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Drafting Blog Posts with Windows Live Writer

January 10, 2010

Most garden bloggers use one of the standard blog hosting sites, such as Blogger, Typepad, or WordPress. But I don’t think I’m alone in finding the tools available for drafting and editing posts at these sites unwieldy and frustrating. Formatting options are usually limited to a few html tags, and it can be very difficult to get text and photographs to stay put in relation to one another. For those who work on a computer with a Windows-compatible operating system, an alternative tool for drafting blog posts is provided by Windows Live Writer.

Windows Live Writer is free blogging software that you can download from the Windows Live website (click on the image below).

Windows Live Writer download pageThis is not a cloud application; it is blogging software that you download onto your own hard drive. And it is designed to work seamlessly with any of the standard blog hosting sites. Before you can download Live Writer, you’ll need to register as a Windows Live user, but this is simple; and if you use Hotmail, or Xbox Live, or any other Windows Live application, you are already registered.

When you open Windows Live Writer for the first time after downloading, you will click on the Blogs menu and add your blog account information. When you do this, the program will download all your theme information, blog header, categories, sidebar widgets, etc. from your blog hosting site and save them in Live Writer. You can update this information at any time, by clicking on the “View” menu and choosing “refresh theme.” Basic Editing Screen, Windows Live WriterThe view above shows the basic editing screen that Live Writer opens to (in this case, set up for my WordPress theme). Most of my drafting work is done in this view. I can type in a post title where indicated, and type post content into the white space. The editing toolbar above the editing screen makes it easy to format text and to insert hyperlinks, photos, or tables. The taskbar on the right side provides another way to insert links, photos, videos, maps, tables, etc. and also lists both currently saved drafts and recent posts.  Although this is the screen where most drafting work is done, tabs at the bottom of the screen also allow you to choose a “Source” view (convenient for adding html code) or a “Preview” that allows you to see how your post will look when it is published. Here, for example, is the preview screen of this post.Preview Screen - Windows Live Writer What do I see as the advantages of using Windows Live Writer?

  • It is very easy to format posts. Boldface, italics, underline, strike-through, bullet points, numbered lists, block quotes, justifying text, and a variety of font styles and sizes are all just a matter of pointing and clicking.
  • It is also easy to insert links, photos, videos, etc. And the task pane makes formatting these simple. (I don’t recommend using the photo album feature in Live Writer; I found the Windows Live Sky Drive application that this is linked to unreliable.)
  • I love the table option, which I use when I want to make sure that text and photos stay where I put them. For example, in my Jan. 1 post on gift calendars, I used a table 2 columns wide to format the display of calendar pages, as shown below.  Use of tables to keep photos and text in place in Windows Live Writer By choosing the “no border” option for formatting the table, the lines between cells of the table disappear when the post is published.
  • I like how easy it is to save multiple draft posts in Live Writer. Whenever I have an idea for a post, I just open a new draft and jot it down. Sometimes I just put in a tentative title and save it; or I might add an outline of ideas for the post, or a collection of photos that I want to use for the post. I can add ideas or content to a draft whenever they occur to me, and I usually have a dozen or more post ideas in process and saved in Live Writer.
  • Finally, because all this information is saved on my hard drive, I can work on blog posts even when I don’t have access to the internet (e.g., while I’m waiting at the auto mechanic for my car to be serviced).

When I have everything in a post the way I want it, I click “Publish” and send it off to be posted on my blog. Because I have sometimes found a few things that have to be tweaked within WordPress, I use the option of scheduling the post to appear at a later time (usually about 15-30 minutes after I click “publish”); this allows me to go into the editing screen in WordPress before the post actually appears to do any final tweaking and to choose an excerpt to summarize the post.

If you have been using your blog web host’s editor to draft and edit posts, and if you have been finding this frustrating, check out Windows Live Writer. It may just be the answer to your prayers.

