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9 Ways to Get More Out of Windows Live Writer

9 Ways to Get More Out of Windows Live Writer
Nut and Bolt

    Chances are, if you’re a blogger, you’ve heard about Microsoft’s free blogging tool, Windows Live Writer (WLW). In case you haven’t heard about it, WLW is an offline WYSIWIG (What You See Is What You Get) blogging tool that integrates very nicely with most blogging platforms, allowing you to create and edit blog posts from your desktop. Although it is usually great fun to mock Microsoft’s efforts, as it happens WLW is really very cool. If you regularly write for several different sites, it can really help to simplify your blogging life!

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    Unlike a lot of Microsoft products, WLW makes a strong effort to work with a variety of non-Microsoft services and products. So while it gives Microsoft’s own “Live Spaces” service pride of place in the setup dialog, WLW works well with a variety of blogging platforms, from hosted services like Google’s Blogger and WordPress.com to WordPress and other blogging programs hosted on your own servers — it even works with non-mainstream platforms like Drupal, albeit minus a few of the bells and whistles.

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    Setup is pretty easy, as WLW works hard to auto-detect your website’s settings. You might need to tell WLW where the interface is on your host — it’s usually a file called “xmlrpc.php”, and I’ve found that if I just assume it’s at “www.[domain name].com/xmlrpc.php”, it usually works. Once you’re set up, WLW will download the stylesheet and post template, so as you write your posts you can see exactly how it will look when it’s posted.

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    WLW is pretty straightforward, but here’s a few pointers to some of the intermediate and advanced features that WLW offers:

    1. Categories: WLW reads the categories from your site, so click “categories” at the bottom of the post window and check off whatever categories you want your post to go in. If you use tags as categories, a list of all your previously-used tags will come up — useful if you want to avoid using multiple variations of the same idea (e.g. “e-book”, “ebooks”, and “e-books”).
    2. Set Publish Date: If your blogging software allows you to schedule posts to go “live” in the future, you’ll find a drop-down calendar at the bottom next to the categories field.
    3. Tagging: Hit the double up-arrow at the bottom of the post window (or press “F2”) and a range of other options will open up, including a tagging field. List your tags just like you would if you were editing online.
    4. The “Read More” tag: For blogs like WordPress, where you use the <!–more–> tag to mark the end of the excerpt you want on the front page of your blog, the same thing is accomplished by placing your cursor where you want the “Read More” tag and selecting “Split Post” from the “Format” menu.
    5. Remind yourself: If you’re the kid of person who forgets to add categories, tags, and titles to your posts, open the “Options” (in the “Tools” menu) and under “Preferences” check off “Remind me to specify a title before publishing”, “Remind me to add categories before publishing”, and “Remind me to add tags before publishing”. When you go to publish or save a draft to your site, WLW will check that all these are present and, if not, ask you to add them.While you’re in the “Options”, go to “Spelling” and check “Check spelling before publishing”, too — this will launch the spell-checker automatically when you go to publish your post.
    6. Use templates: If you use snippets of text, code, or other mterial regularly, you can use a plugin to save and insert templates. I use Joe Cheng’s Dynamic Template Plugin, which is the most flexible: you can create templates with several fields and containing any kind of text or code you want, even interactive fields (though I admit I’m not enough of a programmer to understand how this works, but watch the demo on the site). Then you select “Insert Template” from the “Insert” menu (or the sidebar) and select whichever template you want to use. Boom! Instant text.
    7. Insert pictures: You can use the built-in “Insert Picture” dialog to add images from your hard drive, but you can also use a variety of plugins to add images from services like Picasa and Flickr.
    8. Round-up links from del.icio.us: The del.icio.us bookmark plugin will collect your links from del.icio.us, convert them into HTML, and insert them into your post. Coupled with the template plugin above, this s a pretty handy way to do almost instant daily or weekly round-ups of links you want to tell you readers about
    9. Blog This: “Blog This” plugins are available for both IE and Firefox users, allowing you to highlight some text on a webpage, hit the “Blog This” button, and open a new post with your elected text already inserted in WLW. If you’re using IE, you can add the ‘blog it!” button to Windows Live Toolbar; Firefox users use the Firefox plugin.

    I have a few minor quibbles with WLW, like the fact that I can change the date a post will be published but not the time — which forces me to use the “Post Draft and Edit Online” feature instead of just publishing directly. But by and large, WLW works the way I blog, and because it integrates into so many services I can a single tool on my desktop instead of logging in to half a dozen separate websites and using half a dozen different interfaces.

    Do you have any tips to offer WLW users? Or is there another tool you prefer to use — any why? Tell us in the comments.

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    The Gentle Art of Saying No

    The Gentle Art of Saying No

    No!

    It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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    But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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    What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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    But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

    1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
    2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
    3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
    4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
    5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
    6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
    7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
    8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
    9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
    10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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