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Taming Images with Windows Live Writer

January 19, 2010
Mary Todd (photo credit: Jean Potuchek) Carribean Pink Sands (photo credit: Jean Potuchek) His Pastures Green (photo credit: Jean Potuchek)
Unidentified cultivar - diamond-dusted pink (photo credit: Jean Potuchek) Margaret Seawright (photo credit: Jean Potuchek) Decatur Elevator (photo credit: Jean Potuchek)
Orange Bounty (photo credit: Jean Potuchek) Alna Pride (photo credit: Jean Potuchek) Tawny daylily - Hemerocallis fulva (photo credit: Jean Potuchek)
 

A number of garden bloggers have recently discovered Windows Live Writer as a blogging tool (see Drafting Blog Posts with Windows Live Writer). Live Writer is not a blog hosting site (like WordPress or Blogger), but is a software package to help you communicate with your blog hosting site. Most of the time, Windows Live Writer does a good job of acting as a communication intermediary, but sometimes something gets lost in the translation.

One place that I find the communication most likely to break down is in the manipulation of images, so this post will focus on some tips for using Live Writer to tame image problems.

There are a number of different ways that you can insert an image into a Live Writer draft:

  • You can use the “Insert” menu at the top of the page,
  • You can use the picture icon or the insert menu on the toolbar above the editing screen,
  • or you can click on the picture icon in the taskpane to the right of the editing screen.

It doesn’t matter which one you use; they’ll all get you to the same place.

Whenever you insert an image or click on one that has already been inserted, the picture taskpane will open. This includes a number of useful tools. Note that there are three tabs at the top of the picture taskpane. I am going to focus here on the Picture tab (top right image) and the Advanced tab (lower right).
 

The Picture tab allows you to choose how you want your image to be aligned in relation to the surrounding text, whether you want margins around your image, what kind of border you want your image to have, and what you want to happen if someone clicks on the image. The defaults are an inline image (left justified with text above and/or below), no margins, no borders, and clicking to enlarge the image; but you can change these. It is possible to center your image or to wrap text to the right or to the left (as I am doing here). I also like to but a margin of 5-10 pixels between the image and any adjacent text. There are lots of choices for type of border, and you can set your image so that clicking on it links to a website.

Image taskpane, Picture tab
 
Now let’s turn to the Advanced tab. The top part of this taskpane screen allows you to adjust the size of your image on the page, but I find it much easier to do that by clicking and dragging the edges of the image.
 

I want to call your attention to the actions available on this tab. You can rotate your image, adjust the contrast, crop the image, tilt it, or add a watermark. The latter allows you to put text on the image – a copyright mark, or the name of the image owner, or a caption.

 

My favorite way to add a caption to an image, however, is the Alternate text box at the bottom of this taskpane screen. Whatever you type in this box will appear when a viewer holds the cursor over the image. (Try it with the images to the right.)

Image taskpane, Advanced tab

As long as all you want to do is put images inline or centered, this is probably all you need to know. If you have trouble with text bleeding into your images, try using margins above and below your image, or put a paragraph break before and after the image.

If, however, you want to wrap text to the right or left of the image, or if you want to place two images side-by-side, or if you want to put captions beside your images, it will help to learn how to use tables in Live Writer, because tables fix images or text to the page so that they can’t move around.

Insert Table dialog box

There are as many different ways to insert a table as to insert an image: (1) the Insert menu at the top of the page, (2) the table icon or insert menu in the toolbar above the editing screen, or (3)the table icon in the taskpane to the right of the editing screen. And, once again, it doesn’t matter which one you use because they’ll all get you to the same place – the Insert Table dialog box (seen here).

This is where you choose how many rows and columns you want in your table. (If I wanted to place two images side-by-side, I’d choose 1 row and 2 columns). You can set the overall width of your table here, but you can also adjust this by clicking and dragging the borders of the table, which I find easier. This box also allows you to choose whether or not you want the borders of your table to show in your final published post (either way, you’ll be able to see them in the editing screen), how much space you want between the contents of a cell and the boundaries of that cell (padding), and how much space you want between cells. When you’ve made your choices, click "Insert,” but please know that you can change your mind about any of these choices after the fact. Anytime you have your cursor placed inside a table, you can access the Table menu, either by clicking on Table at the top of the page or by clicking on the table icon on the toolbar. If you click on “Table Properties” in this menu, it will get you to a screen almost identical to the Insert Table dialog box. I’m not going to go into the other choices in this menu here; if you start using tables, play around with the options in the Table menu to see what they do.