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42 Comments leave one →
  1. January 10, 2010 1:07 pm

    Jean:
    I am currently 37% into the download. I am so grateful that someone out there was willing to venture into the great unknown and return with something better than Blogger. It has been the bane of my existence of late, and judging from some comments I’ve come across, we were not the only ones. Now its just teaching this old dog new tricks, but your step by step post will lessen the trepidation. Thank you!

  2. January 10, 2010 1:23 pm

    Jean,
    Thank you so much for this informative post. I began blogging with Blogger which I became frustrated with and switched to WordPress. My blog is privately hosted, but I am hoping I will still be able to use this program. I find that I am less limited in WordPress, but it still frustrates me from time to time, especially when it comes to the layout of pictures. Thank you for sharing the information, and I look forward to checking this out. 🙂

  3. January 10, 2010 1:23 pm

    What a helpful post Jean! I have the same problems you mention but I think I have it under control … with more work of course. I am so fearful of trying new things on my computer but will give this serious thought. I have a mac so not even sure if this would work for me. I will look at your posts with a new eye of understanding for how you pull it together. I recall loving your calendar post. Thank you Jean for your generosity! Carol

  4. January 10, 2010 1:31 pm

    Jean thank you for the leg work on this. Gosh, there is so much to learn at every aspect, and my next project is to totally understand the workings of my new camera.

    • Jean permalink*
      January 10, 2010 2:14 pm

      Wow! This got a lot of quick response. I guess I was right in perceiving a need out there. I have some mild techie tendencies, so learning new computer applications is actually fun for me.

      Teza, Let me know if this works out for you. WordPress hasn’t been undergoing the same kinds of changes Blogger has, but it was the frustrated comments from Blogger users that led me to move this post idea up to a higher priority.

      Liisa, I’m pretty sure that you’ll be able to use this.

      Carol, the situation is a little trickier for Mac users. I think that some Mac users run a program called “VMWare” or something like that to interface with Windows applications. The comments I’ve seen around the internet suggest that there aren’t any Mac programs that rival Live Writer (which some users have called the best software Microsoft ever created!).

      Diana, Like you, I’m still trying to get a handle on the technical capabilities of my camera. Live Writer won’t help either of us with that, but it does help with getting those photos into our blog posts more easily.

  5. January 10, 2010 1:46 pm

    This fascinates me, Jean. I don’t use anything but Word or NeoOffice for writing my articles in real life, and mostly I write my posts directly into the template at Blogger. It doesn’t bother me, but I’ve been doing these for four years as of tomorrow so I guess I just roll with what happens. But this sounds like a decent program, so I’m glad you shared your wisdom with others.

  6. January 10, 2010 3:03 pm

    Thank you Jean. I had been using Scribefire once in a while for drafts and postings. Here I had Windows Live on my new computer and did not even realize it. How silly is that? Now I can get rid of the Scribefire program. LOL.

  7. January 10, 2010 3:29 pm

    jean – wow! what a life saver, i can’t tell you how difficult it was to do drafts in blogger and had alot of wierd formatting things happen when i want to cut and paste so i can update the posting…..i’ll have to do this immediately.

    thanks so much for giving us a great insigth to this new tool, i’m looking forward to being more creative without having to worry about formatting issues on blogger

    yeaaaaaah

    noel

  8. January 10, 2010 3:39 pm

    downloading as we speak (it is speak isn’t it?).

    jim

  9. January 10, 2010 3:42 pm

    Thanks for the suggestion, I will consider it since Blogger is quite restrictive. I finally figures out how to use old pics without reloading them in the html editor, but there has to be a better system. 🙂

  10. Elephant's Eye permalink
    January 10, 2010 4:28 pm

    Thanks Jean. I am going to try this on my dummy blog, and see how it goes.

    • Jean permalink*
      January 10, 2010 5:08 pm

      I’ve noticed that many of you commenting on this are Blogger users. Since I have only used Live Writer with WordPress, I’d be interested in hearing about your experiences. If you download this and try it out with your blogspot account (Teza? Jim? Noel? Rebecca?), would you write back and leave another comment letting everyone know how it worked out for you?

