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Andrew Kelly

Windows Live Writer – Good or Bad?

<Updates at bottom of post> 

OK this will probably start a fire storm from Die- Hard Live Writer (LW) geeks but oh well :). I don’t blog as much as I would like and one reason is that I have had so much trouble getting posts properly formatted that it takes way too much time or frustration than it is worth for me anyway.  I asked around a while back for the proper tool to use and everyone said “Live Writer” so that is what I started using. Well in the beginning I had an awful time getting images to be published which really kept me from posting for a long time. But in all fairness I think it was due mostly to settings on the Blog site and not as much with LW. Now I also want to state that some of my problems can be to lack of understanding how the tool works (operator error) but I can also assure you I have spent a LOT of time trying to figure out how to do certain things and asking many people if they knew as well. So if it is operator error, that too is partly my fault but let’s face it a tool like this shouldn't be that difficult to figure out how to use even with reading the manual. But I am still amazed at how primitive a tool like this is in such a modern world. For instance my biggest issue at the moment is not being able to copy and paste rich text into LW. The options out of the box from what I can see are either Plain text (which looses all formatting) and HTML (which doesn’t come close to RT) as shown below:

image

OK how lame is that? Word Pad has been able to do this for a decade, couldn’t they copy and paste the source code from there:).  This to me just seems to be such a fundamental requirement for a tool such as this, why is this functionality not included?  Yes you can add a plug-in to do this for you. Although I wasted even more time today trying to get the only one that I could find that seemed to do what I wanted to install. There is instructions in the remarks for the plug-in from someone who supposedly figured out how to make it work and the steps are insane.

That brings me to another bullet which is Categories. Categories are great (although all the other tools and such call them Tags) and I have no beef with them or their purpose. But there is no way to remove a category from the pop-up list in LW after you add one. I misspelled a category once and now have two nearly identically spelled categories of which I now have to be very careful which one I choose since one is right and one is wrong. I can find no way to remove the category once it is added. Again how difficult could this be to allow editing or removal of items added to a list like that?  And why didn’t they think something so fundamental as this wasn’t needed? 

And along those lines I have one more thing to get off my chest before I quit my ranting.  That is these plug-ins I mentioned. Yes it is great to allow the tool to be extensible and that is not a problem. But yet again once you add a plug-in you cannot remove it completely. Your only option is to disable it.

image

I added a plug-in thinking it may give me the RT paste capability I wanted but it turned out to be completely different than what I expected so I wanted to remove it. I found that I could only disable it and to boot the change didn’t take effect until I closed and reopened the tool, no warning or anything. I noticed that because after I disabled it that particular plug-in link was still available on the toolbar and it still fully worked to boot. Again was this tool written 2 decades ago?  Was LW the result of a bunch of interns at never coded a modern application before?

Anyway my 2 cents. Love to hear yours…

Additional Info: 

Here are some updates since I originally posted. Scott who is a Live Write MVP has graciously resplied with some helpful information and I want to comment on.  First off it appears that LW will show different options under the Paste Special tab depending on where the copy was last taken. By this I mean that if I copy directly from SSMS and attempt to paste I don't get an option to keep the formatting. But if I paste that into Word (which keeps all formatting) and then copy and paste from Word I get a new choice to keep the formatting. That is great news in that I know I can get the RT format without a plug-in but it doesn't explain why I can't paste directly from SSMS like I can with other tools. And shouldn't RT pasting be the norm anyway on a tool like this?

Scott also suggested that it was likely I would need to unistall the plug-in from windows to remove it from LW. While this does make some sense I am not able to find any sign of the plug-in in my control panel - Remove  dialog so I am not sure what to make of that as of yet. Maybe just a poorly written plug-in that doesn't follow all the rules in terms of the install / unistall process?

 

Published Friday, June 26, 2009 6:27 PM by Andrew Kelly
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Linchi Shea said:

I tried Windows Live Writer because I wanted to include multiple charts in a post. But I didn't like it that much. I simply just write in Word, and then copy/paste to blog. One of the the limitations with this approach (I guess a limitation of its hosting service) is that I can include only one chart in a blog post. But I have learned to live with it.

June 26, 2009 5:50 PM
 

Scott said:

I wouldn't say it would kick up a fire storm ;)

I'll try and address your points in order:

1) RT format. What version of Live Writer are you using? Using the latest version I actually have three options in that section (as per my screenshot: http://cid-fabdddc5cad93494.skydrive.live.com/self.aspx/Public/KeepFormatting.PNG). It could be a problem with an older version (not saying it is, just could be). For reference, I'm using 14.0.8064.206.

2) Categories. Having a better way of removing categories would be good (although not sure whether that functionality is given by the blog engine itself). However, if you've removed the category from the blog itself, then you can go to Tools > Accounts > (account in question) > Edit > Update Account Configuration. This will do a refresh of your blog settings, including sorting out your categories as it will pull them straight off your blog.

3) Plug-ins. If you used an installer (likely) to install the plug-in, then you can just run that same installer and choose uninstall. This will remove the plug-in from your system, and Writer.

Scott

Windows Live MVP.

June 26, 2009 5:52 PM
 

Andrew Kelly said:

Scott,

Thanks for the feeback. As for #1 I just found out something interesting. If I copy from SSMS the only options are Plain Text & HTML. If I paste that into Word (which retains formatting) and then copy and paste from Word into LW the other Paste option appears and lets me do this.

#2:  I was referring to the lists in LW itself not the blog entry.

#3: I will look into this.

Thanks again for the feedback.

