Blogging Heaven: Live Writer - Wave 4 - Beta

Buckle your chin-straps.  Windows Live Writer 4 is here

Most members of the blawgosphere are more than familiar with the wonders of Windows Live Writer.  I've been dedicated Live Writer user since autumn 2007 and as far as I'm concerned, it made managing a blog a whole lot easier.  Wrestling with the online blogger posting tools proved troublesome as it often garbled the post's formatting with little obvious rhyme or reason.  While I appreciate that there are a lot of passionate fanatics of the downloadable Wordpress software, there’s no denying that WLW is a fantastic freebie.

With the release of the beta of Windows Live Essentials Wave 4, comes the latest version.   The quality is top-notch and it certainly doesn’t feel like a half-baked beta that's not ready for prime time.   Save for a rather wacky (and needless) UI change, this release is the real deal.

WLW AboutThe big news, of course, is that Live Writer now sports the ribbon interface, first debuted in Office 2007 and then ported over to in-built apps in Windows 7.  While there'll always be a few sceptics as to the ribbon UI, they remain firmly in the minority.  The Writer version of ribbon works well and should be welcomed across the board.  Thankfully, the ribbon UI within WLW retains its ability to be auto-hidden, though I’m not sure how advantageous it is to have greater screen real estate available while composing a blog post.WLW ribbon

What I really don't get is why the labels dropdown menu was moved to the top, just under the ribbon.   It's a frankly ridiculous decision; it feels unnatural in use and seems like change for change's sake. For me (and I suspect most users) assigning labels and, less frequently, the posting date are often the last things you'll do before publishing the post.  Convention dictates that you work from top to bottom, so logic says it should be in the lower portion of the window.  Often before posting, I'll hit the preview tab (which was and still is at the bottom) to make sure it fits well with my template before posting.  The fact that these tabs (edit, preview and source) have remained at the bottom whilst the labels and posting date menus have been bumped up to the top makes it all the more strange.

Still, focussing on more positive news, this latest version feels the snappiest ever.  I've often bemoaned the sluggish performance of Live Writer (even on high end machines) and resulted in me typing up posts in MS Word - something I still find myself doing today.

When opening previous posts, there are now far more options in choosing how many load at once under the 'Open' menu.  This is great for going back and making tweaks to the labels, content or formatting of previous posts - particularly those dating from way back.   What I'd really like to see, however, is a way to set the default number of posts which load.  (Feature for Wave 5 maybe?)

Another addition are big, cheesy emoticons.  I guess you either like emoticons or you don't. If you do, bigger and brighter is better.  And if you don't, tough luck.
  Smile with tongue out

emoticons WLW

Other things which caught my eye

There are a couple of needless functions such as the ability to insert a map directly from Live Writer.  I can't see this one getting a whole lot of use to be honest. 

Word count (including the ability for real-time word count to be displayed) is a neat feature and is another reason for me to consider writing up posts within Live Writer itself rather than doing my copy and paste trick from Word of which I'm so fond. inline word count

Bug fix?  In previous versions of Live Writer, there was an issue with the ability to highlight text, particularly after inserting pictures.  Infuriatingly, the text would not remain highlighted as soon as you let go of the mouse button.  This highlighting bug was one of my few bugbears about WLW and although definitely got better over several releases (in the sense that it happened less often) it was never rectified completely.  With the beta, it's been a case of so-far, so-good, but I'll reserve final judgement until I've used it a bit longer.

I’m also hoping that the ecosystem for WLW add-ons improves considerably going forward. There are a couple of nice ones which I’ve used for a while now but my experiences with the add-ons generally have been disappointing. For the few that there are available, they tend to be horribly buggy and often fail to work as advertised. Oh well.

No matter how you slice it, though, this is a decent upgrade and certainly the most significant since WLW first went public nearly 3 years ago.  Somewhat controversially, as with the rest of Windows Live Essentials Wave 4, it’ll only work on Windows Vista and 7 so XP users need not apply. My only reservation in respect of the application itself the re-positioning of the label and posting date menu and am hoping it'll be moved back down to the bottom (where it rightfully belongs) before the final version is released later this year.   

And yes, although this is only a beta, it’s as good as done to be honest, and most bloggers will want to upgrade sooner rather than later.   Go on… you know you want to!

Comments

  1. Good post. As a avid Windows Live Writer user I honestly wouldn't blog without this lovely little desktop program. I don't agree with you though about the post dates and categories, they are better placed at the top. why? so that bloggers don't miss seeing them.

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  2. :( Jealous. The one this I miss about Windows is WLW. Sounds great.

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  3. I didn't know you'd made the switch. So are you a Mac fangirl or a Linux Lemming? :p

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  4. Meh... They're over-complicating it.

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  5. 6 months of being a mac fan girl! :P (I know you hate me!) But sometimes I love it - other times I hate it!

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  6. oh... Christ alive....!!! Surely not? :-0

    Shame on you... Windows 7 is 'where it's at!' :p

    Now that I've gotten over my initial shock, couldn't you run Windows via Parallels? :-)

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  7. or Bootcamp? better still! ;-)

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  8. My Deaer Michael,

    Just to put the cat among the pigeons I must say that I simply cannot, STAND Live Writer; it NEVER uploads my posts correctly, leaving HUGE chunks out of my posts which I have to correct in draft; the spell checker sucks, and dont even get me STARTED on those AWFUL smilies!!!

    Kind Regards,

    Minx ( Live Writer Luddite and PROUD to be so!)

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  9. Bless you Minxy, I think you mentioned this before.

    I think this could be chalked up to what IT support desks refer to as a 'PEBCAK' situation!! :p

    Maybe try to uninstall and reinstall WLW and start again. :-)

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  10. Have done the reload thing 7 times already - I think I shall just have to accept that my 'puter hates live writed, and that the feeling is entirely mutual...! ARSE!
    (at the risk of appearing to be even more of a computing luddite than I actually AM, wots PEBCAK???)

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  11. Hmmm... that's weird. Have you tried using WLW with your blog on another computer? Maybe it's time for a clean install of windows? ;-)

    Or try creating a temporary blog and try uploading a couple of posts.. maybe there's a problem with your template.

    And, erm, PEBCAK is, "problem exists between chair and keyboard"!

    I'm slinking off now before you can slap me!

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  12. My Dear Michael,

    I've installed and reinstalled the entire app on my downstairs computer, my upstairs computer and my laptop all with the same problem.
    I'll try creating another blog to test if its a problem with my template, but I cant see how that could be the case because like your own fine template, mine is custom!( but then you knew that already)

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  13. It definitely sounds like it's a template specific problem and live writer is garbling something somewhere. You should complain to Andro & get her to fix it under warranty! :p

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  14. This application is absolutely awesome. Thank you for the tip. :)

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