Windows Live Writer

Per a recommendation from Jon Galloway, I have decided to give Windows Live Writer a chance. I’ve evaluated several blog editors recently and nearly all of the products were intuitive enough to simply download and take for a test drive. Live Writer met this expectation as well. Thus, this review truly is an account of my first impression of the application.

The online introduction to Live Writer stated it was a “great client for Windows Live Spaces but also works with other weblogs including Blogger, LiveJournal, TypePad, WordPress (and many others).” Since I’m using WordPress, that’s really all I needed to know prior to promptly downloading and installing the software and creating of my first post, this one, which took less than ten minutes get underway.

Live Writer auto-detected nearly everything (type of blog, upload locations, etc) from blog URL which I provided. It was a snap. Where I think the ball was dropped (and maybe I am just missing the feature) is the ability to download past posts. If one is going to convert to this tool, they are going to want a local copy some, if not all, of their archives. [ 1 ]

The editor is rich. The tool bar is complete with formatting options which include strikethrough and font color. I call these out because they should be considered standard but are not present with all tools. One option which was surprisingly missing was subscript. [ 2 ]

The editor has four layouts: Normal, Web Layout, Web Preview and HTML Code.

  1. Normal is what you get with most blog editor. It is a simple representation of the post’s layout using HTML formatting tags and the tool’s standard style sheet.
  2. Web Layout, on the other hand, uses the associated site’s style sheet. In this case, the “Weblog style” from JohnnyCoder.com was seamlessly downloaded and used for the editor.
  3. Web Preview is a non-editable view of how the post will look once published. Whereas the Web Layout display only the “styled” content, this view shows the entire page layout.
  4. Finally, the HTML Code is what it is. Very standard and from what I can tell provides no validation options or anything of the like.

Here’s my one disappointment which I can’t really can’t complain about too much. The blogging software I am currently using does something really slick. When including a hyperlink, I tend to copy the URL to my clipboard, click on the standard “Insert link in web page” button and associate the URL to the linked text. My current tool recognizes the URL is stored on the clipboard and automagically pastes it into the URL textbox within the link dialog. Live Writer doesn’t do this. As far as I know, no one else does this but it is such a super-smart feature that I would hate to lose it.

My favorite feature? The image properties. Heck. It might as well be an image editor since one can rotate the image and alter the brightness along with manage alignment, size, alternate text, etc. It’s a really nice interface. One I haven’t seen on other tools.

Along with pictures, one can insert maps. This is an interesting feature — at best. Sure, the process of adding the map is fun, but I’m not sure how often a blogger would need such a feature. Really. Other than this example, have you ever seen a map included in someone’s post? I highly doubt it…

The post properties were easily available. The datetime stamp can be modified which I like because I sometimes set posts to activate in the future. Post comments and trackbacks can be enabled/disabled. I haven’t seen this feature in an editor before — even though it is supported via the online WordPress tools. Keywords can be assigned to posts as well.

One of the key reasons I’m looking at Live Writer is the fact that I’m not satisfied with how any other editors handle trackbacks. I haven’t seen anything which leads me to believe that Live Writer is a superior product in this regard, but I’ll continue to dig — and test. I’ll provide an update on how well the trackback pings work after publishing.

Occasionally, I’ll post a draft of an article to JohnnyCoder.com. Not all editors provide this functionality, but Live Writer does. I’ve had issues with this functionality with other tools. Let’s cross our fingers. [ 3 ]

The final test is going to be the publishing of the article. If you are reading this, it worked.

Now that I’ve played with the product for nearly an hour, I give Windows Live Writer an A. Please know that this grade is padded a bit. I gave a lot of consideration to the fact that this is merely a Beta release. If this were an official release of the product, I’d would have given it a B. In my opinion, there’s room to polish the app up a bit — especially when handling previous posts. After all, If you want people to start using your tool, you need to provide an easy means to migrate.

Updates

[ 1 ] The tool does provide the ability to download the past 25 posts, however, you are unable to save a local copy. The posts are retrieved on demand per request.

[ 2 ] I was able to add the subscript tag via the HTML view. Whew.

[ 3 ] The test post of the draft worked.