Software for Writers: Windows Live Writer
I blog. A lot. I write for this site, of course, but I also write thrice-weekly posts at the personal productivity site Lifehack, occasional posts at the anthropology blog Savage Minds, posts for my personal site at dwax.org, and the odd post for sites like ProBlogger and the design blog Smashing Magazine. (And there’s the abortive daddy-blog StepDadding that I designed from scratch, launched, updated for a few months, and then abandoned when I realized that daddy-blogging, even step-daddy-blogging, wasn’t quite the thing for me.)
Most of these sites use WordPress (dwax.org uses Drupal) and it’s easy enough to log into a WordPress site and write a post, but even with WordPress’ visual editor I find that I’m not very comfortable writing directly into WordPress. It works, but it’s pretty basic, and there’s certain “creature comforts” I enjoy when I write. What’s more, since each site is running a slightly different version of WordPress and slightly different extensions, it’s by no means a standardized experience.
So while I still log in and post directly once in a while, for the most part I write my posts off-line using Windows Live Writer which is, despite it’s Microsoft ancestry, one of the finest applications available (if not the finest) for posting to blogs. The benefits are many, including:
- A standard interface for all of the sites I post to – I just select the site I want to post a piece to from a drop-down menu and click “Publish”.
- Saved drafts, so I can start posts and leave them to simmer while I work on other stuff.
- Plugins for things like reusing snippets of text or inserting links to books on Amazon.
- Use of each site’s stylesheet so I can see what my post is going to look like before I post it.
- Running word count (in WLW 3 Technical Preview, available at the Windows Live site; this is technically not finished software, but it’s run fine for me for the couple of months I’ve been using it)
- The ability to easily add categories (which WLW retrieves from the site, so you just check the appropriate boxes), tags, and a publishing date in the future.
- Spell-check – which can be set to trigger automatically before a post is published.
- A source editor, so I can muck around with the underlying HTML. I actually use this as an HTML editor for sites that I don’t post directly to; I write my post and cut-and-paste the generated code into a new text file and email it to my editors.
- Off-line use, so I can write even if I can’t get online for some reason.
- A stripped-down Word-like interface, with most functions available using keyboard shortcuts, so I can easily add formatting, links, tables, etc.
Best of all, WLW is free – you don’t even have to register it.
If you blog, whether you do it every day or only as the mood strikes, check out Windows Live Writer. It is easy to set up, auto-detecting the settings for most popular blogging platforms, and easy to use. It is perhaps the only piece of Microsoft software that I can whole-heartedly endorse – it does exactly what it needs to do and it does it well.
For a few tips and tricks about using WLW, check out my post from last year, 9 Ways to Get More Out of Windows Live Writer, at Lifehack.