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Windows Live Writer Beta

Microsoft's free application offers bloggers some convenient tools and freedom from their browsers' limitations.

If you're a blogger, chances are you do most of your writing directly in a Web browser. Microsoft has now rolled out a standalone blogging application, Windows Live Writer, which not only works with the Live family but with Blogger, LiveJournal, and any blogging system that supports one of a broad range of APIs.

So why use a standalone program to do your blogging, when almost every online blogging service out there already has a fairly powerful WYSIWYG interface that runs in your Web browser? After working with Windows Live Writer, I think the answer is pretty self-evident. For one, Live Writer offers a more consistent and less browser-dependent way to blog, especially if you're dealing with many blogs hosted on multiple services. It also provides you with an interface that's not shackled to the limits of what can be presented in a browser without plug-ins or add-ons.



Click image to enlarge.

Officially, Live Writer is still in beta, but it's solid enough at this point that I could use it for production work without any major hitches. Once installed, it can be immediately configured to work with many common blogging systems, including Blogger, LiveJournal, TypePad, WordPress, and, of course, Windows Live Spaces. If you don't know what your blog runs, you can simply point Live Writer at the blog's homepage, submit your user name and password, and Live Writer will automatically discover the necessary data. I have blogs set up through Movable Type, another popular blogging and content-management system, and Live Writer was able to figure it out without much trouble.

Live Writer gives you a fast and well-behaved interface that lets you add rich formatting, links, and pictures to a post without hassle. The default editing mode is a kind of draft view, with the title at the top in an isolated box and the body of the post below. Press F11 and you'll see the post as it would appear with the formatting and styling of your blog. Press F12 and you'll see the post in context on your blog itself -- a really wonderful feature if you have complex formatting on your blog and want to make sure a given post doesn't break it. Shift-F11 brings up the raw HTML, which you can edit manually or paste in from another source.

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