14
Aug

Windows Live Writer

I use a bunch of different tools to do my blog posts, none of which I am entirely happy with so I was interested to see that Microsoft have released the Beta of a desktop blog writing tool.

I turned off the Rich Text Editor in WordPress a long time ago as it was forever jamming paragraphs together for no obvious reason. I like Performancing but it has the same horrendous problem that ALL web-based writing tools have – if you accidentally hit the Back button on your mouse or nudge the mouse pad badly, you can lose all of your edits. Can someone please write a tool that asks me if I really want to discard an hours worth of typing before merrily changing page? w.bloggar is a nice desktop tool but seems to have ceased development and the site has been taken down by the host. The Flock blog tool is quite good, particularly the drag n drop of pictures from the Flickr toolbar into the editing area but I’m still finding Flock to be a bit unstable and having it, FF and IE7 all loaded together is just a resource hog.

At the moment, the only approach I trust is to write in a text editor and then cut n paste the contents into the non-rich-text entry screen in WordPress. There has to be a better way.

Initial impressions with Live Writer are good. I let it install MS Desktop Search and the Live Toolbar (IE7 compatible, hurrah) to see what they were like too. But as a result, installation seemed to take forever and of course it launched the default browser (Firefox) instead of IE7 with the toolbar, when it was finished.

It had no issues with connecting to Wordpress and grabbing both the categories and, more impressively, the CSS file of my theme. I am currently writing this post on a page which looks very similar to the actual blog. Sweet (even if Paul Kedrosky hates the same feature).

It has all the usual rich text features like formatting, link insertion, image insertion and spellcheck is always nice to have. It does not have some of the more advanced features of Performancing like Technorati tags or del.icio.us publishing but then I never used those features directly. 

It also supports multiple blogs and will work with Windows Live Spaces, Blogger, LiveJournal, TypePad, WordPress and anything which uses either the Metaweblog API or Movable Type API.

I think this tool is ideal for blogging newbies. Anyone who has ever used MS Word will be happy in this environment. I hope they bundle this with Vista as it may be (along with IE7′s RSS support) the push that takes blogging completely mainstream.

UPDATE 1: There have been some criticisms of the fact that the tool does a temporary post to your blog and then deletes it. I wondered why it was necessary as the APIs allow you to auto-detect a blog without doing that. In addition, that post appeared in all the site RSS feeds and Feedblitz e-mails which is annoying. But I’ve just realised they do this to detect the blog theme style rather than the blog type.

UPDATE 2: Alex Barnett points out that Tim Heuer has already built extensions for Flickr image browsing and Technorati tags. Not only that, but the Atom Publishing Protocol will be supported in the next release. Great to see that finally getting some tool support.

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