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What is Windows Live Writer?
If you've stopped updating your blog for some reason - or never caught the blogging bug in the first place - Windows Live Writer might be just the thing to launch you into the blogosphere.
Even people who post every day will find something to comment about when they use Writer instead of or alongside their usual browser-based blogging software.
So what is it? Simply put, Writer makes light work of composing blog entries and publishing them to your blog service. Despite what the name suggests, it won't write your content for you, but Writer has all the tools to help you accomplish that yourself with ease.
Becoming a Writer
Anyone who's edited a document in Microsoft Word should feel right at home with the way Writer works. The new toolbar-like "ribbon" is where you'll find familiar commands that let you style your posts. And Writer shows you exactly how any formatting changes will look - fonts, colours, paragraph alignment, the lot, all using your blog's current theme.
If you know what you're doing and want to tinker with the layout, Writer lets you edit the underlying HTML directly. Preview the results and if you don't like them, no harm done - that's what the Undo button's for.
Writer's intuitive interface is reminiscent of Office 2010.
Like Word, Writer spell-checks as you type, highlighting any typos before they reach the wider public ... and end up highlighted in your blog's comments.
It also keeps tally of how many words you've written so far, handy to know if the post has to be a certain length.
Making a good image
Great with text, Writer's not too shabby with images either. Drop in a photo and a whole palette of effects become available. Want to give your snapshots that retro Polaroid look? Or add a reflection? You can do that, along with rotate the image, re-colour it, overlay a watermark, and more.
There's no need to launch a separate program just to crop or resize an image. Writer does it for you, without changing the original picture.
Live Writer works seamlessly with most popular blogging platforms.
You can embed videos from sharing sites like YouTube, Vimeo and Flickr.
Giving directions? Insert a map from Bing in case your visitors aren't too hot at following them.
The postal service
However, Windows Live Writer, for all its excellent word-processing abilities, is a blogging tool. So you'll be glad to hear all the expected functions are present and correct.
You can pick which category your post belongs to and add tags that aid in searching.
Turn comments on or off. Allow trackbacks and pingbacks.
Set the publication date (now or in the future). And a host of other post properties.
A number of powerful plug-ins
are available for Writer.
These vary depending on which blogging service hosts your blog.
Writer works seamlessly with most of them. Blogger, WordPress, LiveJournal, TypePad, among others ... not forgetting Windows Live's own Spaces.
If you're yet to board the blogging bandwagon (and why not?), Writer can create one for you.
We've barely scratched the surface of what Writer can do. But should you discover it doesn't handle something you need it to do, chances are someone's built a plug-in that does. Like grab pics from your Facebook account. Insert an MP3 player. Or send out a tweet notifying all your Twitter followers that your new blog post has gone live.
If after all that, you're not quite ready to go public with your latest entry, Writer lets you save it as a draft. Go away, have a coffee, then come back later to finish it off. Hit the "Publish" button and Writer will take you to the live post on the web.