Thursday, September 06, 2007

Windows Live Writer - Beta 3 Released (the last one before final)

While Apple was being all flashy with it's latest release-day event showcase, Microsoft had a really quiet release of it's Windows Live Beta product line.

Previously, they had been doing beta releases of their "Windows Live" products as "standalone" components.

This time around they did a biggie and, similar to Google Pack, decided to make an integrated (unified) installer for their products.

Announcing the Windows Live Suite with Unified Installer - The Windows Experience Blog

Windows Live Writer - Beta 3

I had suspected a new version of WLW was coming soon: Coming Soon: New Windows Live Writer release? but was really excited to see it was released this quickly.

So I couldn't wait to get home and try out the new version.

I chose to download it from this Windows Live Writer page.

However, you can also get it from this page and select the Windows Live products you want to install here.


My download selection brought me a file just under 2 MB. Upon launching it reminded me of the old Internet Explorer 5 and 6 installers that bring down a pre-install file, which when ran, prompts the user for some options, then goes and gets the "real" installation package files.

I was first prompted to make Live Search my default IE search engine and to allow Microsoft to collect installation info (no thanks to both).

Next the installer scanned my system for any installed Windows Live components.

At that time it offered installation of these additional Windows Live products which I declined: Sign-in Assistant, Messenger, Mail, Toolbar, Photo gallery (which does look pretty nice), and Family safety.

All in all the installation took about five minutes on my Vista machine and maybe eight on my XP system. It did seem to "hang" but feedback from the installer and reports that a longer install time could be expected kept me patient.

I did have to update my RocketDock shortcut icon as the program folder location for WLW had changed as I expected and previously posted to from <program files>\Windows Live Writer\ to <program files>\Windows Live\Writer\

Current WLW plug-ins should continue to work, despite the new installation locations as it was coded to look in both places, but future versions may not.

Beta 3 version number now being reported is 12.0.1277.816.

According to the Windows Live Writer blog, this will be the last beta before the final release version.

What's New?

Well, first off, don't expect any new or revolutionary GUI changes. Everything looks pretty much the same on the surface.

According to Writer Zone blog WLW users can now:

  • Insert videos using our new 'Insert Video' dialog

  • Upload images to Picasaweb when publishing to your Blogger blog

  • Publish XHTML-style markup

  • Use Writer in 28 additional languages

  • Print your posts

  • Justify-align post text

  • Better image handling (fewer blurry images)

  • Resolved installation issues from last release

  • Many other bug fixes and enhancements

It's all about Images

To me the two largest features were direct-image publishing to Blogger (Picasaweb) and video embedding support.

In the past when including images in my posts, I have first composed my post and published it to Blogger. Then I would log into the Blogger web interface, pull my post to edit it online and upload/add the image to the post. Now I can just directly do it all at once in Windows Live Writer. Nice. forewarned about that Blogger/Picasaweb integration. Picasaweb does support JPEG, PNG, and GIF image formats. But at the time this version was being developed, they didn't. So this WLW version will accept those images, but converts them to JPEG prior to you will likely experience some image quality issues due to the conversion. My advice? Use a image editing program like Paint.NET or FastStone Image Viewer to edit/convert your image to JPEG yourself to keep better control of the conversion quality process. Then insert that image into WLW. The next release of WLW will not do this as Picasaweb now does support those image formats.

Insert Video feature is another new one.

You can add a URL or an embed and WLW will automatically detect if it’s a video from a supported site: currently Brightcove, Google Video, Grouper, MySpace, ODEO, Revver, Soapbox, Splashcast, and YouTube. That should save some coding time.

About that XHTML support

The Windows Live Writer team seems to have been listening loud and clear to coders complaints about XHTML code processing. They have improved the markup for those who prefer their empty tags with a trailing slash. Also removed, non-breaking spaces and non-validating attributes like contenteditable and atomicselection.

If you really want to get into the details, Windows Live Writer team-member Joe Cheng has some specifics on the code-handling in his post: Writer now supports XHTML* (emphasis on the asterisk). Check it out for the details.

Still In Works

No 64-bit OS support in this one.

The built-in spell-checker only supports American-English. Additional foreign language dictionary support is planned, but not included at this time. If this is something you REALLY need now, please see my post: Changing Windows Live Writer Dictionaries which can get you the Queen's English spell-check dictionary as well as several additional foreign language dictionary support. You just have to be willing to do a few hacks.

Bonus Tip: Paste Special

I didn't realize it, but the Paste Special feature in WLW is pretty powerful.

I found this marvelous post by Charles Teague who is a developer with the Windows Live Writer project: DragonStyle: Paste Special in Windows Live Writer

Normally when you paste into WLW, it does some automatic re-formatting of the pasted content to match the style of your weblog. It occurs behind the scenes and you might not even be aware of what it is doing.

However, sometimes you might want to preserve some of that original formatting code and prevent it from being "thinned." That's where "Paste Special" comes in.

It is available via the Edit menu or from the right-click context menu.

For example, suppose you've just copied a block of text from a web-page to include in your WLW blog composition. If you select "Paste Special" you can select to remove all formatting which strips all HTML code out and only leave the content and line breaks. You can go with the "default" thinning setting which pulls some MS Office type formatting, CSS styles, tables, but retains basic formatting and tweaks it to merge with your blog style. Or you can keep all the formatting regardless if it works with your blog style or not. I did not notice this, but scripts are always stripped out of copy/pasted content for "security reasons."

It also senses the source application to some degree and provides modified choices, accordingly.

Charles provides a second example by using text copied from Notepad. In this case if you select "Paste Special" from a Notepad view of HTML code, and then choose "Plain Text" it will enable the HTML code to go in "escaped" so you can paste the code elements without "enabling" it in your blog post (for illustrating code for example).

Otherwise you can select "HTML" and it will format the content just like normal code should be displayed.

This is a really neat feature.

More Linkage

Happy Blogging!



Anonymous said...

seems microsoft is tightly integrating with .NET (read that you need to have .NET framework package installed on your XP or vista OS) , which makes it a minimum requirement to run Live writer.

more review at

Claus said...

Just a quick update....

Blogger Long Zheng did some great detective work and figures out how Windows Live Installer works to kick off the components it should install using a single small installer/setup file.


The cookie magic behind Windows Live Suite installer

He also links to a hack to get the new Windows Live products installed on x64 bit Windows OS (which are not supported right now with this new release).

Rafael's hack to get Windows Live Suite working on X64

Rick Mahn said...


Quote: "The Windows Live Writer team seems to have been listening loud and clear to coders complaints about XHTML code processing. They have improved the markup for those who prefer their empty tags with a trailing slash. Also removed, non-breaking spaces and non-validating attributes like contenteditable and atomicselection."

I've been waiting for this! Thanks for the info Claus.