Who, What, Why & When
When I first got into blogging (not that long ago), all my writing was done online. It meant that I had to be connected when I wanted to write, which was fine most of the time. But I found that more and more I needed/wanted to write when I didn’t have the luxury of being online. When I was on the train for example. So I started using [notepad/word/other] to draft my posts and then used ‘copy/paste’ to transfer them to the blog. This was frustrating as any formatting in the draft would be mangled on pasting it into the ‘new post’ on the blog. It meant that I would have to reformat everything, normally with horrible consequences. Many of my earlier blog posts were of varying styles. Ugly stuff.
Then I found out about Windows Live Writer. It does everything I need it to do, from saving drafts, inserting pictures, hyperlinks, tables, maps, video, code snippets. All while preserving formatting [Paragraph, Heading1, heading2, headingn], which is handled in the blog at the other end of the tubez.
So what is Windows Live Writer? In their own words:
“Windows Live Writer is a desktop application that makes it easier to compose compelling blog posts”
What are some of the features of WLW?
- Integration with most [all?] blogging sites (WordPress/Blogger/TypePad/Live Spaces…)
- WYSIWYG authoring
- Save drafts locally
- Publish to draft (on blog)
- Scheduling – set the publish date & time.
- A great UI.
- Photo editing (basic) – crop, tilt, border styles, tints (no caption inclusion though???)
- Photo albums (care of Windows Live Photo Albums)
- Insert & publish video (YouTube)
- Tagging – both server-side and 3rd party integration (technorati, del.icio.us, etc)
- A whole load of plugins – I use Code Snippet & Polaroid Picture among others
- Multi-Blog management
- Many of the Microsoft keyboard shortcuts you are already used to –Ctrl [S|C|V|I|B|Z|Y|K|etc]
Firstly, go download the setup file. There is a gotcha here though. When you click the link you’ll be directed to the download page for WL Writer and should get a ‘Save as’ dialog box pop-up. This file is only 1.1MB and will not fulfil your installation requirements. Cancel that download and instead click the ‘Try Again’ button located on the right. This will download a much larger file (~135MB), which will enable you to successfully install WL Writer.
Installation is straight forward, just follow each of the instructions selecting the options you want and click ‘next’.
Setting up a connection to your blog
Once installed, locate & run WL Writer to set up your blog account(s). If you don’t yet have a blog, you can set up a Live Spaces blog from Writer, otherwise you will need to go to your preferred provider and create one.
WL Writer will attempt to get your blog’s template (so that you can preview your posts in all their formatted glory), and you will likely get a message pop-up asking if you would like WLW to detect the blog theme by posting a temporary post:
The fact that this does not work (most of the time – for me with WordPress) and that when it does (blogger), it makes writing a post quite awkward, so I have chosen to say ‘NO’ here. This means that I create my posts without previewing the theme that I use on the blog. I still use the Paragraph/header formatting that’s available which is carried through to the blog – which will apply the appropriate style sheet and ensure consistency to the look & feel.
Update – a recent update to WLW has meant that previewing your posts using the theme from your blog now works just fine. With no funny business.
There are a number of great plugins available for integration with Windows Live Writer. The preinstalled features include the following:
The ones I use at the moment are (the last two on the list above):
- Code Snippet an AWESOME plugin that formats any code that you paste into it in the style associated with the code type that you choose. Here’s a sample in SQL:
- Polaroid Picture allows you to add pictures to your blog posts with captions, as in the picture above. Honestly though, the caption is the only real difference over the integration Picture… feature.
Categories, Tags & Scheduling
Adding Categories (or topics), Tags and a publishing date (& time) can be done easily using the category/tag/publish boxes located at the bottom part of the application:
You can also add Tags using your favourite provider (Technorati, del.icio.us, etc) using the Tags…. plugin.
That’s about it. Now all that remains is to write your posts and save locally or online as a draft or publish to your blog (immediately or at a specified date & time).