Windows Live Writer (Beta)

The news was all over the blogosphere yesterday: Microsoft has released a universal blog editor for Windows Live, but it also works with most of the other popular blogs.

I initially had two reactions:

  1. Ick, it’s Microsoft. Is it really going to be that good and do I want yet another piece of bloatware on my PC?
  2. Well, it is from the Onfolio folks (recently acquired by Microsoft) and J.J. Allaire, the guy who co-invented ColdFusion, which is what I use to make my living. I should try it.

In my quest to find a tool to use for my off-line blogging needs, I was starting to run out of options. Could this be the tool I want?

Windows Live Writer, like many other universal blog editors, makes it easy to set up your blog accounts by auto-detecting a lot of the information it needs directly from your blog. Unlike some others, however, it allows you to set up an account without a net connection. You just need to provide more information. Of all the editors I’ve tried for off-line blogging, this is really the only one to do that.

Another nice feature is Writer can get CSS information from your blog, so that the posts, as you’re writing them, are in the font, color, and even layout as it will appear on your blog. Even better, the “Web Preview” feature allows you to see your article in the context of your actual blog. Obviously you need to have been connected recently to have this data, and on this blog there were a few glitches with block-box objects overlaying each other, but it’s otherwise very slick. There’s a “normal” view that doesn’t use your blog’s styles and, for those who prefer raw HTML, an HTML view. All are accessible via hotkeys.

There are your typical WYSIWYG features and a spell checker, of course. Images are as easy as drag-and-drop or a file dialog. There’s also an option to insert a Windows Live map, but you need to be on-line for that. (Since I’m interested in off-line blogging, I’ll skip over that.) The date/time can be manipulated, for those of us who like to pre-publish articles, and settings specific to your blog are available (e.g., allow comments/trackbacks, trackback URIs, keywords, etc.). You can define one or more ping services to use whenever you publish a post. If you use Internet Explorer and install the included Windows Live toolbar, you can use the “Blog This” feature to write about something you’ve encountered on-line. Even better, Windows Live Writer allows you to define templates to use for different resources.

Windows Live Writer is from Microsoft and is ostensibly a beta product, so it’s not without some glitches. I’ve mentioned that the Web Preview feature had a couple of problems (although other CSS layouts may not have any issues) and if your category list is longer than can be displayed on the screen there’s no way to scroll. A minor quibble is that the spell checker doesn’t offer an “ignore all” option, for those non-words that I don’t want to add to my custom dictionary.

I kind of hate to say it, but this is a very well-built product. I think it’s exactly what I’ve been looking for and, when they fix the problem with the category list, it will be perfect for my needs.

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Wrathchild

Geek. Gamer. Dad. Husband. Beer drinker. Football fan. Blogger.

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