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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 March 13, 2019

    How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

    How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

    Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

    You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

    Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

    1. Work on the small tasks.

    When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

    Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

    2. Take a break from your work desk.

    Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

    Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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    3. Upgrade yourself

    Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

    The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

    4. Talk to a friend.

    Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

    Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

    5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

    If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

    Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

    Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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    6. Paint a vision to work towards.

    If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

    Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

    Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

    7. Read a book (or blog).

    The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

    Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

    Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

    8. Have a quick nap.

    If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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    9. Remember why you are doing this.

    Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

    What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

    10. Find some competition.

    Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

    Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

    11. Go exercise.

    Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

    Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

    As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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    Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

    12. Take a good break.

    Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

    Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

    Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

    Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

    More Resources About Getting out of a Rut

    Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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