OLW splashscreen

Open Live Writer Replaces Windows Live Writer

WINDOWS LIVE WRITER (WLW) was one of the most popular tools for beginning and intermediate-level bloggers over the past ten years. Originally Onfolio Writer, Microsoft bought Onfolio back in 2006, later packaging Writer as Windows Live Writer, eventually making it part of its Windows Live Essentials package.

What WLW offered was an easy-to-use desktop app to publish blog content to a variety of services (including Blogger and WordPress) using a word-processor style, WYSIWIG  interface. In other words, you didn’t have to bother dealing with the various (and changing) writing interfaces found on the major blogging services. (I tried it with earlier versions of Google’s Blogger and WordPress, years ago.) Microsoft, however, stopped making improvements to WLW a bit more than three years ago. The Web and blogging platforms didn’t stop changing, though.

Introducing Open Live Writer

Instead of revitalizing the project, Microsoft donated the code to the .Net Foundation, which includes many Microsoft employee volunteers, as an open source project. On December 9, 2015, the foundation released version 0.5 of Open Live Writer (OLW).

As an on-going project, it’s not complete (or bug-free) by any means, but it’s ready for writing and publishing on several blogging platforms, including WordPress.com, installed WordPress.org sites, Moveable Type, Live Journal, Community Server, DasBlog, TypePad, and Overblog.

Google’s Blogger is a problem. It appears that Blogger may have stopped support of the original authorization system before OLW could implement a more up-to-date version. Blogger users might find that neither WLW or OLW work at the moment, but a solution should be coming very soon.

The Home Toolbar in Open Live Writer

Open Live Writer’s Home editing toolbar.

What is Open Live Writer Good For?

Open Live Writer makes it easy for bloggers to write their posts on Windows 10 computers. (Announcements are not clear about whether it is backwards compatible with Windows 7 or 8 yet.) It works much like a word processor, using a tool bar and has keyboard shortcuts for almost everything. You can change fonts, add Heading Levels 1 through 6, and normal paragraph styles with a single mouse click. You can also adjust font-size, add boldface, italics, strike-though, underlined , superscript, subscript, and highlighted text, plus change text colors. You can create simple tables and bulleted and numbered lists, too, but you cannot customize the bullets or numbering system.

If you find you’ve messed up the formatting beyond easy repair, you can remove all formatting of selected text with a single mouse click or two keyboard taps.

You can also add hyperlinks, pictures, and embed videos and maps, all from your desktop. If you’ve ever clicked Publish on your WordPress blog, only to realize that you forgot to set your Categories or Tags, you can do that in advance on the desktop with Open Live Writer.

Insert menu

The Insert menu shows the types of content you can add to your post off-line.

Download and installation are quick and easy. You add your blog’s credentials when you first start the program. (Passwords can be either saved or entered as needed.) You also download info from your blog’s theme to make the desktop text closer to the final blog project. (Google and other web fonts don’t appear to be supported unless they are also installed on your device.)

Publishing is a one-click affair. Alternately, you can upload the post as a draft and finish it on your site.

Blog Acct menu and Options Box

You can add separate accounts for each blog you own.

Other Advantages of Open Live Writer:

  • You can write your post when you have no access to the internet.
  • You can publish your post when access is restored or schedule it for later.
  • You can write and track multiple blogs, even on different blog platforms, using the same writing interface for all.
  • Keyboard shortcuts and a word-processor-like interface speed up writing.
  • It’s autosave feature keeps you from losing work, and keeps a copy of your post on your computer, in case of problems or attacks on your blog online.
  • The editor keeps a running word count.
  • You can add photos and pictures before uploading your post and adjust formatting, picture styles, watermarks, and add alt text (but, oddly, not captions).
The Emoticons Menu

The Emoticons Menu

If you use emoticons on your blog, you can insert from a menu of emoticons. Many writers, though, don’t consider this an advantage.

Main Preferences toolbox

Some of the Preferences you can select in the Options area.

