Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Windows Live Writer 7 (Posting / Editing)

This is the next post in my series on Microsoft Live Writer.  This post will talk about the basics of posting and similar functions.  While these are basic functions its great to know comprehensively just how to use the program.  To use the most basics of Live Writer, you only need to use the bar at the top left and to write your post in the main box.



The way to put your blog post up on your website is simple.  As soon as it is ready hit the publish button.


Opening previous posts

To open a post you have already made press the open button.  On some platforms, such as Wordpress the option to make pages is possible.  These pages can be opened and editted from here also.


Once you click the open button it brings up another dialog, with two main panes – one on the right for the posts, the left pane showing where you are looking.  The first option in this navigation pane is your Drafts (see below); the second is your recent posts; following this whichever blogs you have signed up to.  More on that in the next post.  In short find where is your post you want to open is – is it a draft, did you post on your blog already?  If so select your blog on the left and scroll down on the right to open the right post.  As you can see below you can also delete any of your posts – note this will take it down from your blog.

open dialog 

Saving Draft Copies

If you’re not quite ready with your post and want to work on it at another time save it as a draft, the same way you would to an email.  The save draft button will do just that.  If you click the button normally it saves the post to your computer but if you click on the down arrow you can select to save the draft to your blog.  This will mean it will be available on your blog, stored, but not viewable by the public.

As a small aside don’t forget saved drafts appear on the right task pane above your recent posts.  This is handy and can act as a check list so you can work through your drafts and finish them quickly.


New Post

While I wasn’t originally going to mention this but to make a new post, for example if you have opened an older post to edit or read through and then decide to post again etc. simply click the final button on that bar.  New.

Monday, 18 May 2009

Live Writer 5 (Interlude for Complaints)

Unfortunately a bug has arisen with my copy of Live Writer. Quite a while ago, this is why I have not been finishing the series of articles off. To this end I emailed Microsoft and got an initial incredibly speedy response. On April 28th. The further information I emailed and I have yet to hear back. I must say I am not impressed and thought it important that during a series of articles on this product, important to say the type of feedback you can expect. It is important to note that bugs, and faults such as the one I encountered happen in every program. Live Writer does not regularly fail on me and is quite stable.


As you can read from one of the comments below Microsoft did notice and once I sent them the Program’s log file it was escalated to a specialist and a reply achieved within another day. Very prompt service to be fair, at that point. And the solution suggested worked fine. Two small things to point out though.

It was a moderately technical solution, which is ok for a lot of people but with the easy of use of Live Writer a lot of non-technical users use the program. But I was told in the email that they are working on this bug currently and if I couldn’t to uninstall the program and gave clear instructions on how to do that. Which comes to the second point their help for uninstalling the program online is actually wrong, at time of writing, my next article today will let you know how to do it yourself if you need to.

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Live Writer 4 (Toolbars)

This is part four and for a lot of people totally unnecessary, for people not so hot on computers this post can help to tie together some parts of this tutorial set. I have described your standard screen on Live Writer in this post I will give you screen shots of additional menus that pop up at certain points.


The first one is your right bar or your task pane, as described in part 3.  This is what shows up when you click on a picture, your picture editing menu.

The Picture Tab shows your alignment to your text; left, right, centre and inline; margins; borders with a quick selection to choose from; a link choice where you can decide where the picture links to.

The Advanced Tab allows options like scaling, which can be done by dragging the picture as well, but for somebody who wants to set exact values that can be done here.  Rotate, crop, contrast, watermark and copyright functions are also here.  Handy for quick alteration but I still tend to prefer this is image editing software.

The Effects tab  gives you simple editing functions for your picture, which is probably better done on GIMP, Photoshop or Windows own photo software.


Next are the right click menus.  Here is the one for pictures seen as we are on that topic!  The only difference to the standard menu is the “Show properties” selection at the end which simply turns on / off your taskpane.  When the green tick is present your taskpane will be also.


toolbar1Your standard toolbar has the four clipboard functions up top, standard things; Select all which highlights everything, pictures, text, headers, tables etc; Hyperlink quick select; quick edit functions – align, numbering, bullets.  The hyperlink on the right click menu is one of the most handy features I find in the program.  It saves me so much time and allows me type out my post highlight what I want to become a hyperlink and then select where they go!

toolbar2Finally is the spell check menu, standard for so many programs.  If a word has a wiggly red line like the example here: spelling , it shows it doesn’t show up in the programs dictionary, right click on it and you will get a menu of possible options it could be.  If its a once-off click the ignore all, if its not in the dictionary click the add to dictionary.  For more detailed options press open spelling dialog.  Just as a tip the red line will never print or show up on your website!