Okay, let’s look at a couple of examples:

In my December Skies, photo essay, I wanted to have photos offset on different sides of the page with a small amount of text next to each. I could make this look the way I wanted in Live Writer by using lots of extra paragraph breaks to space the text out; but when I uploaded to WordPress, it “helpfully” eliminated all the extra paragraph breaks, jumbling the text and images together. Below you can see my solution.

With the barest hint of rose at dawn, decemberdawn_thumb
treetopglow_thumb1 … and the soft glow of treetops in the slanted rays of the morning sun,
 

…two 1-row x 2-column tables, placed one below the other, with the image in one cell of the table and the text in the other cell. (In the original post, the table borders did not show, but I’ve made them visible here so you can see how it was done.)

Now scroll up and look at the collage of my favorite daylilies at the top of this post. This was done by creating a 3×3 table (below) and then inserting an image into each cell of the table.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Normally, I wouldn’t bother creating a collage in this way. It’s pretty tedious to get the images fitted properly to the cells, and Picasa, which has a greater variety of collage options, produces more polished and professional-looking collages. (If you are not familiar with Picasa, it’s another free downloadable program, this time from Google. Click here.) But there are some things I can do with a Live Writer table that I can’t do in Picasa.

  • I’m a Picasa newbie, but as far as I’ve been able to tell, it doesn’t allow you to manually move images around in the collage. You can click “Shuffle Images” to get a different randomly chosen arrangement; but, if I’ve done the math correctly, there are over 362,000 different combinations of nine images. You could spend an awful lot of time clicking “Shuffle Images” before Picasa happened on the arrangement you want!
  • I can use a table to create a collage in a shape that Picasa doesn’t offer, as I did in my A Year of Gifts from the Garden post. (Here, I also wanted the images in a specific order, which I couldn’t get from Picasa.)
  • If I create my collage using a table, I can put a caption on each image (just hold your cursor over each in the collage above to see the name of the daylily variety), and you can also click on each image to see a larger version of it.
  • If I wanted to, I could actually add a caption below each image (as I did on the calendar post). This would be a simple matter of using the Table menu to insert another row for text beneath each row of images.

I know that this is a ridiculously long post with a lot of information to take in. But as you use these various tools, you will become comfortable with them – and pretty soon, you’ll have those unruly images doing exactly what you want!

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30 Comments leave one →
  1. January 19, 2010 8:33 am

    Very interesting, Jean. As a Mac user, I shudder when I see the word “Windows”, but Google showed that this program is also available for the Mac. I was unaware that such programs even existed, so did another quick search for something Mac-specific and came up with Blogo (reviewed on Mashable). I’ll be looking into this to see if it adds flexibility. Thanks for the education.

  2. January 19, 2010 8:46 am

    Another excellent and encouraging post, Jean. I’m with Helen of course, using only Macs and running screaming from anything suggesting Windows, but this is the sort of practical explanation of programs that everyone needs. Nicely done.

  3. January 19, 2010 9:16 am

    Jean, thank you for all this very helpful information. Now all I need is the time to sit down and play with it. I seem to be such a creature of routine, once I know how to do something, it takes a lot to move me on to something new, but this will help when I do.
    Deborah

  4. January 19, 2010 10:48 am

    Jean thankyou so much for taking the time to explain this to us bloggers. I really do appreciate your efforts. I have quickly scanned your article and after I’ve made the dinner for my hungry clan I will get this windows live up on the screen and try it out for myself.

    🙂 Rosie

  5. January 19, 2010 11:08 am

    Jean, your generosity and knowledge is overwhelming… thank you so! I confess to being so obtuse in these matters! Drat!! But I will try … for your explanations seem to make it all so much easier to do. Again Thank you! ;>) Carol

  6. January 19, 2010 4:08 pm

    More great information Jean – will be trying this out on the laptop soon. Many thanks 🙂

  7. January 19, 2010 6:43 pm

    Jean,
    This is wonderful post for those that have a tendency to get a little impatient when trying out new computer software. That would be me. I am really looking forward to trying this out. Thank you so much for all of your information. 🙂

  8. January 19, 2010 10:51 pm

    Jean, as you know I just did two ambitious photo collages featuring the color turquoise. I did use Picasa to make these, and I’m completely baffled by the fact there’s no way to manually arrange the order of the photos – all you can do is randomly shuffle them till you get something you can live with.

    Secondly, I wanted to tell you how to prevent WordPress from taking out blank lines that you insert — use the HTML code for a line break. So if I wanted two empty lines here, if I were working in the HTML editor, I’d insert this code:

    This usually works quite well. However, like you said, placing photographs can be a bit tricky. I’ve actually resorted to typing in rows of xxxxx as “filler” and then changing the color of the filler to white so it is invisible against the white background.

    • Jean permalink*
      January 20, 2010 11:00 am

      Hello Everyone. Thanks for all your comments. Let me begin by saying that I am really not trying to push Live Writer on those who are happy with their blog host editors. Since I learned about Live Writer when I began blogging, have been using it all along, and have found it easy to use, I wanted to let others know that it was out there. I think a program like Windows Live Writer is particularly useful for those who: (a) are tearing their hair out trying to deal with their blog host’s editor; (b) would prefer not to deal with html tags and would rather compose in an environment that’s more like a standard word processor; or (c) have an iffy or slow internet connection and would find it a boon to be able to draft blog posts offline.

      Helen, if you check out Blogo, I would love to hear about your experiences with it. I know that there are devoted Mac users out there who would love to have an alternative to their blog host’s editor.

      Helen and Jodi, I guess “devoted Mac user” is a redundant phrase. I might have ended up being a devoted Mac user myself if I had begun computing later. But when I began using a personal computer in the early 1980s, Apple had not yet figured out a good way to deal with word processing. Believe it or not, the first Apple computers could not handle a text file more than 10 pages long; since I was working on a PhD dissertation in which the shortest chapter was about 40 pages, this was clearly not an option for me. Also, since my brain has a much easier time processing words than images, I found the early DOS (pre-Windows) environment in which, if I wanted to delete something, I typed the letter “d” for delete much easier than looking at all those icons to figure out which one meant delete. And once you’re comfortable in one system, switching to the other is such a pain. (Like Deborah, I’m reluctant to break my established routines.)

      Deborah, Rosie, Carol, Anna, and Liisa, I’m glad you find the information helpful. I’ve been teaching college students how to use computer applications to do sociological research for many, many years now, so I like to think I’ve gotten pretty good at breaking scary, complicated things down into easy to understand steps.

      Hilda, Thanks for confirming my sense that Picasa only allows random arrangements of images in collages. I agree with you that this is a big lack; let’s hope that the programmers at Google fix this in the next version. Thanks also for the tips on how to get WordPress to keep in those extra line breaks. I love the idea of typing in some “invisible letters;” so clever!!

  9. January 20, 2010 1:49 pm

    Jean, you’ve done me a great service. I ahve not had the time of late to play with tables in Live Writer. Now I know it is very similar to how tables work in Word – thanks so much!

    I’ve used Picnik – a free or pay web-based photo manipulation service (free for lesser use) to create collages. Some of your readers might want to give it a look.

  10. Nan Ondra permalink
    January 20, 2010 6:53 pm

    Another great post, Jean. I’m looking forward to trying these tips too. Thanks for sharing them!

    Nan

  11. January 21, 2010 5:06 am

    Thx for sharing! Quite informative and beautifully explained Jean 🙂

  12. January 21, 2010 10:43 am

    Posting this information and the previous post was a real service for readers searching for help with their blogs, Jean.

    Cameron has some tips on her blog for those of us who tend to hold on to the old ways. I thought it was a vast improvement when Blogger added the ‘new’ text editor where switching back and forth between HTML and Compose mode is possible.

    • Jean permalink*
      January 21, 2010 4:23 pm

      Joene, Nan, Radhika, and Nell, Thanks for visiting and for your positive feedback.

      Joene, Yes, using tables in Live Writer is pretty much the same as using them in Word. So those who are already Word users and have used tables in Word will feel pretty much at home negotiating tables in Live Writer. And for those who use Word but haven’t used Tables there, if you learn to use them in Live Writer, that knowledge is readily transferable to Word.

      Nell, Thanks for sharing this information about Cameron’s posts. On her blog Defining Your Home, Garden and Travel, Cameron has published two recent posts specifically for Blogger users about how to accomplish much of what was covered here in Blogger’s editor. The posts are Add Captions to Blog Photos and Posting Photos in Columns and Rows (Tables).

  13. January 21, 2010 9:42 pm

    Thanks so much for all this, Jean. Very timely, indeed. I recently started using Live Writer for my blog posts, and find your information very helpful, especially the collage application and creating hyperlinks to images. Like you, my computing experience goes back to MSDOS-based application, which all seems like a world away now. Thank goodness! Hank

  14. January 21, 2010 9:44 pm

    Does anyone know if Live Writer works well for those of us who blog on WordPress rather than Blogger?

