Got my hand on the latest Windows Live Beta, called Writer, that just left embargo this very minute. In this post, we’ll be walking through the product. Afterwards, I’ll give my early review, and take a look at some problems I have with the software. You can download it right now at ideas.live.com.
In a nutshell, Windows Live Writer is a blog posting tool, like Ecto or Blogjet, but integrated with several other Live services, and hopefully more in the future.
The installer contains a strangely worded EULA. It seems more friendly than most, using more natural language, clear terminology, short sentences, and lots of white space. Could this be a new Microsoft policy, or am I reading too much into it?
Just to note: One of my favorite little things about Windows Vista is that when you install a program, not only is it highlighted the next few times you go to the Start Menu, but it scrolls right to it.
The first time you run Writer, it asks you if you want to create a Windows Live Space. This means you can hand Writer to someone who wants to blog but doesn’t know how, and it’ll run them through the whole process.
Otherwise, you can select another service to use. Writer supports RSD (Really Simple Discoverability), the Metaweblog API, and the Movable Type API, which means it works with WordPress, WordPress.com, TypePad, Blogger, LiveJournal, Movable Type, Radio Userland, Community Server, Dasblog, and any other service using those APIs.
The closer your blog is to a default installation and recent version, the more likely Writer is to autodetect all your settings. With just your homepage URL, l username and password, Writer may detect your blog type and XMLRPC location without any work from you. For example, setting up this blog required no intervention, but since InsideGoogle is an older version of WordPress, I had to help out the software a little.
Looks like Writer wrote and deleted a temporary post on this blog during setup. It didn’t delete it fast enough for Bloglines, though!
The centerpiece of Live Writer is the Web Layout view. In it, your blog appears relatively similar to its real world styling, and the text is formatted as it would appear on the final website. All this is done by the program downloading and using your blogs own HTML and CSS in the program. Brilliant! It falls apart, as you can see above, if you have a black sidebar, but other than that, this is the most visually pleasing way to edit a blog I have ever seen.
The Normal View is the straight up simplest way to edit. It is fast, responsive, and lets you do your work.
Posting embedded videos is strange, since you need to switch to HTML code view or the program will attempt to format your code, but afterwards you can see the embedded object in your post as your write it.
Then, when you are done, you can hit the Web Preview view to see the post, as it will appear in your blog, with all blog formatting and sidebars intact.
Writer also lets you post a Windows Live Local map in your blog post. Here’s what that looks like:
Also, from the team blog post:
Writer makes inserting, customizing, and uploading photos to your blog a snap. You can insert a photo into your post by browsing image thumbnails through the â€œInsert Pictureâ€ dialog or by copying and pasting from a web page.
Once youâ€™ve inserted the picture, Writer provides contextual editing tools to modify size, text wrapping, borders, and apply graphic effects. Writer also allows you specify a smaller thumbnail to that will link to a larger image for detailed viewing.
Photos can be either uploaded directly to your weblog provider (if they support the newMediaObject API) or to an FTP server.
I’d like to say more, but I’m heading to a wedding. This wasn’t supposed to go public till tomorrow night, but the Inside Live blog broke embargo, screwing up all of us who were trying to prepare our coverage. And yes, you deserve to be called out when you break embargo, and yes, you don’t get a live link (http://www.inside-live.com/?p=83).
UPDATE: I should note that I completely glossed over the unbelievable image formatting options. Read about them at LiveSide.