      Lona, I’m interested in hearing that your computer already had this software loaded on it. I wonder if that might be true for others, too. If you try it, will you let us all know how it works out?

  11. January 10, 2010 8:12 pm

    Hi Jean, thanks so much for your suggestions. Have just downloaded and looking forward to using this new format to blog. I have been really fed up with the limited capabilities of Blogger, so you have been a real lifesaver
    x
    cheers
    robyn

  12. January 10, 2010 8:27 pm

    Jean, I am coming over from Teza’s blog, and thankfully reading your post and your comments. I have been experiencing too many problems with editing in Blogger also. I think that we should all revolt!

    Looking forward to giving this a try.

    Jen

  13. January 10, 2010 8:38 pm

    Thanks for the information, I also have a Mac but did read your comments to Carol. Anything to make blogging a little easier and more fun is a great thing!

  14. January 11, 2010 7:48 am

    Jean, I too use Live Writer and find it much more user-friendly than the write a post box on WordPress. I also use it to save numerous post ideas. Great tutorial for those unfamiliar with this tool.

    • Jean permalink*
      January 11, 2010 10:57 am

      Joene, Thanks for confirming my assessment of Live Writer. I knew I couldn’t be the only one out there in garden blog land using this great blogging tool.

      Catherine, I don’t know enough about the VMWare programs that Mac users need for the interface with Windows applications to know whether this would be worth your while. I’d be interested in hearing back from you and/or Carol if you check into it or try it out.

      Jen, I just saw your post using Live Writer, so I know you tried it out and are recommending it to other Blogger users.

      Robyn, So far I’ve had positive feedback from three Blogger users who’ve tried this — Teza, Jen, and Noel; so it sounds as though it works just as well with Blogger as it does with WordPress.

      Happy blogging everyone!

  15. January 11, 2010 11:25 am

    Hi Jean~~ Perpetually behind on my blog reading, I received an email from Teza imploring me to visit your blog and get the lowdown on Windows Live. My first thought was, Uh oh… Microsoft? My hubby is a computer programmer and, well, let’s just say, Microsoft is often not his friend. I’m reluctant to try anything new like some of your other commenters especially after I so bravely blazed the trail of Blogger’s latest composer/editor/thingie. I almost cried I was so frustrated, reverting to what I know, the older option. However, I think I will at least download Windows Live and play with it. Thank you for a informative yet easy to understand post. Your computer prowess is evident and much appreciated. … I enjoyed the calendar post and wondered how you formatted your photos. Picasa has an easy to use collage feature but yours seemed different. Nice job. Thanks.

    • Jean permalink*
      January 11, 2010 11:52 am

      Grace, I sympathize with your skepticism about Microsoft products. Live Writer appears to be created by a bunch of geekie types who were supposed to be working for Mozilla but took a wrong turn somewhere and ended up in an obscure corner of Microsoft where they have not yet been discovered and forced to toe the line and create clunky, not-user-friendly software with impossible-to-decipher “help.” I mean, they actually invite people to create plug-ins to make Live Writer even more functional! How un-Microsoft is that?!?

      But, if you are a non-Microsoft household, you may be using a Mac, which means that you won’t be able to use this software unless you also have VMWare, and I have no idea how good that interface is. If your husband is such an independent programmer type that you are running Linux, I think all bets are off.

      Let me know how you make out.

      I’ve been envying all those nice photo collages people publish, so learning how to use Picasa or something similar seems to be my next project.

  16. January 11, 2010 12:19 pm

    Hi Jean,

    What a useful tool. I do wrestle with blogger some. Unfortunately, I have a Mac. So, I guess I will have to manage with blogger….
    I am sure that you have helped so many fellow bloggers with telling them about this useful software 🙂

  17. January 11, 2010 2:33 pm

    hi jean, well i made my first post with this tool and it worked well, take a look
    http://aplantfanatic.blogspot.com/2010/01/exciting-and-unusual-container-plant.html

    i would say, the only think you have to watch out for is when you publish from the tool to your blog, you cannot make anymore changes after the fact, a regular habit i used to make on blogger when i found a typo.

