Windows Live Writer Impressions
Windows 7 and Live Essentials include a blogging tool called Windows Live Writer. I thought I’d try it out as a way to blog offline and then easily post into my site. This article is being written with it and is the first time I’ve attempted to use it. So far it seems pretty cool, although it has its limitations.
Setting Up Windows Live Writer for WordPress
Before you can use Windows Live Writer, the XML-RPC remote publishing protocol must be enabled (Settings > Writing). I already had this enabled in order to use the WordPress for Android app (see my last blog post). After that it is a simple matter of downloading Windows Live Writer from Windows Update, selecting “WordPress” as your blog during setup, and entering your username and password for your WordPress admin account.
Windows Live Writer loaded my site theme, categories, tags, and a few other bits of data automagically when I fired it up. I was presented with essentially a blank article placeholder using my site theme (minus the header, footer, and sidebar) on which I could start typing. Pretty good stuff right there!
Typing in Windows Live Writer (I’ll call it WLW for short) is fairly straightforward; anyone who’s use a word processor will feel right at home. However, this scares me a little bit, because people tend to use a lot of direct formatting in word processors. WLW presents you with many of the controls in Microsoft Word, including font family, font size, and font color drop-down menus. I can see many a blogger going crazy with text formatting, ruining any hope of their blog having a consistent look.
So, for the sake of WordPress theme developers and good taste in general, please stay away from the text formatting tools!
I immediately noticed a few limitations in Windows Live Writer.
- Any WordPress plugins that you may have for writing posts in WordPress itself will not be present in WLW (some of those plugins can be replaced by plugins for WLW that are downloadable at http://gallery.live.com/default.aspx?pl=8)
- Image support is lacking theme integration
- There is no way to immediately add a caption to an image and give it a specific file name the way you can when using WordPress’ web-based editor
- Images do not get wrapped in a container div the way they do when using WordPress’ web-based editor
- The rendering engine used is Internet Explorer, which may or may not look good given your choice of theme
I also noticed several really cool features right away.
- Tabs at the bottom of the screen to quickly switch between an edit view, a preview of the article on your site, and a source code view to edit the HTML directly
- Quotes are converted into smart quotes automagically
- Images on the clipboard can be pasted directly into Windows Live Writer; no need to open an image editor and save them as image files first
- Image effects can be quickly added to images (reflections, borders, recoloring, etc.)
- Creating tables is a bit easier thanks to the Insert > Table option in the ribbon, although it does not offer many options beyond width, # of rows and # of columns
To Use It or Not to Use It
I don’t think I’ll be using Windows Live Writer as my only method of posting to my blog. It offers a lot of compelling features, including offline editing and a familiar word processor interface. Unfortunately it also has some limitations that will prevent me from getting much value from it. I imagine I’ll be using it to create drafts, then switching over to the web-based WordPress editor to insert any images or other media and to take advantage of some of my plugins (such as posting code snippets) before actually publishing a post. However, I did publish this post directly from within Windows Live Writer just to see how it does (if you’re reading this, it worked!).