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.
I blog in Blogger and use WLW. I found that it is much easier to handle pictures and tables. Also with WLW you can look at the entire page at once rather than having to scroll through an editing window.
I love WLW! A couple of things though, if you strive to get valid XTHML code. Make sure and set XHTML as your mark up language. WLW tries to figure it out, but sometimes misses. If you use the Insert Flickr image plug-in, for some reason validators don’t like its code. I end up saving images to my desktop and using the WP insert media to clean up the code.
Otherwise, a nice program with some great features like inserting a link to a previous post of yours. Nice!
Similar to you, I don’t especially like the WordPress posting facility, though I too use it occasionally.
I tried out WLW over a year ago and found it frustrating to use. At that time, it seemed to make each paragraph a separate block. And I found it difficult to work with. Maybe newer versions are better. I’ll check out the recent version.
I use ECTO for my off-line blogging, which has worked just fine. EXCEPT the retrieve foto from Flickr facility seems broken now.
“despite it’s Microsoft ancestry” – spoils a great post.
I’m no MS fanboy by any means, but it’s a rubbish line. You’re better than that.
Martin: I use a great many MS products, including Windows (XP and the less-pleasing Vista) and Office 2007 (which I’ve written about extensively). I think it’s fair to say that, in general, MS products tend to be overpowered for most users, and strangely unrefined — there is more emphasis placed on adding new features to put the “Wow!” in than on polishing older features. So it *is* surprising, to me, that WLW is very polished — much more so, in my opinion, than many of its paid competitors — and as far as I can tell ahs no “catches”. It’s free, it produces fairly elegant code (a HUGE surprise to anyone who remembers the Bad Ol’ Days of FrontPage or who has the unfortunate job — as I do — of working with the HTML output from MS Word), it’s quite stable, and it’s pretty open. None of these are MS hallmarks, which makes WLW a real treat.
Okay Dustin, I’ll give you that. 🙂
1) Using MS Word for HTML … yep, those where painful times 🙂
2) Old FrontPage had a mind of its own when viewing the code. FP 03 is much better.
3) Vista, I’m still on the fence on – 3 months in. Lots of tweaking to get rid of the bloat and associated crap.
4) Word 2007 – Yuk. I’m sticking to 2003 for now.
And yep, WLW is near perfection – it’s really a competition killer in the desktop blog posting/editing market, imho.