    • Jean permalink*
      January 11, 2010 2:44 pm

      It looks good, Noel! Thanks for the tip about the after-the-fact changes. For WordPress users, it is possible to do some last-minute edits in the “edit posts” screen after the post has been published. (I do this all the time.) You should note that it is possible to re-open your published post in Live Writer (click on it in the “recently published” list in the side taskbar), make your changes, and then republish it.

  18. sequoiagardens permalink
    January 12, 2010 4:40 am

    Wow Jean! What really excites me with my pathetic internet is the off-line possibilities. I shall definitely install and try. Thanks for a truly informative post! Picassa is shelved in my life – but I might well stll dust it off for collage work. My recent collages on the scatterpacks in the lower Rosemary Border where created years ago in Paint, but I have found Picasso’s collages useful.

    • sequoiagardens permalink
      January 12, 2010 4:43 am

      PS: seems it was a godsend that I chanced on a WordPress blog which finally got me blogging. I registered years ago but never published anything on Blogger because it just seemed more work than I had the time for…

  19. January 12, 2010 5:13 am

    Jean, I think you have stumbled on a goldmine. I am definitely joining in the fun. I’ll be trying on blogger and wordpress as well. Thank you very much for sharing it with all of us. I am very excited now!

    • Jean permalink*
      January 12, 2010 10:32 am

      Jack and Autumn Belle, I’m glad that you’re excited by the possibilities here.

      I should note for all you new Live Writer users that it doesn’t completely solve the problems with keeping photos and text in place. Sometimes when you upload to WordPress or Blogger, you find that things have slipped around a bit and text and photos are running into each other. I’m going to do another post on tips for manipulating images in Live Writer (next week — first, I want to do a post that is actually about the garden instead of just about garden blogging!).

      In the meantime, here are a few quick tips:
      When you insert an image (or click in one that you’ve already inserted), the image taskpane opens on the right of your screen. (If you don’t have the taskpane visible, go to the “View” menu at the top of the page and click on “taskpane.”) There’s a lot you can do here.
      On the “Picture” tab, you can change the alignment of the photo in relation to text. In addition, you can add margins around the photo that separate it a bit more from the text. (Click on “Custom Margins”) I like 5-10 pixels between the image and any adjacent text. You can also choose what kind of border (if any) you want to have on your image.
      On the “Advanced” tab, you can rotate or tilt your image, change the contrast or crop it, and add a watermark. You can also use the “alternate text” box to insert a caption that will appear when a reader moves the cursor over the image.

      More next week on dealing with those pesky image problems. (When I do this in class, my students jokingly refer to it as “previews of coming attractions.”)

  20. January 12, 2010 11:22 am

    Oh Jean I am alittle behind on reading blog posts this week. This is fantastic. I am a member of window’s live so I will bookmark this page and get started on this on my testblog. I get so frustrated especially with images not staying in the spot that I want them in.

    I marvelled at your calendar post – I could not figure out how you had those pictures placed like that – I thought that maybe you had made it via Picasa or a similar product.

    I work on blogger so I’ll let you know how I get on.

  21. January 12, 2010 11:22 am

    Jean I am so happy! This truly is so much easier, writing blog posts is actually a fun endeavor again. Goodbye Blogger, both old editor and new editors. I am sticking with Windows Live Writer.

    Just one tiny glitch, I can’t quite figure out how to schedule the post to publish when I want it to. I have seen the button, and put in the time and date, but it didn’t publish. I had to go back and do it manually. Other than this, I am so very impressed, and encourage everyone to give this a try.

