In "Testing LiveWriter" I said I would take it for a spin and see how I liked it, while also researching the license for other purposes.
I have not exercised the program in any significant way, but it is very difficult for me to want to use anything else. It is a bit like what happened when I finally went digital in my photography after over 50 years as an analog guy. (Eisenhower was president when I started with my first camera.)
This is my third post with LiveWriter and I have exercised few of its features so far. I look forward to learn what becomes possible with the available plug-ins and the handling of pictures, tables, and maps.
Below the crease, I've provided detailed notes on my impressions so far. These may not be anything that matters to you. At least you can calibrate my general appraisal against what attracts my attention, what little nuances matter for me, and what other elements are simply delightful in my book. I expect that your mileage will surely vary, but now we can tell how much.
- First, I prefer off-line composition of posts and keeping local drafts. So many of my observations are idiosyncratic with that style.
In fact, I have a large number of BlogJet drafts on my machine and I must go back and complete some of them. I don't know if I'll convert them to LiveWriter (although I really want to) or I'll post them from BlogJet just to clear the backlog.
- Secondly, the installation of LiveWriter was extremely easy.
The installer worked so quickly it seemed anti-climactic. I declined the gratuitous invitation to make MSN my home page and I was done.
- The connection to the Orcmid's Lair blog was so simple I didn't expect it to work.
I was asked simply to point to the blog (not to Blogger, which builds my blog but does not host it), and it figured out the rest. I gave it my Blogger account information when requested and my first blank blog page came up with exactly the format I use for the posts here, including the color and style of post titles and other features. That was delightful.
- Tagging is extremely easy.
In addition, the tags seem to be noticed by Technorati very quickly. I have often had to manually instruct Technorati to notice new posts, but that seems to have changed. I don't know whether LiveWriter has anything to do with it or not. I'll keep watching.
- When I posted the first article, it was startling to have my blog fire up in the browser.
I see that I can change that in my preferences, but I'll leave it to see how it works for me. The posting was also very quick.
- After making the post, I checked the File | Open ... selection to see what was remembered for me. I smiled to see that drafts, recent posts, and my blog are all available, including the post I'd just made.
Nosing around, I observe that there is a new folder, "My Weblog Posts" in "My Documents." That has the places where my drafts and my recent posts go. Simple.
- In my second post, I noticed that the trend to omit the indent and outdent toolbar symbols continues with this product.
I don't know what had those go away. They are what I have in mind most of the time.
- I don't think of myself as making a quotation when I want to indent material, especially to make a sublist, but I figured out that the quotation symbol can be pressed into service. That is how I created an indented list, like this one, under an item of an outer list. I suspect this only works because I don't have any special style in place that makes "quotations" look some special way that is only meant for true quotations.
- Apparently Tab and Shift-Tab can be used to indent and outdent. I happened to strike the Tab key by accident! I am not sure it is the same thing as blockquote or not.
- This is the first page where I have needed to look at the HTML. I miss having a bottom-of-pane tab for switching the view.
I will learn the keyboard shortcuts quickly though. Well, not so fast. The F11 shortcut to restore the Web Layout view is being intercepted by my screen-capture utility. OK, I have disabled F11 there so I can use it here. It's still awkward because F11 is not something I am accustomed to reaching for.
- Sitting down to create this post, I looked over the UI a little more before starting out. The deep sea-green color, or whatever it is, that is favored on Windows Live interfaces doesn't work for me.
I want more contrast on the menu area and with the text legends. I found the Colorize tool next to the Help button on the toolbar row, and my problem was solved.
- I have been editing the HTML is in order to change to a smaller font size.
I don't want to set a fixed font size, I want fonts to be resizable in the browser. So I manually introduce <small> ... </small> taggings to achieve the proper effect. This capability seems to have vanished from editors. Fortunately my adjustments to the HTML get the job done.
- I also edit the HTML to clean up unwanted entities.
As you can see, I use an extra space after certain punctuation. It is how I learned to type, and I prefer the layout effect. Oddly, there are times when I may have edited material in other blog editors and a single space between two words will end up being an entity. I often review the HTML to root those out, since they can interfere with text flow when the page is viewed in different sizes of browser window. LiveWriter has not saved me from having to check on that.
- I am also happy to be able to use extended character sets and have them appear correctly in the blog.
It allows for correct presentation of names, like Gödel and Núñez.
- I also have occasion to enter character entities for special symbols that I want to be preserved as Unicode.
Sometimes, having the blog editor replace the entities by the intended character codes fails when the text is passed through Blogger to my blog page. When it works, I can use formulas that matter in some of my work:
If a ≠ b, then a ¶ b or b ¶ a.
Unfortunately, LiveWriter also replaces character entities ≠ and ¶ with their character codes and I must hope for the best. I suspect that it will work.
- I write date-time values like this: 2008-06-02-18:10.
Another editor I used replaces the hyphen that I type, "-", with a dash, "—", forcing me to have to edit the HTML to repair it. LiveWriter doesn't attempt to correct my choice of characters and presentation of "-"-separated number fields. LiveWriter doesn't even seem intent on making curly quotes for me.
- I really like the spelling checker.
It seems to be remembering what I tell it about additions of new words too. I am particularly grateful for that.
- The Web Preview is uncanny.
It's quite remarkable to see the page pop-up with all of my template implemented along with the other formatting. I recall that template information was downloaded when I established the account. But seeing the effect is startling. Of course, the page also appears to be wrong in that the other posts shown are not my latest ones. It takes a few moments to understand why.
- Oh, and there is no way to make a horizontal rule without editing the HTML.
At least it seems to leave such HTML alone. Funny.
- What I miss:
A switch between "normal"/Web Layout/HTML views that preserves cursor position and any selection, so that I don't have to scroll down the new view from the top to find my place every time.