Millions of people keep regular Web logs, or blogs, which document life, industries and random events in a chronological fashion typically...

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Millions of people keep regular Web logs, or blogs, which document life, industries and random events in a chronological fashion typically from newest to oldest. And most of those millions post their latest entries through a Web page that gives them relatively limited control over formatting, incorporation of images and other media, and layout.

Standalone blog software has appeared to provide more power to prolific and sophisticated bloggers who may maintain several blogs and have complicated ideas about how to add content.

These programs let you style and format blog entries with as much ease as in a text-editing program. Instead of learning HTML, the underlying language of the Web for formatting, you select text and click a Bold button, just as in TextEdit or Microsoft Word. It’s also much more trivial to add and upload media and resize images.

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Three Mac OS X programs meet my test for ease and function: MarsEdit, ecto and Bubbler. Bubbler and ecto are available in Windows versions, too; Bubbler is still in beta but worth an advance look. MarsEdit and ecto work with most blog publishing software and hosting services, while Bubbler works only with a companion server or service.

I use ecto every day to post to several blogs that I maintain, and it’s a good hybrid of Web editor, layout program and word processor (ecto.kung-foo.tv/ $17.95). I carry out most of my posting in a layout window in which I can see formatting as I apply it. An HTML view lets me look at and tweak the underlying code if necessary.

ecto allows me to drag in photos from the Finder, resize them and upload them. This makes integrating images into my blog posts a snap, and it is a great improvement over trying to manipulate text and graphics via Web-based posting forms. (Newer blogging servers and services can simulate some of this behavior through a Web page. However, it may be easier to integrate media via Web posting in the future.)

MarsEdit is very similar to ecto’s HTML-only view (ranchero.com/marsedit/ $24.95). It’s a solid program but doesn’t have a layout mode. It inserts HTML tags in the view in which you edit items and uses a separate preview window to show you what it will look like. Its key advantage is that it is free to purchasers of NetNewsWire Pro, an RSS news aggregator.

Bubbler is an entirely different animal that matches its unique client software with its own Web server. Bubbler lets you post all manner of content, work in teams on the same blog, and change the entire layout of your site with a single click. The trick is that its Web server creates all pages from a database on the fly. There’s no such thing as static content in Bubbler.

One of Bubbler’s unique features is “court reporter” mode. If you’re taking notes during a meeting or live event, each time you hit return — even after typing just a few words — that item is instantly available with a timestamp on your blog.

Bubbler’s pricing is along the lines of other hosted services: $4.99 per month for basic features or $9.99 per month for more control and options. The server software can be purchased, too, at rates from $30 to $100 per simultaneous user based on total users.


Jef Raskin’s passing:

The father of the Macintosh died last Saturday, and I’m not talking about Steve Jobs. In 1979, Jef Raskin brought together the concepts and people to build the Macintosh computer, which he named.

Raskin was an artist and musician who found his way into computer science by being bold enough to imagine that a computer might be a tool or a means instead of an end. More impressive, he started writing detailed academic papers and lecturing on the topic in the late 1960s when most computers were behemoths with text terminal or teletypewriter interfaces.

The Macintosh project escaped Raskin in 1981 when Steve Jobs became interested and changed its direction somewhat and increased funding and staff. Raskin left Apple Computer the next year and fought a rear-guard action to secure his place in history ever since.

While Raskin didn’t ship the Macintosh, there’s no question as to its paternity: He’s the father of the Macintosh and one of the parents of modern computing. His work since Apple focused on tearing down even more walls that kept people from using computers as effective, creative tools.

Always a humanist in the midst of technology, Raskin died at 61, but his foundations will persist indefinitely.

Glenn Fleishman and Jeff Carlson write the Practical Mac column for Personal Technology and about technology in general for The Seattle Times and other publications. Send questions to Fleishman at gfleishman@seattletimes.com. More columns at www.seattletimes.com/columnists