So just how easy is it to use Windows Live Writer to update your WordPress blog posts?  That’s what we are about to discover, as I share with you my thoughts and findings on using an offline platform to update your website. 

First, what is Windows Live Writer?  Essentially it’s a re-wrapped and slimmed down Microsoft Word that easily connects to your WordPress blog allowing you to work within a familiar environment and still create fabulous results on your website. 

What does it cost?  So far, it’s free.  Available to download at http://windowslivewriter.spaces.live.com/ 

Here is a list they had posted of some of the features they offer:

Windows Live Writer Full Feature List
In addition to the highlights of this release, here’s the list of all the major new features added since Windows Live Writer 2008:

  • New border treatments (including Instant Photo)
  • Crop and tilt photos
  • Insert multiple photos
  • Toolbar alignment commands enabled for images
  • Insert and upload Windows Live photo albums
  • Insert and publish video to YouTube
  • Additional spell checking languages: Arabic, Basque, Bulgarian, Catalan, Croatian, Czech, English (Australia), Estonian, Greek, Hebrew, Hungarian, Indonesian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Malay, Polish, Romanian, Russian, Slovak, Slovenian, Turkish, and Ukrainian
  • Server-side tagging (for supported blogs)
  • Type-down filtering in the Open dialog
  • Twitter, Digg and Flickr Plug-ins
  • Improved blog account setup
  • Lightbox and Windows Live Spaces inline preview support
  • Improved category control: adding categories, type-down filtering
  • Tabbed view switching
  • AutoLink glossary
  • Smart quotes/typographic characters
  • Word count
  • Support for bidirectional languages (like Hebrew and Arabic)
  • Tabs for view switching
  • Updated look and feel

 

Looking at the list of features and using it for this post now, for about 5 minutes – so far so good.

Let’s start getting into some of the issues I see people have with posting online:

  • Formatting

A LOT of people are used to working within Microsoft Word at this point – the limitation of the online WordPress editor is that ‘What you see ISN’T always what you get’.  Different from Word, the online world is subject to styles and formatting that is not always visible within the post you are working on. 

Windows Live Writer claims to give you an ability to view the preview (just as the online editor does), however this didn’t work for me in my initial setup. I am going to change the permissions of the next user I setup to see if that will allow me to download the theme for preview.

Windows Live Writer comes with the basic tools for formatting your post – so nothing too new there. The only thing that really peaks my interest is the ‘Insert Table’, as the current WordPress is sorely lacking in table functionality without downloading more plug-ins.

Program

WordPress

Windows Live Writer

Tables

Needs improvement
(without plugins)

Good tools available
(still subject to little annoyances)

(Side note: as I update the table the alignment keeps seeming to reset – not a big deal, just a little note to recheck entire post before publishing for any other little changes that pop up)

  • Inserting Images

I love photos, I think they add a fantastic element to any number of subjects and posts.  Although the online WordPress admin panel does have a media library and post, they never seem to be formatted ‘quite right’ without a little extra manipulation.  While that’s fine for someone like myself who has no issues going into the advanced options or the HTML code and tweaking – it’s a little more intimidating for a new user.

iPod Touch

This is something really cool that I hope to own one day.  The picture was on my computer and uploading it to this post was very easy.  (I actually had the option to select a web image – which I will do next).

There are some great options that make some cool effects – notice the mirror reflection in the picture, that’s not photo-shopped, just a setting in the sidebar.  I simply selected ‘Left align’ to keep the text over here and the image there.

Lots more features and settings – make your photos look truly professional.

So far – REALLY GOOD on the photos (let’s see if they look the same online!).

 

This picture of everyone jumping for joy is linked from an online source.

Besides a little bit of annoyance of my cursor wanting to be at the top of the page after inserting an image.  All is still good.

Let’s try some advanced options on the online image:

  • Borders, size, margins, and alt text can only be updated
  • Not too many available, but that’s okay cause we’re just borrowing it!

 

 

The other interesting feature I really want to test based on the website, is the Photo Album feature….

Hmm, I’ve added the above and have a few settings about the layout – so I can’t wait to see how it looks online.

 

Well let’s see how this all looks and post what we have so far.  Review to be continued….

Okay, we’re back  – after hitting the PUBLISH button at the top left hand side of the screen – here’s the results:

  • Overall I would say just based on the advanced image options alone I would be recommending this tool to any users looking for a Word-like option
  • The table I inserted has to be adjusted based on the width of the blog I’m posting to (a little dragging the arrows around and hopefully it looks better upon republishing)
  • I was really interested to see the photo album and how it worked – I did need to login to the Windows Live site with my ID, where it uploaded the pictures to – I really like the look of the photo album, but would like to disable the ‘view full album’ feature, as I don’t want people to leave my site per se.

I’m going to continue to use this tool for a few more blog posts on more of my sites (this does let you post to more than one site), so I will update the article as I find out more tricks and keep you posted :-) !

So far, this makes it on my recommended list.

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