. That’s something that on one hand ecto handles nicely, but on the other I don’t feel that it goes far enough. After you drag and drop a picture into your editing window, you can click the link that is makes to change how it works.

There are a lot of great options: It’ll make thumbnails of large pictures for you. You can set the directory it should be uploaded to on your server. There’s even a template where you can exactly format the code that will be generated. This is what I would like to have changed. I love digging into advanced features but I also want things to be quick and easy whenever possible. It would be great if ecto would allow you to save various code templates in the image window and access them like a favorites or presets pulldown menu in many programs. So in my perfect world of ecto, I might have one favorite image template that is setup with HTML4 code for one particular blog that I might write for. Another template for XHTML and a third with Markdown code. Since the idea behind ecto is that you can write for and publish to all your weblogs, it should support all the different format possibilities at once. Even with those basic code differences, it would be nice to have one template for code when a thumbnail is generated and another for when the image is already the proper size.

In this way I imagine that embedding pictures into your posts with ecto would involve a drag and drop, a click to bring up the image menu, and then a selection from a favorites menu and click ok. Fast, simple, easy. That’s all. Sure you might have to make a couple adjustments once in a while, or you might want to type something more extensive in the “alt” field but it should be really quick. Don’t get me wrong, as it exists the image window is very easy to use and you can set it up one time for HTML4 and the next time for XHTML but there’s a bit of typing and clicking involved in that. I’d just like to see it taken to the next level of functionality.

After that my list of changes get into nit-picky things. When you’re working in an editing window, there’s no immediate indication of which weblog you’re typing an entry for. Ecto offers support for multiple blogs on multiple servers. Each server is known as an account. There’s a pulldown menu immediately below the “Title” and “Keywords” field which shows the account, but not the individual weblog on that server. So in my case it shows “idmonsters.com” but it’s not until I click on that menu and drag over to the sub-menu that I see “Monsters from the Id”. Minor point, but again, since it’s supporting multiple weblogs, it would be a good idea to make things very clear and easy for everyone.

There are a lot of great things which I think many users would find extremely helpful. You can copy your Movable Type template (or a simplified version of it) into the “Preview Template” window. That in conjunction with ecto grabbing your CSS file from your website allow you to have a decent idea of what your text will look like while you’re typing. Adriaan has setup a tags menu with all the most important HTML tags and it’s fully editable so you can add your own tags and assign hot keys. This is actually another area I thought he should modify a bit. Again with the idea that different weblogs might be done different ways, I suggested supporting either different sets of tags menus so that when you’re working in an HTML4 weblog it brings up a set of HTML4 tags versus an XHTML weblog with XHTML tags. Or by adding in menu dividers, you could group appropriate tags together. So for example, the first set of tags is XTHML and after the divider they’re all Markdown.

If it weren’t for the fact that my host kills off the MT XML-RPC script for consuming too many resources on the server, I would definitely be using ecto. Though I would definitely continue to bug Adriaan to make the changes I suggested. 😉 Since I can’t post reliably, I probably won’t. And since the new BBEdit 8 has a much improved spell check, one of my two major needs is satisfied right there. I’ll probably stick with BBEdit until my host lets the XML-RPC scripts run properly or until I switch hosts—neither of which will happen anytime soon.