I’ve been using Windows Live Writer to create blog posts for a few weeks now and I really like it. It’s still in beta, though, and like any beta product, it has its bugs, quirks and incomplete features. None of these prevent me from creating posts fairly easily and the beta product has never crashed or lost my data.
The Help menu has an entry labeled “Send Feedback . . .” When I click on it, I get taken to an MSN Spaces page where I have to sign in to leave feedback. IMO, you just shouldn’t have to do this (the signing in part) in a public beta testing situation, but that’s neither here nor there because I can’t actually sign in – I get a message telling me that the service is temporarily unavailable. So, I’ll dump my feedback right here.
First, let me say that Writer has three features that make it better than any other blogging tool that I have used. [Disclaimer: I haven’t tried every tool out there and I’m sure that there are some with more features or are better in other ways.]
- Writer imports the style sheets from your target blog so that all your editing is in context and looks exactly like it will be published – fonts, colors, background, everything.
- The tool is fairly easy to extend with plugins and a community has already emerged creating a variety of them, a couple of which I’m using.
- Writer handles the insertion of stuff – links, pictures, maps, tags, etc – more elegantly than the other tools I’ve used. This is hard to explain, because it doesn’t have a load of additional features (although map insertion is very cool), but it just always does the right thing. Perhaps I’m biased here since I could never get my previous favorite, Blogjet, to FTP images to my server behind the scenes.
It’s also important to note that unlike doing a post in Word (versions prior to 2007), the HTML appears to be clean and compressed for the most part.
All that positive stuff said, here’s what I’d change . . .
- No scroll bars? When a post is longer than a displayed page, the only way to see the text above or below what is visible in the window is to use the keyboard arrows. There are no displayed scroll bars nor does the wheel on the mouse work. Weird.
- Open and Save to a specific location. Right now, Writer can open and Save documents to any directory as long as it’s named “My Weblog Posts” and it’s in the current user’s “My Documents” tree. I should be able to specify whatever directory I want drafts or completed posts saved in and this should be assignable as a preference so I don’t need to always enter it. To be clear, posts can already be opened in the current version from the Drafts directory, the directory of previously posted docs or from the the blog itself.
- New/Open creates a new window, always. IMO, Writer should use an MDI window or should ask me whether it should replace the current window when I do a New or Open. One of the reasons I moved to Firefox was that IE opened a new window for every site clicked on, making window management too difficult. Keep everything in one window, even if there’s only one document displayed at a time.
- Remember where my last window was. This is standard operating procedure for software these days. Just open the window in the same place I closed it last time. Writer, for some reason, wants to open a new window to the left and lower on the screen than where the previously closed window was. If others like this, please give me an option to remember the location or not.
- Spelling squiggles. Writer has a spell checker that can be invoked automatically prior to posting or manually at any time. It does not, however, do it dynamically like Word. I know that the Writer team probably has a goal to keep this free software as lean as possible. For me, size doesn’t matter too much and I’d be happy if the team loaded up Writer with a bunch of great Word-like features – especially on-the-fly spelling and grammar checking.
That’s all I can think of right now. For the most part, I think it’s a very good beta release. Writer, apparently works with most blog servers out there. I am using it with Community Server and it works very well. There are features I haven’t used and I haven’t been able to get Insert . . . Picture from Web . . . to work like I think it should, but that could be user error or my misinterpreting what it’s supposed to do – there’s no documentation.
I don’t work for Microsoft and I have no interest in promoting any products because they’re from Microsoft. I think this is a good tool that’s worth a look, though. It’ll be even better if the above bugs and feature requests are addressed.