Sunday, August 13, 2006

Windows Live Writer - pretty good!

I've been looking for a good blog editor for a while now. Until now, I've been using Performancing for Firefox. I've also tried out Qumana, w.bloggar, MS Word 2007's built in blog editor and many more. While all of these came quite close to meeting my blogging needs, each of them had some problem or the other. For eg, Qumana had WYSIWYG editing, tagging, image publishing and many other features. But it ate up too much RAM while residing in the system tray. Performancing, on the other hand, did not have a very good interface and always screwed up when I tried to edit existing posts with it. Here are my reviews of Qumana and MS Word 2007 Blog editor.

I just installed the new Windows Live Writer (beta). After checking it out, I think this thing just might solve all my blogging woes! I'm not exactly a Microsoft fan as is obvious from my post on Word 2007's blog editor. But this little piece of software might have changed my views a bit!

First Impressions:

As soon as I set up my blog on the Live Writer, I was stunned to see my blog template right inside my editor! Most blog editors have WYSIWYG these days. But Live Writer takes it to a whole new level! It actually puts the template in directly from your blog. Instead of one, Live Writer offers 3 different WYSIWYG modes - Normal, Web Layout and Web Preview.

Normal is the mode that is available in most editors - the one with the plain white background. The problem with this view is that, in some blogs like this one, where the text layout is narrow, you don't really get to see how the post will actually look when you publish it. In Live Writer, however, the Web Layout mode makes the editor screen look exactly like the blog. The width and the colors are the same as that on your blog. Now I don't have to keep publishing and checking the blog out to see if the layout of the post is fine.

The Web Preview mode is equally awesome. In less than a second, this mode actually pulls up your blog and shows you how the post would look in your blog if you published it!

Other cool features:

Another problem that I've had with other editors is that they don't let you upload your photos to the servers. I had to upload the file to photobucket and insert the photo URL into the blog editor to get the photo inside. And even after that, some editors like Performancing don't let you change the layout of the image easily. Live Writer on the other hand, works perfect. You can upload images right from your desktop and arrange it like you would in Word, for example. You can also add effects like shadows for your images. Nice!

UPDATE: I just realized that you still need to upload the photos to a server before they can appear on your blog. Live Writer will do it for you if you enter the details of your FTP server in the options. I use for free FTP file hosting.

Another interesting feature is Map Publishing where you can directly add a map of any US address directly into your blog. This is great when you want to describe a tour or vacation in your post. Redmond is actually beginning to innovate again... hmmm... Very interesting!

Live Writer also comes with a bunch of features that are common among blog editors. You can save your drafts both locally and on the blog server itself. There is a built in spell checker too. You can view and edit your previous posts.

They've also released their SDK (very unusual for MS products) so that people can create and submit plugins. I haven't yet found out how to add Technorati tags and how to ping various blog search engines yet. But I'm sure these will be there somewhere.

Live Writer is a great product and it is compatible with most blogging platforms. I think I'm gonna stick to this. Well done, Microsoft!


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