Last night I reviewed a few of the blogging services that I have used, offering some observations about these services. However, when it comes down to it, all of the services do pretty much the same thing — they process data (usually the written word) inserting it into a predefined template and stamp it with a date and time of posting. In essence they simple content managers, organizing information that you write for distribution on the web.
Choosing a blogging service and creating the blog is the easy thing (although I will admit that creating a good looking blog that moves beyond the stock templates is a bit more difficult). The much harder part of maintaining a blog is coming up with content to share, and formatting that content in a way that makes sense.
All of the blogging services have on-line editors on which you can write your blog “posts.” These editors are usually very simple in nature. The most basic have almost no formatting tools, while those that are more developed allow one to insert pictures, format text, and perform other basic tasks. These generally work pretty well for most things, but after a while I have found myself bristling at the limitations of these editors.
One of the great problems of most of these editors is that they involve writing online, which always carries the risk of losing a half written article when one’s Internet services crashes in the middle of creation. Most of these services allow you to save drafts of articles before publishing, so that you don’t have to finish an article in a single sitting, but even with these tools I have seen articles simply disappear right in the middle of composition, something that no one should have to experience.
At some point in my blogging career I discovered a series of desktop blogging tools that take the task of composing offline. These allow one to save articles on one’s local machine (something that feels safer to me, although that is probably more of an emotion than a rational reality). More importantly, these tools make composing much more easier, working like a word processor for blogging and I think facilitating the blogging process in a more complete way.
I have used several of these tools along the way, including plug-ins for Firefox, Flock (a browser optimized for blogging), and the great-granddaddy of them all, wbloggar (the first of this category). Because I am a Windows user, I haven’t had a chance to look at Mac options, although I understand that there are some great options for the Mac. Over time, however, I have settled on two editors that work well for me.
The first one out of the starting gate and the one that I have used the most is called Blogjet. This was, to my knowledge, the first WYSIWYG blogging editor for Windows and I have used it for several years, seeing it through several updates. Blogjet was not free, but I knew that I would be using it a lot and I feel like I have gotten my $30 worth of use. Blogjet was especially useful in its ability to insert pictures into blog posts, allowing the easy integration of material hosted at Flickr and the ability to upload files to whatever FTP service one might have available.
I have been an advocate of Blogjet for quite a while, and in the interest of full disclosure I should say that I liked the program well enough to become an affiliate who could receive a kickback if someone purchased the program through my recommendation.
However, based on the recommendations of others I have made a switch to a new program that is free and frankly I think is superior to Blogjet.
As much as I hate to admit it, it is a product by Microsoft.
Live Writer is part of the Windows Live initiative at Microsoft that is trying to bring that company into the Web 2.0 world. I first became aware of this group through Windows Weekly, a podcast that I listen to regularly. Of everything that is happening at Microsoft, the Live Team seems to be moving more quickly and has been a bit more innovative than usual for a fairly large organization.
I tried out an early version of Live Writer a year or so ago and wasn’t especially impressed. It had some of the functionality of Blogjet, and looked kind of pretty, but there were many things it didn’t do well, and I continued to stick with my old standby.
However, after hearing Leo LaPorte talk about Live Writer again, I decided to give the upgraded version another shot.
Frankly, it is everything I am looking for in a desktop blogging client. It is truly WYSIWIG, taking the formatting options from your blog and importing them into the client. It allows one to insert all sorts of cool things into your blog posts, including maps, tables, videos, pictures, etc. Even more importantly, Microsoft created an open API for the product, allowing third party programmers to create other plug-ins for the product which improves the functionality even more.
Best of all, it’s free!
I hate to admit it, but my old standby is quickly becoming a has been given my experience so far with Live Writer. I truly believe that this is a program that makes blogging more accessible to all, and I want to encourage you to check it out.