Blog Editor Review: Windows Live Writer
This is the fifth of a weekly series of reviews of supplementary blog editors. These programs can be used in place of the Add New Post editor. They allow you to create blog additions externally on your own computer, then load them into WordPress (or any of several other platforms). At first there might seem little reason to do this, but some of the advanced features in these editors make them worth consideration.
What is Windows Live Writer?
Windows Live Writer is Microsoft’s entry into the supplemental blog editor market. Available as a free download, it is part of the Windows live group of services. I found it a very capable editor for readying WordPress entries. While not Microsoft Word, it has some nice features, such as underlining spell check, that could win you over.
This ran quite smoothly, but you will have to uncheck several options to install Writer alone. You will need to download a 136MB file to install a program only a fraction of that size. Configuration of my first blog was a snap. You need to be sure you have the XML-RPC setting checked in you WordPress Dashboard under Settings > Writing. In addition to WordPress, Writer can be used with Windows Live Spaces, SharePoint blogs, Blogger, LiveJournal, TypePad, Community_Server, PBlogs.gr, JournalHome, the MetaWeblog API, the Movable Type API, and all blogs that support RSD (Really Simple Discoverability).
This is the prettiest blog editor interface I’ve seen. The text entry window is excellent. Writer will actually download elements of your blog’s theme/template so fonts and formatting look the same in the Edit window. Unlike any other editor I’ve seen, the Preview window shows you what your entry will look like on your blog’s main page—complete with header and sidebar. The Source tab shows an HTML version, which is adequate, though it doesn’t have color coded tags, as some editors do.
There is a small, but adequate selection of editing buttons across the top. One unique feature, though, is and “Insert” pull-down with several special buttons, such as Maps and Video. Maps allows insertion of a map or aerial image from Microsoft’s Virtual Earth and Video allows for easy video or embed insertion. It also features a preview window, but I could not get it work. Maps and Video are two of the 117 (and growing?) plugins you can install into Writer. This offers great potential and is unequaled among similar programs.
The right hand column seems underutilized to me, but repeating the plugins there is helpful. The list area at the top seems ill-conceived. A file tree, such as the one in Zoundry Raven would have been nice. Buttons at the top make it clear whether you are saving locally or uploading as a draft or publishing. Some programs are a little ambiguous about that. Instead of a “More” tab to add text not on the first page of your entry, Writer has a “Split” button that allows you to segment off a portion of the text.
The normally innocent “Open” button offers much more than usual: You may open a locally saved draft or download an entry from your blog for edit. The programmed publishing feature is the best I’ve seen: one click brings up a mini calendar and you simply click your chosen publish date.
Image insertion is simple and offers choice of local or online files. Plugins are available that make for easy insertion of material through Flickr, Zamanta, Picasa and others.
A few thing about Writer haven’t been thought out quite well enough. You might find yourself closing the program when you just wanted to close a file (apparently you don’t close files). Overall, however, I liked it a great deal and will probably be my blog editor of choice most of the time. It’s strength is in it’s text editing, but if you want features like multi blog file management or multi blog posting, you’ll want Zoundry Raven instead. But since both programs are free, there’s no reason you can’t use both, as I do.
Windows Live Writer Can be downloaded at Windows Live.
Previously reviewed blog entry editors: