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August 23, 2006

Trying out Windows Live Writer

First impressions are that the current Windows Live Writer beta is rough.  Very rough.

Second impressions are that it's not so rough after all, but man, those first impressions were grim (see below).

Nice things:

  • Autodetection.  During setup, I had to enter the URL of my site, and my username and password.  Live Writer figured out everything else from that.  No need to dig out the XML-RPC endpoint from the Typepad docs, or anything like that: just "here's my weblog, get on with it."  I assume it has equally seamless support for services like Wordpress, Blogger and LiveJournal.
  • Web Preview.  Shows you what the post will look like on the site: that is, with all the chrome (titles, navigation, etc.), and alongside the other posts on the home page.   It even includes the article under construction in the navigation bar.  That's pretty clever.
  • The "save local draft" feature.  No annoying file dialogs, it just appears in the "drafts" folder.  Clean and simple.  And it has an "autosave every x minutes" option.  Sweet.

Nasty things:

  • The text editor.  It gets basic things like cursor movement and selection wrong, particularly around the post title.  So my first experience of Live Writer was entering a post title and first paragraph, and then struggling to get the cursor into the right place to edit them.  It seems to settle down when you get into normal text flow, but this was a disastrous first impression.  (Update: Nope.  It still sucks.  Looks like keyboard selection breaks if anchored at the end of the post.)
  • The WYSIWYG edit mode.  Live Writer is obviously using the site CSS to show me the post using the right fonts, colours, etc.  This is actually quite nice.  Unfortunately, because the white space and navigation bar are specified in the CSS , Live Writer faithfully replicates the layout, and I end up with an editing area maybe three or four words wide:

    I can get around this using "normal" view but then I don't get the WYSIWYG look.
  • "Blog this" (what Typepad calls QuickPost) requires you to install the Windows Live Toolbar and use Internet Explorer.  For me, this means Live Writer is suitable only for writing articles, which I hardly ever do nowadays, not for commenting on things I read (not that I do much of that either of course).  (Update: Looking at the SDK, they do deliberately providing ways for applications to invoke Live Writer for 'blog this' functionality, so hopefully a Firefox plugin is not far away.)
  • The generated HTML is quite hard to read (no whitespace), and random spaces get turned into nonbreaking spaces for no readily apparent reason.
  • The local save format is some weird binary thing and is therefore not usable with other tools.  Possibly this is some packaging thing but in that case why not use a zip file like the new Office formats?
  • "Insert picture" mangles PNGs.  The screenshot above used to be reasonably sharp, and where the huge bloated blurred linked version came from I have no idea.  I certainly didn't ask for it.
  • Questionable EULA: "In using the service, you may not... use the service in a way that harms us or our affiliates, resellers, distributors, and/or vendors (collectively, the 'Microsoft parties'), or any customer of a Microsoft party."  This seems to imply that I'm not allowed to write, "You guys should all buy Macintoshes," or "Such-and-such a Wintel OEM sucks," lest anyone listen to me and take their custom away from Microsoft or their resellers.  That's surely not the intention, but the phrasing of the EULA is a bit too broad.

August 23, 2006 in Web | Permalink


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