June 26, 2009 6:13 PM
 

Scott said:

Re: #2. So was I :) Do you mean the categories at the bottom of the Live Writer window? Like in http://twitpic.com/75bde (ie, if you press F2 to bring them up)

June 26, 2009 6:22 PM
 

Andrew Kelly said:

Scott,

OK I see where you were going with #2 now. I didn't realize the blog controlled the tags I thought it was LW. So I was able to remove the tag from the Blog but had trouble getting the account to update. It was looking for the blog provider and remote URL of which I am not 100% sure what to put. I recall having a heck of a time getting LW to initially communicte with the blog in the first place so rather than screw up what I have I will hold off until I am sure I have the right info before proceeding on updating the account. It appears to both update the Blog and settings in LW and I am not sure which overrides which. That seems like an awefully confusing and potentially painful process just to update the tags.

Thanks again for the help,

June 26, 2009 6:49 PM
 

Andrew Kelly said:

Scott,

One more thing by the way. F2 is greyed out for me and does nothing when I press it. How do you get that to work?  :)

June 26, 2009 6:50 PM
 

Jonathan Kehayias said:

Interesting to read this because I use LW to blog here and the only problem I have had is getting code to format properly so that when you copy it from my blog and paste it into SSMS it pastes correctly.  I still manually run my code through the Simple Talk Pretifier which renders the HTML markup for proper formating.  Then I just paste the code block in the HTML view and move on.  If I could get around that problem which it seems like it is your problem as well, I'd be all set.

June 26, 2009 7:00 PM
 

Scott said:

That option is blog specific. A Wordpress blog will have more options available for a blog entry, and so F2 will be enabled. Live Spaces, for example, has sod all options, so it's greyed out. Looking at the Community Server blog I blog to, that option is greyed out, so some of the features that would appear in that section are not supported by CS.

As for the remote url, that will probably be http://sqlblog.com/blogs/metablog.ashx (based on the fact you use a community server powered blog). If you wanted to confirm that without upsetting what you already have, you could create a new blog account in Live Writer and give it a quick try.

June 26, 2009 7:09 PM
 

Jimmy May said:

Andy, I share your frustration.

I would love it if LW hooked into the single most powerful, underutilized tool in Office: AutoCorrect.  I have hundreds of entries on which I rely, yet LW's lack of support forces me to either to draft in other apps, e.g., Word, Outlook, or OneNote, or draft directly in LW & suffer the absence of AutoCorrect.  Each of these has its drawbacks.

June 26, 2009 7:16 PM
 

Scott said:

Also, have you guys seen the plug-in mentioned in this blog: http://larsrasmussen.blogspot.com/2009/04/pasting-rtf-to-html-in-blogs-using.html?

June 26, 2009 7:19 PM
 

Scott said:

One last note, I promise :) If you go to http://sqlblog.com/blogs/metablog.ashx in your browser (showing that this is actually the correct remote url for you), you'll see the functions that CS offers Live Writer, and shows why Live Writer can't delete the categories from your blog. Just as a tidbit of info.

June 26, 2009 7:21 PM
 

Joe Cheng [MSFT] said:

Hi Andy, I'm the dev lead for WLW. We love posts like this--while they sting at first, clear feedback is the greatest gift our users can ever give us.

I'll say the following not as excuses or arguments, just letting you know the inside story.

1) Rich text - SPSS generates RTF. Despite their similarities, RTF and HTML are very different formats, and translating between them is a nontrivial problem. For WordPad, it's easy to accept RTF as their editor is the RichEdit control, which speaks RTF natively--but it doesn't accept HTML. (They can preserve formatting from IE because IE puts both HTML and RTF on the clipboard--but try it from Google Chrome and you only get plaintext.) Our editor natively speaks HTML so we can handle HTML pastes but not RTF.

The reason Word helps here is because it takes either HTML or RTF as input, and outputs both HTML and RTF. It's the universal translator :) Historically though, Word has output pretty famously awful HTML. That's because its internal representation is more like RTF, and like I said, it's not easy to translate between the two. (I think they got a lot better with Word 2007)

Note that the plugin you found says "Paste from Visual Studio", not "Paste RTF"--that's because it is only designed to handle the subset of RTF that Visual Studio usually uses. If you take some arbitrary Word documents and use that plugin I bet you'll be able to confuse it without much trouble.

2) Categories - Once you update the list of categories on the server, you can force your local copy to sync by bringing up the Categories pop-up and hitting the refresh button (the chasing arrows). No need to reconfigure the account.

3) Uninstall plugins - Yes, it annoys me too that you can't fully manage plugins from within Writer like you can within e.g. Firefox. We actually had designed an extension mechanism that was more Firefox-esque but due to constraints given to us by the gallery.live.com team we had to tell plugin authors to stick to MSI-based installers.

If that plugin doesn't have an Add/Remove Program icon then it is definitely badly behaved.

4) AutoCorrect - No reason we don't have this already, other than finding the time to implement it. We actually are rather well set up to do it so I wouldn't be too surprised if it makes it into our next release.

Hope that helps! If you have further questions/comments you can reach me at joe.cheng *AT* microsoft.com.

June 26, 2009 8:29 PM
 

Andrew Kelly said:

Joe,

Awesome reply and explains a lot. Now that I know I can use Word as a work around I can get by much easier. As a matter of fact I might even use Word again to do the edit and only use LW to post. Initially I used Word to write the blog but had problems with the blogs editor accepting the format from Word and that is why I switched to LW:) It's amazing how quickly the word spreads :).  Again though thanks for the great reply.

June 26, 2009 9:08 PM
 

Joe Webb said:

I know you're a Mac user. Have you tried Ecto? I've heard good things about it, but haven't used it myself.

June 28, 2009 8:12 AM
 

Andrew Kelly said:

Hey Joe,

Nope, no Mac's for me:)...  Must have been someone else your thinking of, probably Aaron Bertrand.

June 28, 2009 2:11 PM

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