Saturday, 4 April 2009

Live Writer 3 (Navigating)

All the buttons listed below are the easiest way around Live Writer and if you look through it for five minutes you will know your way around.  If you want anything though the menu at the top of the screen works like a traditional menu and everything is contained within it.  It is important to note that everything in those traditional menus are now available from the buttons listed below.  With the exception of the Help menu, which lists Live Writer’s own little information pieces on its traditional menu.  This design is a fantastic step forward as it gives ease of access and is smart design to hamper the user less by getting rid of as much clutter as possible.



The Top Toolbar

Incredibly simple to understand when you take a quick second.

Publish the post to the internet.  Sends the current post to your blog.

New – a new post.

Open, opens a post.

Save Draft saves your post without publishing it so you can work on it further before putting it online.  It is important to note that automatically this will be saved to your computer and not your website, if you click the down button you may select to send it to your website instead as a draft.

The paint brush simply changes the colour of the program in a very subtle way, too subtle for it to even bother being there in my opinion.

The help button again is a bit of a flaw as it does send you to a help page, but this is online; not the best if your internet is down for whatever reason.

The last button is to select from a drop down list which blog you wish to work on.


The Simple Text Functions

Are just above the screen such as you would expect from Microsoft Word like bold, italics, underline, strikethrough, font, justify (right, left, centre and justified,) number and bullet.

Then there are the quote buttons, split post, hyperlink, insert picture, insert table, the undo, the clipboard and the general insert button.

quoteThe quotes form a quote around an object, something that is used to search for  online – keep this in mind.  Its better to format your quotes with this button than just using simple quotation marks.


split The split post button splits the post in two or three parts.  This is best used for users who are regular bloggers.


link The hyperlink function is great.  Its your best friend.  Hyperlinks are how popularity is recorded and how important a blog is these days.  So remember to hyperlink all relevant items in your post.  When you select the button you type in the web address you wish to be sent to and what text you wish to see in the screen.  The auto-link function works to automatically link that piece of text every time you type it to that web address.  Another way of accessing hyperlinks is to select the word you want to link to a website and right click it.  That is what I normally do.  Write out my piece and go back over it right-clicking and adding in the links after.

table Tables are a great way of editing and keeping your text nice and tight.  Keep it in mind in future, for example contact information. The table button has all the simple functions you need in a table, this will be more familiar to be used to using word processing.


undo Undo is a great button in any program.


The Heading / Paragraph button is a simple selector of html fonts.  In the early days of html there were seven sizes of text Header 1 – 6 and paragraph.  Simply choose these to edit your text size.  It use to be the case that search engines would focus more so on headers and it is good to use them if you plan to layout your posts with subheadings but otherwise just don’t worry about it.


clipboard The clipboard drop menu has all the simple functions of a clipboard, cut, paste, copy and paste special.


The insert menu allows you place a hyperlink, photo, photo album, table, maps, tags and video.

Tags are little codes used to say what your post is about, this is what search engines use to find your post.  Good accurate tags get your post found.

The maps are supplied by Microsoft’s Virtual Earth and very simple to use, right click to place a push pin.


The Right Bar

Also known as the task pane and it can be turned off by pressing F9 button or clicking in the view traditional menu and selecting the Taskpane.  This is handy for when you edit your photos and little bits like this because your simple options menus appear here.  The regular view is listed below.

You have the blog name under which is the view blog button which will launch your blog in your default browser.  This is a good way to look through your blog to actually see what you have put up already.

Beneath this is your open function where you can browse your drafts, and then beneath your recent posts with a more folder to view more of your posts.

Beneath this is the Insert function – with all the options laid out I find these easier to choose from, if you find a plug-in online you can insert more abilities and it will turn up here.


The Bottom Selections

The view tabs: Edit, which is primarily a screen to type in and edit your piece, it gives you a view of your blog with the content within it; the preview function shows you the final layout of your post as far as you have made it; the source tab shows you the html of that post you have created.

Below this is the categories menu, where if you have it selected on you blog you can quickly post to which category your post gets placed, the drop down menu shows what categories are on your blog and the refresh icon redownloads the categories from your blog.

Beside this is the publish date button which is as it says when your blog will be published, if you do not click this it will be posted immediately, if you set the date by clicking on the icon you can change the date and hour which when you press publish your blog post will be put to the internet.

In the bottom left corner is whether it is already posted or a draft and when it was last saved; in the bottom right is the name of the blog that you are currently working in.

Saturday, 28 March 2009

Live Writer 2 (Installation)

This is part two of my series on Windows Live Writer by Microsoft.  It is part of an ongoing moderately comprehensive tutorial set for Live Writer.  In part one I gave a detailed overview of what the program was and what it does, specifications and so on.  In that light I present the second part of my Live Writer series, pertaining the installation and setting up of the program.   The next post will run through the basics of using Live Writer to publish a blog post.



