Sunday, June 03, 2007

Bytescout Post2Blog...a WLW Killer?

...and in this corner, Bytescout Post2Blog.

I’m composing this post from it right now!

Earlier this week, before the newest Windows Live Writer was announced, I was excitedly reading this post over at CyberNet News: Post2Blog Turns to Freeware!

It seemed to offer quite a number great features for a blogging editor.

  • A "live" spell checker, squiggling misspelled words as you go,
  • A "portable" mode, so I could blog on the fly from a USB stick,
  • Plugin posting support for Firefox and Internet Explorer,
  • Post composition in MS Word, then posting via a P2B toolbar from MS Word,
  • Post from selected RSS readers,
  • Adding of tags,
  • Send trackbacks and pings to web-services to notify of blog updates,
  • Built in smilies, and quite a bit more.

Then the newest version of Windows Live Writer came out and spoiled the party.

Too bad for me; there are a slew of specialized features crammed in here to like.

For example,

  • It ships with 24 skins.
  • The "advanced" toolbar has buttons for superscript and subscript modes, a remove-formatting button, font and background colors, and line insertion.
  • Quick Snippets. You can define a word or phrase and associated hyperlink or code. Then as you type on the fly, if the program sees your word, it will automatically insert the associated hyperlink or code for you. Handy.
  • It has a tool to clean up MS Word HTML code in your post composition.
  • Insertion of your currently playing music is natively supported.
  • You can also insert code...which opens a text-box for you to type your own code, or insert code from a saved file. Wow.
  • You can insert a "Link to Webservice" like Google or the Wikipedia and it will find the term/word/etc and add the correct hyperlink. Interesting.
  • It displays tabs at the bottom of the composition area to select the Post Editor, the HTML code view, Attached Files, and Pings. The tab-based access to the different post views is a very convenient and fast way for bloggers to switch modes.
  • Special Posting...Post as Draft, Post to Clipboard, Post to Bulk File for Google Base.
  • Image uploading to quite a few supported hosting services.
  • If you select the URL from your browser’s address bar, then select some text to add it as a link to, it will automatically insert the copied URL into the appropriate link dialog field. And it also provide the option to validate the link for you automatically as well as associate that link with all the similar words or phrases in your post. How’s that for service?

It is a really well conceived product. A very Good Job to you, Bytescout!

So you would really expect me to be downright excited about it. Right?

Unfortunately, I’m not ready to leave Windows Live Writer.

Although it has a large number of very well planned and executed features (the advanced toolbar, the Quick Snippets, the Link to Webservice options for example), in my opinion, Post2Blog just seems to lack some of the punch and polish of Windows Live Writer.

Despite all my attempts so far, I can’t seem to get it to display my Blogger labels so I can add them pre-posting. Some of the icons seem to show white edges when used with certain themes. It shows hyperlinks in blue and underlined to set them off from the regular text, however if a word is misspelled in the hyperlink, the red-squiggle underline supersedes the blue underline making it a bit confusing if part of your hyperlinked text got messed up (it didn’t...once you fix the word or add it to the dictionary, all is well again). The smiley faces are kinda creeping me out. I uploaded this post to Blogger as a draft to check the formatting first and it inserted some pretty good sized paragraph breaks as well as a break after each bullet and some unexpected margin alignment code at the start of every-other paragraph. So I had some (admittedly light) cleanup work to do before the final post was published.

I’m sure that as this software continues to be developed, it will become a bit more polished. Some of the formatting and tag issues might be due to my inexperience with this software just yet.

And I must say, with the Ping support, associated file attachment options, the MS Word and (select) RSS reader integration this might indeed be a power tool for power/professional bloggers.
I recommend anyone who regularly blogs take a look at this program. It might or might not meet your blogging needs, but it is definitely one worth keeping an eye on...and the WLW team at Microsoft might want to take some detailed notes from it. And I will likely be carrying the portable version in my pocket USB stick...just in case inspiration hits.

Post2Blog's integrated features are very clever indeed.


Update: After posting this to my blog and using the Blogger WYSIWYG web editor to try to clean up the code and formatting, the post formatting kept looking stranger and stranger. I eventually copied it over into WLW, then deleted the original post and re-posted from WLW after I cleaned it up some more. WLW had one other feature that helps immensely: the Web Preview view. With one click, you can preview your post "live" in your blog and make sure it looks just right before publishing. That alone is a priceless time-saver.

I am not a "hard-core" HTML coder, by any means...I'm not sure if the first posting attempt issue was my lack of HTML coding experience, the Blogger format, my custom template format, or the quirks of Post2Blog HTML formatting...probably a combination of all factors.

However, despite my "punting" this post back to WLW, make no mistake, I still am highly impressed by the features Bytescout has crammed into Post2Blog.


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