January 03, 2004

SharpMT 2.1 (Beta 1)

Posted at 02:30 AM Reviews

This latest interim-release of SharpMT provides some great new features.

  • Insert an image link for uploaded images. This works much like the WinAmp and MediaPlayer plugin for making a "Listening to:" string. Previously, the user had to upload the image then manually type in a link to the uploaded image (If you could remember the name that long! ;)) This is an excellent upgrade, though one wonders why it wasn't in an earlier release.
    That said, and being a greedy bastard, it would be nice to see the "upload" extended to a more powerful "insert" allowing the user to type in a URL and (here comes the bastard part) better yet, to browse a server via FTP. I've got nearly 1500 images already on my server. I don't need to be duplicating those because it's easier to find them on my hard drive.

  • Custom Tags Probably a nice feature for lots of folks. I type fast enought that I don't often remember to use CTRL key combos for inline text editing creation. I doubt I'll ever use this one.

  • Updated Interface -- this is by far the best new feature. It allows a fair bit of user-configurability for the edit space. The Title, Category and Excerpt fields can be minimised to maximise screen real-estate. There's also a resize bar separating the Body and Extended fields which can be used to set the proportion of editing space for each field. You can reduce the size of either edit box to 0 lines, thereby maximising the space available to the other. As a text editor, the inflexibility of SharpMT was one of its weakest areas, and this new UI is a vast improvement, putting it in tight competition with Zempt's flexibility.

    There are some bugs to work out. For example: When the Excerpt field is maximised, pull the resize bar down until the Extended Entry edit box disappears. Now Minimize the Excerpt field. Notice that the Extended Entry box reappears. That's not so bad, given that the box reappears because the resize bar doesn't move. However it would be better if the resize bar recognised the intent of the user to create more screen real-estate and therefore re-aligned itself to keep the Extended box from reappearing.

    The real bug occurs, though, after the user drags the resize bar down to minimise the Extended Entry. If the user chooses to Restore the excerpt at this time, the resize bar still does not re-align itself with the new Excerpt configuration. However, now the resize bar is in limbo land: it cannot be selected at all. The user must once again minimize the Excerpt field, move the resize bar out of the way, then Restore the excerpt field.

    I'm sure Randy will have that fixed in the next Beta release.

  • New Draft-Level Default -- If you have not selected "Use Server Time" as the default "Authored On" time, then SharpMT will stamp the "Authored On" time of any newly created drafts with the time of creation. This is an improvement for offline blogging as the creation time of a draft is more often than not a closer approximation of its completion than the next time I'm able to log onto the net and publish it. It'll keep your blog from looking like you wrote 300 pages of text in a couple minutes anyway.

    I'm not being greedy, I think, when I say what I'd really like to see here is something more like an email outbox. That is, I would like to leave my "Post Status" set to Publish. If I'm offline when I click "Post to Server", then SharpMT would stamp the "Authored On" time as the post time. The post would then be saved to the Outbox where it will be cued for batch posting the next time I log on.

  • Links Window It's nice to add the date/time stamp an entry was posted to the details box. I hardly ever look there though.

    I'd love to be able to filter the links based on category though, as in MT.

  • Spell Checking -- Randy's lobbying for the bucks to include one of these. I never use spell checkers in web editors. Mi spelings gud enuf allready ayund thuh spel chequers ar uzualy awkwerd oar completally uzer-vengfull cuz thay kumplain aboot stooped theengs. Then again, if $200 gets Randy a good one, perhaps I'll pitch in.

There's one feature I really hope Randy considers for the next ujpgrade: Save the blog state along with the entry. Currently, SharpMT saves the category IDs, but not the Blog ID. This gets really confusing for bloggers who post to multiple blogs while working offline for extended periods. (Like when bicycling across China, though it was often tougher getting a connection in Australia) It would also make batch uploading of open drafts a much safer operation. I don't dare batch upload presently because I'm always afraid I'll have one errant blog entry open.

Even without that, the editing UI upgrade alone makes this Beta worth installing.


Posted by Patrick at January 3, 2004 02:30 AM