Live Writer has good and bad points on its installation in my view.  To be honest its installation annoys me more than anything else about it.  But not to throw beginners off.  Its clunky in its way, cumbersome but very simple and not that much to click through or change.

To begin you seem to have two choices: 1) download the Windows Live Suite or 2) the Windows Live Writer file directly.  Wrong, the Live Writer file will only download the same file.  Windows Live comes as a package.  The first download is an installer program.  This program will download and install the selected parts and programs from the internet.  The initial program downloads very quickly but in the end of the day its not Writer at all.  Instead a program that will download it.

A way around all this is on the download page.  Press the try again button and the entire package is downloaded as one file, easier for some connections.  But there are reasons not to do this as I will show below.

The package that is Windows Live includes the following programs: Family Safety, Messenger, Mail, Photo Gallery, Toolbar, Writer, Silverlight, Movie Maker Beta.  Basically you click on all of items you wish to install.  It is a very big package and the more you include the longer it will take.  After installing it on three systems each time it took me well over an hour.  Once the installation kept cutting out.  That is the reason that, if possible, the standalone installer, as mentioned above, should be avoided.  If the install is restarted it continues from where it last left off.  Which is quite helpful.

Another thing to keep in mind, in this day and age programs update themselves and come out with new versions every few months.  Normally when a program updates itself it goes on in the background or takes a minute to fix itself up in a small continual bursts.  Not so Windows Live.  Just last month I was asked to upgrade Writer, reasonable, but downloading and upgrading every program the Live Suite offers takes a lot of time and hassle.

As I said earlier though, once begun you can sit back and let the program do all the work, until the end there is no need for decisions – which in this kind of stream lined program is good I feel. (Read Bradbury for ideas on smart software.)  You are presented with a number of options after your programs have been installed.  Such as setting your homepage to msn, helping to improve windows live, set Microsoft search as your internet search provider and sending bug reports.  Helping to improve windows live will send non-confidential information about how you use their programs to Microsoft.  In theory they can then improve on what people use, sending bug reports is automatic as well and tells Microsoft what is going wrong with their programs.  Setting your search to MSN has a strange guard feature.  Some programs have an automatic restart to search with one provider – Yahoo, Google, MSN.  This guard allows you in theory to change to Microsoft without the program undoing it.  You can undo it yourself if you go into your settings.

Once clicked through that is it.  All that remains is to start Live Writer.  If you click your Start or Windows key in the corner, enter “All Programs”, near the bottom should be a folder named Windows Live and all of your new programs reside in there.  Including Writer.  Start her up and all needed is to sign into your blog.

Not got one yet?  Don’t worry!  This is one of the real beauties of Live Writer.  If you have a hotmail account, windows live or msn email address or messenger account you can use that to sign in and create a “Windows Live Space” and your blog will automatically be posted up there.  With absolutely nothing needed for you to do.

Of course it will be very plain.  But in time if you are happy with this you can go into Windows Live Spaces in your internet browser and adapt the themes and look to your own taste.  If you continue to use Writer, as I do, your theme will remain on.  And further by pressing the preview button you can see it applied in action.

To summarise on the good, its quick to download a large selection or programs and with minimum effort.  No hassle involved with setting up or installing the programs.  They are ready for use straight away.  Setting up your first blog is nearly automatic it is that easy.  On the bad points to download the whole suite takes an inordinate amount of time, which is done with every new version.  The lack of settings and places to install the software can be massively inconvenient for power users.  The download tool is a nuisance as well, having to click to download a file only to find out its only going to download the real file is a serious pain.  On the whole though it avoids a lot of confusion that normally installations can cause.

Thursday, 26 March 2009

Live Writer I (overview)

I have already published a post on Windows Live Writer by Microsoft but with the intention of putting an entire and moderately comprehensive tutorial set for Live Writer.  In that light I present this first (or rather second part) of my Live Writer series.  This post will pertain to the basics about what the program is, where to get it and so on.   The next post will pertain to the installation of the program.


Live Writer is in basic terms a blog writing program in much the same way that Microsoft Word is a paper writing program.  In its own words “I am a desktop application for publishing to blogs and work with almost any blog provider in the world including Windows Live Spaces, Blogger, Wordpress and more.”  For those of you who don’t know what a blog is read up on it here on Technorati, or here in Wordpress.  Blogs in basic terms are websites that display their articles in reverse order of publication – that is articles are published from most recent to eldest.  In that way it can be used as a diary or as a review site or even simply a normal website!  Writer is a very easy to use, simple to set up and helpful program.  It has every feature most users will need and democratises the power of publishing to everyone and not just the tech-savvy.  On top of all that its free so available for everyone to download.

