Thursday, October 29, 2009

Blog Much? Live Writer's Got the Touch

LiveWriter

I spent some time this week looking for a better blog authoring tool than what was available through Blogger’s site.  A friend recommended I use Microsoft Word, but that was unsatisfying.  There were certain functionalities I wanted and didn’t think I would get from MS Word.  Not to mention I think MS Word is too big an application to use for blogging.  It’s like using a hammer to kill an ant!

In my search, I found Microsoft Live Writer. Given that I’ve used Microsoft the majority of my professional life, how tightly many of their solutions are coupled, and how well I believe these solutions work together, I decided to give it a try.  (Note of Disclaimer: Obviously I’m biased since I’m an avid Microsoft product user.  I’ve also professionally developed for and on MS platforms for the past 13 years.  However, I’m also critical of MS products like MS Project and any of their Smartphone devices.)

I was delightfully surprised.  It had many of the features I was looking for, with one initial drawback that I’ve noticed. 

I was not just looking for a rich editor with custom formatting capabilities, inline spell-check, auto save, and easy to use tagging, but also a tool that would give me the flexibility to manage my posts on- as well as offline.  Live Writer does just that.  I can write an entry offline and save it locally, then open it later for editing or publishing.  I can also open files saved remotely on Blogger, or any other blogging service within or outside of the Microsoft realm.  What’s more, the tool is designed to work with multiple blog sites at once.  So, if you author articles on multiple blogs, you can use this one tool to publish to all of them.

To insure proper formatting, I have the ability to download an existing site’s templates.  When authoring a post, I can view the source code if need be, though by default I’m taken to the the rich editor view that’s simply labeled as Edit on one of the three tabs in the lower left corner of the editor.  I also have the ability to Preview my posting.  However, this is really unnecessary since I see the background image and the content area in Edit mode.  In fact, I’m seeing it right now as I type this entry.

You have to ability to not only post images, but video, maps and photo albums.  Also, when posting images, you can arrange them in a number of formats, like the scatter format shown below:

Scatter

Keep in mind, you’ll need a Windows Live account to use your photo albums there.  Also, your videos will be posted to YouTube or Soapbox and embed a player on your.  I’m not sure how smoothly either of these features work as I’ve not yet tried them. 

Plugins There’s one more feature I like that requires plug-in downloads: tie-in with popular sites like Flickr, Digg, and Twitter.  Once you have these downloaded and installed, your images will be placed on Flickr and referenced inline on your post, a new DiggThis badge is added to your post, and an announcement is sent to Twitter.

What I haven’t found lacking is an ability to download all existing posts for a site and archive them locally.  The feature may exist and I’ve not yet found it.  If anyone out there knows how to do this with Live Writer, send me a note.

Image Disclaimer
All images for this post were copied from the Microsoft Live Writer website and are the property of Microsoft.

What Do You Think?
If you know of any cool tool or technology and would like to share it, or if you have an opinion about Live Writer, please feel free to comment directly on the page.