Blogging Tools Update

In an earlier article I lamented how difficult it is to find a decent tool to make the act of posting a moderately complex article to a blog an easily achievable act.

It appears that the current version of Microsoft Windows Live Writer, which I started using a few days after I wrote the original lamentation, is actually becoming a blogging application to be reckoned with. The version I am currently making use of is 14.0850 released in early 2009 and so far it has proven to be a useful, albeit still somewhat lacking, blogging application.

I still write my articles in Microsoft Word, copy & paste the text directly in to Windows Live Writer, verify the HTML source code was not tampered with, correct the HTML source code in Adobe Dreamweaver if it needs it, fix up any hyperlinks, copy and paste the HTML source code back to Windows Live Writer, and finally publish to my blog.

Windows Live Writer to date has so far not seen any need to alter, change or otherwise screw around with my source code in any way, shape or fashion and the application handles both pages and posts reasonably proficiently which I am glad to see. This was always one of my main complaints with it and other blogging applications.

Live Writer also handles a few extra features of WordPress that it never used to, such as handling publishing dates in the future.

I am also pleased to see that Windows Live Writer can properly handle a moderately complex WordPress theme, a task that earlier versions would easily choke on. Live Writer can actually display the theme as a preview whilst you are editing your text and not do enough weird shit to make you give up and not use the feature.

The application is not quite smart enough to use appropriate CSS style class tags from the WordPress theme – yet – but I would not expect it to without a little bit of configuration.

I even get mostly real-time word count from Live Writer now. I say “mostly” as it takes a second or two to catch up with my typing before updating the total words. It unfortunately only gives me a total word count for the entire article, not a word count of a selected region of text. I can live with that for now as Live Writer is not my main editing application anyway.

The feature I like about Windows Live Writer that I have not seen any other blogging applications handle correctly is support for footnotes in Microsoft Word documents. I often add a lot of asides and footnotes that are tricky to make work in a blog post if the editing application does not support them.

A new feature I would dearly love to see is the ability to import a Microsoft Word document directly, instead of performing a copy and paste. For that matter, just let people import any other kind of Microsoft Office application document. Being able to bring in and convert a Microsoft Project or Microsoft Publisher – or an Adobe PDF file – without any kind of intermediate conversion would be a welcome addition.

I am now using Live Writer to directly turn out short little posts like this without bothering with Microsoft Word. The editor lags behind a little bit more than Microsoft Word, but it is tolerable.

Who knows, maybe in the future the text editing facilities of the application will rival those of Microsoft Word and I can do 90% of my daily blog writing directly in Windows Live Writer.

2 thoughts on “Blogging Tools Update

  1. Hello,

    I am one of he developers of Windows Live Writer. Thank you for reviewing the application, all feedback is valuable to us. Just a few notes.

    1) Using the correct styles from your blog is tricky, and really WordPress is the only blogging service that has well defined classes for things like image alignment and etc… This makes creating the feature very hard to do correctly and simple enough for users that don’t understand HTML/CSS to mesh with. Though, it is one of the things I personally feel like we should try and do better.

    2) If you select text, and then go to Tools | Options it will give you a dialog box with the word count for the selected text only. As you noted, the word count only updates after 100ms of idle time(ie. no typing).

    3) Importing from Word, that is an interesting idea, one I don’t think we have thought about before. You can mostly acheive the same thing through Control+Shift+V (aka special paste). Though it would be nice if the feature was more discoverable and allowed importing from a lot of sources, like maybe email as well.

    4) General performace is pretty slow in Windows Live Writer. It is one of our weak spots no doubt. We are planning on spending time to fix this for our next release.

    Once again, thank you for reviewing the application and I am glad it is at least somewhat making blogging eaiser for you!

    In the future feel free to email me if you have anymore feedback and/or issues.

    -Brandon

    • Brandon, overall I am impressed with the newer versions of Windows Live Writer. The earlier versions drove me to distraction. I understand that there are many issues that are out of the control of the development team when interfacing with various flavours of third party software that have poorly documented interfaces. I still do all of my writing and editing in Microsoft Word, and then just copy & paste in to Live Writer for the final markup. Being able to handle other file formats, especially from the Microsoft Office suite would be probably the highest priority feature on my wish list. Thanks for taking the time to read my article and I will be sure to follow the development of Live Writer with interest.

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