What Open Live Writer Cannot Do, Yet

This is version, 0.5, so the beta version is not yet complete. We are still waiting for some features, such as:

      • Spell-checking
      • Find and Replace editing
      • OLW plug-ins (to add features) are in the works
      • Support for OAuth 2 authentication (for Blogger and other platforms)

A few features, based on proprietary or out-of-date code have been removed, including the “Albums” feature and the Blog This API for Internet Explorer and Firefox.

It’s Not for Everybody

If you like to code your own HTML and CSS, you are likely to prefer a text-processor designed for HTML and CSS (and other languages), such as Notepad++.

In Open Live Writer, you can view and edit your HTML code by clicking on the Source button (below and to the left of the editing window).  But the source code shows as one, huge block of text with no code highlighting, indentation, line breaks or line numbering. In other words, you can do simple HTML editing, but you probably won’t enjoy it. (The older Windows Live Writer had plugins for code syntax highlighting and code formatting. If added to OLW in the future, this could help immensely.)

OLW does not support Markdown, although that may be added in the future. Markdown users will likely prefer different programs (see Frugal Guidance 2’s Monster List of Markdown Tools).

You can connect OLW with your blog theme to improve the WYSIWYG interface, but you cannot implement other plugin features or add custom formatting.

Who should use Open Live Writer?

Beginning bloggers who are uncomfortable writing online with a blogging editor may fall in love with this program.

If you write when travelling or have intermittant access to the internet, you can write anytime on your laptop and upload or publish your material later when you connect to the web.

Any Windows user who can’t stand WordPress’s (or Blogger’s) editor should try OLW. When I used Blogger, my complaint wasn’t with the editor per se, but with the slow speed of editing, saving and showing changes. Editing off-line speeds things up a lot.

Bloggers who write for several blogging platforms may appreciate using a single writing interface capable of uploading their work to different platforms.

If you are a Word or LibreOffice user who likes keyboard shortcuts, you should try Open Live Writer.

Writers still using the old Windows Live Writer can also install OLW to see if it meets their needs.

Those using Google’s Blogger platform should test the program to see if it works. The fix may only take days or weeks, not months. It sounds like Blogger support is the next item on their To Do list.

The program says it supports an extensive list of blogging platforms, but obviously I could not test most of them. So no promises.

But…

Advanced HTML writers and those who use custom CSS will probably prefer other tools or simply edit online, at least for now.

Examining the HTML code, the oddity that stands out is that OLW adds alignment code  to each paragraph and both <div> and <align> elements to each list item, i.e.

<li><div align="left">item1</div></li>
<li><div align="left">item2</div></li>

instead of the normal

<li>item1</li>
<li>item2</li>

This seems redundant and unnecessary, even without a stylesheet, although it works.

You can insert simple tables, but you cannot add all of HTML5’s new table features.

If you are a proponent of clean HTML and CSS3, OLW works much better than using Word or LibreOffice to create code, but it won’t add some newer HTML5 or semantic web markup.

If you use an SEO plugin tool on your blog, you can’t select keywords from OLW. Instead, upload a draft of the file and then add keywords in your plugin.

Not having a Windows tablet, I could not test the program on one. The toolbar interface looks like it might work on a tablet, but it doesn’t appear to be optimized for touch screens.

If you use a responsive theme to support phones and tablets, you cannot preview how it will look on those devices.

Finally, blogging in the past three years has gone past the traditional blogging tools and now includes publishing on LinkedIn, Quora, and other platforms that OLW doesn’t support.

The lack of these features just shows how much blogging has changed since the last version of Windows Live Writer.

But, if you do not need these newer features, Open Live Writer might be just the ticket to easier blogging for you.

This post was written using Open Live Writer and uploaded as a draft to the online editor. Some formatting features on Frugal Guidance 2 (such as dropcaps, small caps, word and letter spacing, and the like) are thus missing. The post uploaded quickly and nearly flawlessly, although I had to adjust some photo settings and add captions. I also couldn’t help myself and started cleaning up some HTML code, although you probably can’t see the difference. A few other items (dealing with custom CSS) were added in the WordPress editor after the upload.

Credits:

Screen shots are by the author Andrew Brandt.

Frugal Guidance 2 - http://andybrandt531.com