  15. January 21, 2010 10:31 pm

    I am going to look into this. I have read your posts and it makes it more logical than plain old wordpress which can be very frustrating. Thanks again for this info.

    • Jean permalink*
      January 22, 2010 9:22 am

      Hank, It’s nice to know I’m not the only one out here who remembers the old MSDOS computing world. I remember how excited I was when I got the first version of windows, which made it possible to have more than one application open at a time. As I was working on this post, I also realized where I had used that “alternate text” box to create captions before — when I first learned to create web pages in the old Netscape editor. It makes me wonder if some of the Live Writer programmers are refugees from Netscape.

      Hilda, Yes Live Writer works well with WordPress. There is a Live Writer blog (here’s the link) where users can interact with other Live Writer users, submit inquiries about specific issues, etc., and that blog has a page specifically for using Live Writer with WordPress.

      Teresa, I think you will find Live Writer easier than the WordPress editor. I am a WordPress user, and I find the interaction between WordPress and Live Writer pretty seamless (except for the occasional glitch in the placement of images — but those are easily solved by using tables).

  16. January 22, 2010 7:09 pm

    Oh My! Very Very Impressive and Inspirational. It is amazing what you can do with a computer. Nice reading..

  17. January 23, 2010 5:19 pm

    Thanks for this, Jean. I definitely will look into it. I can use all the help I can get!

    • Jean permalink*
      January 24, 2010 1:32 pm

      Kim, I’m always looking for ways to get computer programs to do what I want to do, rather than adjusting myself to the technology.
      Janie, Once I’ve figured it out, I like to share what I’ve learned with others. (It’s the teacher in me.)

  18. January 24, 2010 3:05 pm

    I’ve not gone live with it yet Jean – I only wish I had done my last post on this as its sooo good and does everything for me that blogger wouldn’t do. I just clicked the preview button and wow it looked good to be able to see how the finished post would look. Its taken me days to get some free time to download the programme. I’ve got both your links bookmarked now Jean so I can keep referring to them.

    Rosie

  19. January 24, 2010 10:21 pm

    Jean, seriously you have made my life so much easier since I read your posts on Live Writer. Now blogging is fun again, and simple.

    This is also a great post, and very informative.

    Thanks, Jen

    • Jean permalink*
      January 25, 2010 8:50 pm

      Jen, I’m glad to be of service. It’s been a long time since I got this much appreciative feedback from so many people! 🙂 When you see my next post, you will see that I kind of went berserk with the idea of making images do what I want them to do.

      Rosie, Good luck with this. I should tell you that I’ve had some occasions when what I saw in the “Preview” screen wasn’t completely accurate. Just to be sure, I always upload my posts to WordPress, check them there, and then download them back to Live Writer if I have to make any adjustments. Let’s hope that the preview is a more accurate representation in Blogger.

  20. September 18, 2010 9:10 pm

    My favorite method of adding images to Live Writer is using the Windows 7 Snippet Tool and then just copy/paste the images directly into the Live Writer post and let it size and watermark them. Really convenient and you don’t have to even click the insert image link.

  21. Teresa permalink
    February 10, 2011 1:36 pm

    YES. What a great solution to fixed placement of text and images. I love it!
    I found your idea when I was googling text boxes in windows live while trying to think of get-arounds.
    Thank you very much for this idea…I can’t wait to try it out.

  22. Teresa permalink
    February 10, 2011 2:19 pm

    Yes live writer does seem much more doable for me. The tables seem to work well for me….now I just have to figure out now how to make them transparent 😉 It should be do-able. I found the tables plug-in and that is a start.

    • February 10, 2011 9:53 pm

      Teresa, I’m glad that you found your way to my blog and found this information helpful. I’m not running the most recent version of Live Writer, because it requires Windows 7 or Vista, and I’m still running Windows XP. In my version of Live Writer, when you open the table dialog box or the table properties box, it has a check box marked “show table borders;” if it is not checked, the borders will be invisible in the published post (although they show up as dotted lines in the edit view). It can take a bit of time to figure out how to make these tools do what you want to do, but I think it’s worth it. Good luck!

  23. liyanatai permalink
    April 13, 2012 10:59 am

    Hi I’m using windows live writer 2011. I have a trouble shifting the pictures to wherever I wan because I don’t seem to have a task pane in my version. So how do I do it? Whenever I try to shift the pictures by adding/reducing the picture margins, the words will follow and it won’t be nice.

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