The blog CMS we use is great in a lot of ways but it’s built in editor is really, really bad. Initially, I had used Microsoft Word to fill the gap, with disastrous results. Since then I have moved to using our blog software’s horribly antiquated text editing system but that has limited my formatting options quite considerably. Now, after a recommendation from a friend, I am giving Windows Live Writer a shot. This blog post is a recursive review of my experience writing this blog post in Windows Live Writer.

 

Full Featured Editing

Here is a screenshot of Windows Live Writer:

windowslivewriter 

Windows live writer has everything you would expect from a html based text editor. This includes font formatting and paragraph formatting, colors, block quotes and alignment.

For comparison, this is what the Community Server 2.0 interface I have been using looks like:

communityservereditor 

It is not resizable and it has no undo between saves. Also, it has a feature set right out of the HTML 1.1 spec:

  • Bold, Italics, Underline, Strikeout,
  • Indenting and Outdenting
  • Linking
  • Pictures
  • Tables
  • What, no blink?

It lacks such basic 1990s era formatting as text size and alignment. This can make creating blog posts with any kind of real formatting really time consuming.

It’s a huge difference.

 

Content Made Easy

While I came for the the easy text editing interface, I stayed for the slick client-server integration and simple content management. Windows Live Writer has a number of wizards each of which take the hassle out of adding a type of content to your blog. For example, here is a screenshot of its GIS integration:

wlwmap 

As Windows Live Writer completely manages the process for you, inserting non-text content is extremely easy. For images, you can just add them your post using the insert picture wizard and it will handle the thumbnailing, uploading and linking for you. It has native youtube and sopebox support as well as the ability to add your own local video via a wizard. As shown in the screenshot, it has out of the box integration with windows live maps for quickly inserting interactive maps into your post.

It also has a plugin interface so other types of content integration can be added. When you click on “Add a Plug-in” Windows Live Writer will actually take you to a list which currently contains 105 different live plugins. I haven't yet tried to implement my own content integration but if 105 different plugins already exist, it can’t be too difficult.

 

The One Downside: High Resource Demands and Sluggishness

This seems to me to be the biggest problem with Windows Live messenger:

wlwresources

That’s about 253 Megabytes of peak memory usage for what is essentially a text editor. Maybe it’s just that I once had a functional computer with 64 kilobytes of ram but I find this kind of memory usage from a blog editor to be absurd. That amounts to about 15% of your ram if you have 4 gigs in your box.

On my Intel Core 2 6600 @ 2.4 Ghz with 2 gigabytes of ram I have found Windows Live Writer to often be sluggish. When I click to move my cursor or highlight text it can take what seems like a whole second to respond.  When typing or deleing text it sometimes will lag slightly behind my input.

Performance issues are forgivable considering that it is still a beta software package. I do hope that the development team is able to take some time to try and work through these issues.

 

Conclusion

Although it has some problems, Windows Live Writer is by far the easiest and most convenient blog editor I have ever had the pleasure to use. The tight client-server integration means that in the future I will be able to avoid all of the tedious resizing, uploading and pasting of html snippets and instead be able to concentrate on content. I can only hope that by the time it gets out of beta some of the memory issues and sluggishness will be worked out as otherwise this is an amazing piece of software.

I’m not the only one who thinks so. If you want to read some other opinions, you should check out a Phil Wainewright article entitled “Writer is Microsoft’s first Live Killer app” and Paul Stamatiou’s Review.

Edit: After I posted this blog I noticed that its formatting looked remarkably similar in both Internet Explorer 7 and Firefox 3.0.

Pros:

  • Slick looking.
  • Everything would expect in terms of text editing features.
  • Direct Community Server integration.
  • Conveniently manages inserted content for you.
  • Its output looks great in both Firefox and Internet Explorer.

Cons:

  • Keyboard input can be sluggish.
  • Huge memory footprint.
  • Beta software.