PRODUCT REVIEW

Microsoft’s Free Editor Makes Blogging Simple

A large part of the appeal of blogging is its simplicity. Setting up an account at one of the large blogging services like Blogger.com is as untaxing as filling in a few fields in an online form.

As uncomplicated as blogging can be, however, once the bloom fades on its novelty, it can become a chore. You’ve got to log into your host, navigate menus, write in a rudimentary editor and maybe even fuss with some HTML.

Prolific bloggers usually skirt those annoyances by using an offline editor. There are several decent ones out there for Windows users. And now there’s another. It’s called Windows Live Writer.

Impressive Design

The program is a free offering from Microsoft, and while it never misses an opportunity to plug the software giant’s Windows Live Web site, it supports other blogger outposts, too, like LiveJournal, Moveable Type, WordPress, Community Server, dasBlog, Blogger and TypePad.

Although Live Writer is still in testing, I found it to be a pretty polished product. It loads a little slowly and the bar cursor disappeared once in a while for no apparent reason, but nevertheless I was impressed with the cleanness and attractiveness of its design, as well as its capabilities.

I was immediately struck by the program’s ability to deliver on the old What-You-See-Is-What-You-Get promise.

Really Get What You See

There are other WYSIWYG blog editors, but what you see in them isn’t what you’ll see in your blog.

For instance, I use a custom template for my blog at Blogger.com. That means the HTML code for displaying my blog has been modified.

When I create a blog entry in Blogger, its WYSIWYG editor displays the entry formatted in generic HTML, not the custom HTML in my template. In fact, even when I preview entries in Blogger, they’re not displayed correctly. I have to publish the entry and access the blog with my browser to see what the entry really looks like online.

Offline editors deliver a similar flavor of generic HTML. But not Live Writer. It actually checks the code behind your blog and creates a true WYSIWIG environment for your entry. In other words, what you see in Live Writer is truly what you will see online.

That’s a tremendous time saver. With other offline editors that I’ve tried, I usually have to log in to my blog host after posting an entry to tweak some aspect of it — which sort of defeats the purpose of usingan offline editor.

Pristine Interface

Live Writer also has superb offline management features. It allows you to insert past postings into the program. Once there, you can delete or edit them.

The program has a pristine and intuitive interface.

There’s a main window pane for composing a posting and a sidebar divided into two sections: open and insert.

The open section gives you quick access to drafts of items and recent posts. Clicking “more” displays a window for pulling in past postings. You can also create new items from this section.

The insert section lets you add a link, picture or even a map to a posting.

Across the top of the main pane are common tools for formatting a blog.

There are tools for bolding, italicizing, underlining, striking through and colorizing text, as well as creating structured (1, 2, 3, etc.) and unstructured (bulleted) lists, block quotes, adding or removing links, inserting pictures and an invaluable asset, a spell checker.

Fun to Use

A convenient feature when adding images to a blog is automatic FTP upload.

FTP is a protocol used to upload and download files to a Web server.

Since some blog hosts don’t support pictures, it’s necessary to store images elsewhere on the Web and pull them into a posting. You can configure Live Writer to automatically upload an image you’ve included in an item to an FTP site when you post it.

Live Writer is a top-shelf blogging tool. Not only is it easy to learn and powerfully designed, it’s also fun to use.


John Mello is a freelance business and technology writer who can be reached at reviews@jpmello.com.


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