    Jen

    • Jean permalink*
      January 12, 2010 1:14 pm

      Jen, I’m glad this is working out for you. I think I may have an explanation for the glitch on the scheduled post. The important thing to remember here is that Live Writer is not a blog hosting site like Blogger or WordPress; rather, it’s an intermediary to help you communicate with Blogger or WordPress. It’s like you’ve said, “Okay, I don’t want to deal with Blogger anymore; you tell Blogger what it is I want to do.” So, when you’re drafting in Live Writer, you’re preparing a message for Blogger, but Live Writer doesn’t tell Blogger anything until you click “Publish.” If I use the box in Live Writer to schedule my post for 5 p.m. this afternoon, I’m not telling Live Writer to wait until 5 to send my post to Blogger; I’m saying, “And tell Blogger not to put this out on the web until 5 p.m.” So, after you fill in the date and time you want to schedule the post for, go ahead and click “publish.” If it works correctly, Blogger shouldn’t actually publish the post to your blog until the scheduled time. I hope this clears up the problem.

  22. January 12, 2010 3:33 pm

    A most interesting post Jean – many thanks for all the information which was so clearly illustrated. Another Mac user here without VMware but I have downloaded Live Writer programme onto onto our laptop and will have a play there. I have stayed with the old Blogger editor but it has been a bit erratic recently 😦

  23. gloria bonde permalink
    January 12, 2010 9:00 pm

    Jean – a humongous thank you! I immediately downloaded this program and made a post that I had been thinking about. So easy, quick and amazing – A big hug to you! – Gloria

  24. January 13, 2010 2:23 am

    Jean, the good news is that I have made a post on Blogger at my city daily photo. It was fast and efficient. I don’t need to switch between old and new editors everytime I do a post and this saves a lot of time. The only problem is the thumbnail won’t appear in another blogger’s display of blog links and I don’t know why. Anyway, a gazillion thank yous to you! :)) Cheers!

    • Jean permalink*
      January 13, 2010 2:00 pm

      Autumn Belle, I’m glad you found Live Writer fast and efficient. The problem with the thumbnail is, alas, one that I know nothing about, so I can’t help you there. If you figure out how to solve this problem, will you let us all know?

  25. Nan Ondra permalink
    January 13, 2010 1:34 pm

    This is GREAT, Jean! I can’t wait to try it. WordPress can be very frustrating.

    I’ve added a link to this post to the Garden Blog Projects page over at Gardening Gone Wild. Thanks!

    • Jean permalink*
      January 13, 2010 2:02 pm

      Thanks, Nan. So many garden bloggers knew nothing about Live Writer and have found it very helpful, that I’m trying to find the best ways to get the word out there. Your Garden Blog Projects page is definitely one such way.

  26. January 14, 2010 4:01 am

    I’ve been using Windows Live Writer for a couple weeks now and I do like it, but I find that when I use photos I get an error message when I try to publish it to my Blogger blog. I’ve had to go back and delete the photos, then publish the draft to the blog, go into Blogger and re-insert the photos, then publish from Blogger. If anyone knows how I can avoid all that, I’d love to hear it!

    • Jean permalink*
      January 14, 2010 10:05 am

      Claire, This sounds so frustrating. I don’t know the solution, but here is a list of Blogger users who I believe have posted photos without any problem using Live Writer. You might be able to contact one or more of them to see what they are doing differently from you:
      Teza at Teza’s Garden
      Noel at A Plant Fanatic in Hawaii
      Jen at Muddy Boot Dreams
      Autumn Belle at My Nice Garden

      Good luck!

  27. Nan Ondra permalink
    January 14, 2010 9:06 pm

    I just had to come back and thank you again, Jean. I downloaded the program today and used it to create my next post for Hayefield (on WordPress.com), and it was so much easier than the usual way that I almost wept with relief. I am SO grateful to you for sharing this. If it works anywhere near as well for my Gardening Gone Wild posts, I’ll be ecstatic. You are the best!

    • Jean permalink*
      January 14, 2010 11:05 pm

      That’s great, Nan. It gives me such a nice warm fuzzy feeling to make people happy just by sharing what I know. (I don’t usually get this kind of effusive response from my students. Garden bloggers are such nice people.)

  28. May 10, 2012 2:25 am

    Maybe all of you will be interested (as Windows Live Writer users) in my latest blog post here at http://technograns.wordpress.com/2012/05/04/windows-live-writer-what-happens-now/

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