All blog platforms, such as Blogger and WordPress, come with their own built-in interfaces for writing new posts. These interfaces work fairly well, but they are ultimately web based interfaces and they can sometimes feel sluggish as a result. These built-in interfaces also can be an issue for people who have multiple blogs. Being forced to log into each individual site in order to make a new post can be very annoying.
The solution to these problems is the use of a blogging client that exists on your computer and acts as a normal program.
A blogging client acts like a word processor, and because it is located on your computer’s hard drive, you can write posts even when offline. Blog clients also make it possible to update multiple blogs through a common interface.
There are many of these programs available, and one of them is Zoundry Raven. Raven is an open-source client, and it supports all of the popular blog formats like WordPress or Blogger and is a good alternative to popular Windows Live Writer.
Before you can start writing blog posts with Raven you need to set it up for use with your blog. In order to do this you need to click on File in the upper left, then hover over new, and finally click on Blog Account. This will start the new blog wizard.
I’m going to assume that you have a blog. If you don’t, Raven can help you there – clicking on “I don’t have a blog yet” will link you to Blogger.com so you can set one up. Otherwise, you need to enter the URL of your blog and then click Next. Raven will check the URL to make sure that a compatible blog format is being used on that website.
You’ll next be asked to set up your blog’s account information and enter an account name. You will need to know your username and password for the blog you want to post to and enter it here. Raven will also display the type of blog it detected. If that information does not look correct, click on the drop-down menu besides Site Type and find the right one. Now click Next.
Raven will check to make sure the account information and password you entered is valid, and once complete it will give you a final confirmation screen. If the account information was wrong, check it for accuracy and re-submit. Otherwise, click Finish.
Raven will at this point download all of the image and post data from the blog. Now it is time to start writing.
Writing & Managing Posts
Once you have all of your blog data imported you will see that your blog account is listed in the account manager on the left side of the program. The account manager lets you browse all tags, images, links and posts that make up your blog. Adding a new post will, of course, add a post to this list.
To start a new post you can click on the big Write button at the top of the program. This will open a new window that doesn’t look much different from the window that appears when you write a new email in an email client.
The name of the blog you are writing for will appear in this window (you can actually add more blogs as well, to update multiple blogs at the same time). Below that you will be able to enter the title of the post and also enter in any tags that you want to use.
By default, the Design view will be open. This is a plain-text view of what you are writing. It is converted automatically to XHTML format that the blog you are writing for can use. You can have a look at the XHTML format by pressing the XHTML tab at the bottom of the window. Raven also lets you add images, links, tables, and XHTML tags. As with the text, all media and tags will be converted into a format compatible with the blog platform you use.
The Preview tab actually lets you take a look at how the post will look when it is posted to the blog. To enable this functionality, however, you must designate a template. This can be achieved clicking on Tools in the main Raven window and then clicking on Blog Template Manager. You only need to enter the URL of the blog you want to make a template for – Raven handles the rest.
To publish the blog post you only need to click on the big Publish button at the top of the window. Raven automatically uploads the blog post to your blog, and the post will momentarily appear on your blog’s page. Easy as pie! Actually easier – I haven’t a clue how to make pie.
Raven supports the ability to drag-and-drop files into your posts, including not only images but also non-image files, such as PDF files. These files can then be accessed through links in your blog post. This is a very nice feature that makes sharing information in your blog posts easier, but in order to use it you’ll first need to set up Media Storage.
Media Storage is where the files will actually be kept. Most blogs have some form of media storage by default, but you may want to use an alternative in some cases. For instance, let’s say you want to post images to your blog AND share them on a image sharing service.
To set up your media storage you need to click the Add Storage button in the main Raven window. This will prompt you to select the type of storage you want and give the storage a name. Raven supports custom FTP storage, Flickr, Image Shack, LiveJournal Scrapbook, Picasa Web Album and Ripway FTP.
Once you’ve set up your media storage you’ll need to make sure that it is enabled. Go to Tools and then click on Account Manager. Click on the account you want to use media storage for and then click on the Media Storage icon. The name of the storage you just set up will be available as an option with a checkbox. If the checkbox isn’t selected, go ahead and select it and then click Apply. You may need to click the override checkbox at the top of the window in order to do this.
Raven is the best blog client I’ve come across so far. It is easy to use and very powerful. It is open source, so hopefully it will continue to grow as developers work on it further and refine its features.
The most popular competition to Zoundry Raven is Windows Live Writer. They share many of the same features, such as ability to preview posts in your blog’s format and the automatic conversion of your post into a format that is compatible with the blog platform you use. But, as an alternative to windows live writer, The Media Storage Wizard is a feature that Raven has but Windows Live Writer does not and, as said, is particularly useful when you want to share files both on your blog and through a sharing or social media website.
Which desktop blogging client do you recommend?