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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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    Last Updated on January 13, 2020

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

    No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

    Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

    Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

    A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

    Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

    In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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    From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

    A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

    For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

    This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

    The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

    That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

    Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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    The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

    Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

    But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

    The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

    The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

    A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

    For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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    But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

    If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

    For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

    These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

    For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

    How to Make a Reminder Works for You

    Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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    Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

    Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

    My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

    Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

    I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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