Have you ever been trying to blog on one of the many web blogging platforms only to be disgruntled by the busyness of the interface or lack of options and features available? I know I have. Now many interfaces have been improved greatly because of this exact frustration (e.g. WordPress and Blogger) and other blogging platforms like Tumblr have capitalized on users’ frustration by creating their own easy-to-use and simplified interface.
However, there is something nice about being able to blog from your desktop and simply clicking “submit” and then having it appear on your blog. Of course since you are creating it locally on your computer you’re also able to save it locally, which for many bloggers is a plus – backups are always nice, especially when you don’t have to think about it.
Windows Live Writer (WLW) can do that and more. In this review we’ll explore the primary features of WLW, its advantages and disadvantages and one big concern that I have for it. Then I’ll give you my bottom line opinion on whether you should use it or not and why.
Overview And Features: Windows Live Writer At A Glance
To describe it best, Windows Live Writer is a blogging platform designed to allow you to blog from your desktop. It’s created by Microsoft (obviously) and a part of the Windows Live Essentials package. The interface is fairly simple, consisting of three tabs: Home, Insert and Blog Account. Home, pictured above, consists features to use the clipboard, choosing which blog to post to, as well as whether you want to post a draft or publish the post. It also has the obvious options like font, paragraph, HTML heading styles, adding hyperlinks, pictures, videos, and basic editing options.
The insert tab does feature the options to add pictures, hyperlinks and video, but expands from the Home tab to offer the ability to add photo albums and maps from the Internet. There’s also options to add Horizontal lines, clear break, split post, tables, post tags and emoticons. Here you can also add plug-ins and manage plug-in options.
The Blog Account tab offers options of the blog which is selected in the Home tab, a link to view the site, and depending on the type of blog platform other links too. For example, with WordPress there are links to manage comments and access the Dashboard. There are also two other buttons to show the blog theme within the text editing field and to update them if changes were made to it.
The Main Menu offers some nice features such as quickly accessing recent drafts or posts. From here you can also create a new post or page, delete the local draft, publish, print, access more options, and obviously save (although for saving I prefer just hitting Ctrl+S since my hands are already at the keyboard typing). Another nice thing under “Save” is that you can post the draft and edit it online with one button.
The bottom bar of Windows Live Writer also has some basic, but nice features with three tabs on the left: Edit, Preview and Source. Preview enables you to view your post in your blog’s theme right within WLW. Source is the tab where you can edit the HTML. On the right there’s the status of the post (e.g. draft), when it was last saved and the word count.
Besides the tabs and main menu, there are more options when you click Options in the Main Menu. Here there are some great features that you can customize and change Windows Live Writer to your own liking. I suggest you look through them and guarantee that even if you do, you might miss something that later on you’ll find useful – I know I have.
Advantages: What Windows Live Writer Excels At
- Autosave drafts and posts to computer
- Blog without an Internet connection, then publish later
- One consistent interface for multiple blog platforms
- Many options which are keen to bloggers
- Keyboard shortcuts
When creating a blog post, it is continually autosaved as you’re writing. Although, I would still recommend the habit to manually save it (Ctrl+S) just to be sure.
Have you ever got an idea that you wanted to write about and maybe even had the time to write it, but didn’t have an Internet connection? Go figure. Thankfully, with Windows Live Writer you can use all the tools that you need to blog, save the post and easily publish it at a later time when a connection becomes available. You can’t do this with platforms on the web, obviously since you don’t have an Internet connection.
WLW is also compatible with several blogging platforms, in fact I haven’t found one that it doesn’t work well with. This means if you happen to have blogs on several different platforms like WordPress, Blogger, etc. you’re able to blog from a consistent interface every time. It also saves you the need to log in each time you want to blog (although there are some great apps to help speed up this process tremendously too).
From being able to add different forms of content like maps, images and tables to customizing header styles and unique features to encompass the “blogging styles,” WLW offers some excellent options. Sadly there still are some lacking, which I’ll touch upon in a bit.
Lastly, Windows Live Writer supports keyboard shortcuts, which is a must. I’m not a master at them by any means, and it has some which are customized to do certain things within the program, but since your hands are already at the keyboard writing, you might as well just use a keyboard shortcut command instead of the mouse. It just makes sense. If you’re looking for a specific shortcut to use, I recommend using Google – like most things technology, it’s your friend.
Disadvantages: What Windows Live Writer Could Improve On
- Lack of updated interface or any noticeable changes from 2011 version to 2012
- No “Find and Replace”
It doesn’t seem like there are many disadvantages here, but the two are pretty major. First and foremost, there aren’t any obvious changes within WLW from the 2011 version to the 2012 version. What? This makes no sense, especially with all the changes going on from Microsoft Office Preview to the new Outlook.com to Windows 8. Why wouldn’t they have started to make some advancements toward a new user interface (UI) within Windows Live Writer?
This next feature is a more detailed lack that I noticed (and I’m sure there are many others) and that is that there is still no “Find and Replace” feature. This is basic – it’s been in Microsoft Office for years, you’d think that it wouldn’t be very difficult to implement within a small blogging program.
Concern: How Much Longer Will Windows Live Writer Be Around?
This is somewhat an extension of the disadvantages, but more specifically focused on the direction Microsoft is taking Windows Live Writer. We all know that Windows Live will likely be shut down sometime in the near future. It was made clear when they changed the name from Windows Live Mail (aka Hotmail) to Outlook.com. Does this imply that they don’t plan on carrying out the other programs in this package either or simply renaming them and changing their interface? I hope it’s the latter – WLW could use an interface update – but I’m worried. After reviewing Office Preview, I see many features that indicate it could be used as blogging software (as a matter of fact Microsoft Office has been able to be used for that purpose for a while). Is this the direction Microsoft is going? Will they settle for Office as a replacement for Windows Live Writer? Granted you’d have to pay for this – keep that in mind.
I honestly hope I’m wrong, but I’m not the only one, even at MakeUseOf, who’s written about this concern – Chris Hoffman has too regarding other alternatives to Windows Live Writer in case it would cease to be developed further.
Bottom Line: Is Windows Live Writer For You?
In my honest opinion, I don’t think there is anything that can really compare to the standard that Windows Live Writer has as a desktop blogging software. WordPress comes in close, but it’s not in the same category being web-based.
So why might WLW not be for you? Honestly you can only answer that question yourself. I like it a lot, in fact, I’m writing this article in it now, but if you try it and find that you’re having to make yourself use it time after time or that you just don’t enjoy writing in the program, that’s all you need to know that it’s not for you. Now, there’s always a learning curve so take that into consideration.
Like I said, I feel WLW is the best, despite its shortfalls and I really hope Microsoft sees that they have a superior product and one of the only products that does an excellent job. We’ve seen them neglect services like Hotmail or SkyDrive and then scramble to catch up. So if they plan on maintaining or increasing the gap between Windows Live Writer and its competitors, then they’ve got to make some strides in keeping it updated (which like I said, it doesn’t appear they did anything at all between the last two versions).
What do you think? Is WLW the easiest way to blog? Do you use it? Will your try it now despite its uncertain future?