Monday, August 14, 2006

Windows Live Writer

Oh, the Blogosphere is alive today with the announcement of the beta release of Windows Live Writer.  This is an offline WYSIWYG blog post editor that was released by Microsoft at a very attractive price: Free.  (This is a beta version, but I assume that the final product will also be free).

Like everyone else, I jumped on the bandwagon to try it out.  In fact, you're looking at my first "TEST POST" (kind of the "Hello World"-type of post that everyone's been polluting my RSS feeds with).

During setup, it asked me for the URL of my blog, and a username/password to access the blogger interface as.  I wasn't really surprised that was one of the supported blogging platforms, but what did surprise me was my first experience of editing a post.

You see, it pulled down my blog template (including embedded stylesheets, etc), and provided a true WYSIWYG experience as I'm editing.  For example, here's a screenshot.  Notice the blog post title at the top replicated in the same style as my blog's website:


What's more is that there's a Preview mode that incorporates my full blog template, including other posts:


And now the real test of its performance: I'm going to paste some code from Visual Studio into the blog post to see what happens:

double GE = 398600.8; // Earth gravitational constant value
double KM_PER_EARTH_RADII = 6378.135;

double KE = Math.Sqrt(3600.0 * GE /

double NO = tle.RevolutionsPerDay * 2 * Math.PI / 1440.0;

double IO = tle.Inclination * Math.PI / 180.0;
double EO = tle.Eccentricity;
double WO = tle.ArgumentPerigee * Math.PI / 180.0;
double OMEGAO = tle.RightAscension * Math.PI / 180.0;
double MO = tle.MeanAnomaly * Math.PI / 180.0;

Hmm, that was anti-climactic.  It just grabbed the plaintext instead of the rich text.  (I had to manually put in the <hr> tags that you see rendered as lines above and below the source code...)  Oh well.

Now for the things that I don't like:

  1. It looks like the only option that I have for publishing images from WLW is to use a FTP server somewhere (since Blogger's image hosting service is kind of an add-on to the main blogging interface).  I don't have FTP access to an image server, so I'll need to add images after the publish.
  2. The "Insert Map" feature uses Windows Live Local (yeah, duh).  However, it also tries to insert a thumbnail image of the map into the blog post, which leads to an error when publishing (see the previous bullet).
  3. Blog posts and drafts are stored locally on your hard drive under My Documents/My Weblog Posts.  However, the .wpost file is binary (i.e., uses a Binary Formatter to serialize the post) and cannot be used/modified outside of the scope of WLW.  I would have like to seen the ability to Save As html, etc.

That's it for now.  I'm sure that it's only time before we see a lot of cool add-ins, like an Upload to Flickr feature that will solve the problem of image publishing.  So far, it seems to be a cool little utility (disclosure: I have not used any other offline editor, like BlogJet, etc, so this is my first experience creating a blog post without using Blogger's web interface).

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