Writer is part of the Windows Live suite, which will mean nothing to most people until explained.  Messenger or Msn as its commonly known is part of this suite as well as the old Hotmail brand, now Windows Live Mail.  Windows Live is Microsoft’s answer to cloud computing – that is using programs that are not on your computer but on a computer you connect to through the use of the internet, generally your internet browser.  As part of this Live Writer hopes to allow the user access and publish blogs simply and easily – if you have ever wanted to make a website now is the best and easiest time.

Most free-hosted sites these days have their own interfaces with which you can manage and run your blog.  Running multiple blogs I use a few different varieties and with the exception of Wordpress they all are confusing and less than adequate at times.  Let me state again Wordpress is definitely my recommended choice!  Outside of my Wordpress sites I generally use Live Writer to publish all of my other blogs.  After looking about the only other program online I have found that does this from your computer and not the internet is Zoundry which is still in Beta (though that word means less and less these days!)  As I haven’t actually tried it out myself here is a review from elsewhere.



Much touted elements are the simple way in which it helps you publish videos to the web either through Soapbox or YouTube and then ability to work with them.  As well as the ability to resize and the basics.  They also advertise their picture abilities and the ease of publishing a series of photos, like a photo album.  For me though is the ease in which a map, through Virtual Earth, can be inserted and selected.  It has three tabs so you can switch between edit mode, source mode and in ways best of all preview mode – showing a full preview including site theme.

Plug-ins.  Those little ad-ons used to adapt a program for customised and personal use.  The official site very amusingly only lists one plug-in for Firefox.  No plug-ins for its Writer itself and none for Internet Explorer, although they probably exist for the forthcoming Internet Explorer 8.  An independent site Windows Live Writer Plugins is a small site but with a nice selection of plugins and other information – the portable information is interesting.

Speaking of which comes one of the major flaws of Live Writer, its dependence on the .Net infrastructure.  This is ok with bigger systems – laptops and up but smaller than this and there are problems.

It can publish a blog on most common platforms including Windows Live Spaces, Blogger, LiveJournal, TypePad, Wordpress, Community_Server,, JournalHome, MetaWeblog, Movable Type as well as supporting any  RSD (Really Simple Discoverability) system.  For those starting out, I would suggest begin with this tool, it will quickly and simply set you up a blog relieving all that messy side.  Until you comfortably understand what you are at you are able to leave the browser out of the equation altogether.


The greatest help for using Live Writer I found online was in its own pages.  It has a video tutorial set that takes you through all the major issues you need to cover.  Its also nice to see that the program itself has its own blog.  Its funny how so many blog sites don’t!  As well as that three of the team members have their blogs listed on the main page as well - Becky, Joe and Ron - and its own Live Space, Microsoft’s partial equivalent of sites such as Facebook.

Microsoft in 2008 joined the Open Source Alliance and expressed a definite interest in moving forward in that direction.  Part of that process is collaborating with the public and opening up the programs to be developed further.  As part of that they have released their SDK, the system development kits where people can work on parts of the code.


Below is a Google result for the top searched results for Live Writer.  All being from Microsoft websites except for result four, Wikipedia.  The majority of the Microsoft sites are much of a muchness and all link back through each other with the exception of the final site which is more official and no nonsense download information page not at the Live project pages.



Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Windows Live Writer

OK so whats this post about? One of the pieces of software that Microsoft releases freely, Windows Live Writer, part of the windows live suite.  Now a lot of people may expect a microsoft bashing or a simplicity bashing.  But I don't think so.  Yes its not open source but ok yes its free and yes it is released by Microsoft one of the biggest proponents to lock in previously.  In my belief previously.


Its a simple bit of software.  Simple and yet it works.  It allows simple access to blogs - I'll add to what it supports, but so far I know it works with blogger, wordpress and livespaces (obviously). And you can add multiple accounts.  This allows you to simply and quickly post upon multiple blogs.  And the editing ability in it is simply designed and from what I can see better than any of the online editors of the above mentioned.  It provides a link from offline software - office or graphics software - to the blog itself, an interface.  And unlike most online blog editors a view of how it will look published, as you type.


In the end of the day it is designed for everyday users.  For non-IT people and gives them a simple but advanced set of tools for use on a blog - can this not be good?  To add to the blogosphere and push it forward?  The pro-am (professional amateur) movement depends on people from many spheres of interest, many of which are non-IT people being able to publish and interact with us and with each other so that we can benefit from them also.  For IT people it benefits productivity - smart software is not predictive its stuff that gets out of your way and allows you work easier.  This speeds up my blogging and makes it easier.  Is that not positive?


Definitely I would push this product and suggest everyone who wants to start blogging to use it and get a feel simply for the blogging world.


Windows Live Writer