Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
July 14, 201112:03 PM

My Blog Writing Dilemma

Everything was fine and dandy until the other day.

To write my Blog posts, I use a Windows-based piece of software called, Windows Live Writer (by Microsoft). I love it. I love it so much, that when I switched from PC to Mac, I installed VMware for the sole purpose of being able to write my Blog posts with Windows Live Writer. I'm not overly techy, so I don't even use the software to publish to my Blog directly (I actually copy and paste the source code into the Blog platform), but I'm simply in love with a few key features...

  1. Writing view. It allows you to type up Blog posts as if you're working in a standard word processing file (you can format, and this includes adding links, etc...). Then (and as needed), you can switch to "source" view, which is the HTML stuff. This way, I don't have to think about HTML (which is important because I don't know HTML), but in the source view, I can simply copy and paste little pieces of code (like YouTube embed codes) and I can copy and paste my entire text from the source view to place in my Blog platform for publishing. I like the flexibility of being able to toggle between a regular writing view and the source HTML code version simply and easily.
  2. Links. This is the main reason why I can't quit Windows Live Writer. I love linking to everything. I believe that linking is what makes online publishing interesting and that linking is what makes flat text become three-dimensional. Windows Live Writer has an "auto linking" feature that allows me to save my links. Any time I type in a word that has been saved to the "auto linking" feature it will automatically create the link for me, but only for the first instance that I type the specific word (or phrase) in a Blog post. This feature is not only a time-saver but a life-saver.
  3. Formatting. From bold and italic to bulletpoints and more, Windows Live Writer does the trick. What you see is what you get... and there are no surprises. If I indent something, that's the way it will look on Blog. If I hit "enter" to start a new paragraph, it works as well. I've mucked around with other Blog writing software only to find out that it misses the mark in understanding the formatting I was intending, which is frustrating for someone like me who struggles with HTML... and time.

The auto linking isn't working any more.

When I try to create a link now, the software crashes. One of our IT leads here at Twist Image has been helping me to get it fixed, but so far, nothing has worked (yes, we've been Googling and trying all of the fixes we can find). While I hope we can get it to work, I was wondering if anyone knows of any good Mac-based Blog writing software that has similar functionality? More specifcally, the auto-linking feature and the ability to write in a wysiwyg format but be able to toggle to the source/HTML version too.

Any thoughts?

By Mitch Joel


Comments Comments Feed
  • Posted by Arjun Basu
    Mitch Joel

    I'm using WordPress. It's a bit slow but that's my only complaint. That's not software, I know, and I've never used anything else (and my blog and website is relatively new) but I love the flexibility. And I can do whatever I want in terms of links, images, formatting, etc.

    Reply
  • Posted by Monique
    Mitch Joel

    Wow! Tough problem. I love Live Writer too!

    Usually when an app starts acting up in VMware its because some operating system call that the function makes isn't in the stripped down VMware code.

    I don't know which calls Live Writer is using for the auto-linking function but, most likely that operating fuction is missing in the VMware code.

    Hope this tibits helps.

    As far as apps, maybe someone put out a Silverlight Out-of-Browser (OOB) vesion of a blog writer with the same Live Writer features. If so, then you should be able to work offline on the Mac and load to blog whenever.

    Reply
  • Mitch Joel

    I offered up Scrivener to you on Twitter but maybe Ecto is more in line with the features Live Writer offers. Find Ecto here: http://illuminex.com/ecto/

    Reply
  • Mitch Joel

    You may want to try a combination of MarsEdit and Text Expander. Marsedit can post directly to your blog and functions mostly as a WYSIWYG or at least the realtime preview does. Super easy to add video, link and preview everything without ever having to pop over into WP.

    As for the links, you can just create snippets in Text Expander that for commonly used links.

    Reply
    • I've got both Marsedit and Ecto, bit neither seem to have those key features that I want... or am I missing something?

      Reply
      • Mitch Joel

        It's a two pane process in Marsedit. If you just need to select preview, you will see a preview complete with live video, images, etc. I think you can even drop in your own CSS.

        The links are a problem, I don't know of any programs that handle this like Microsoft did. However Text Expander should serve damn good cheat, it'll save you a ton of typing over time. Honestly, if repetitive typing is an issue for you, it'll save you hours across your entire system.

        As for the formatting, Marsedit handles these pretty well, but you might want to consider trying markdown. The learning curve takes about a day to get fluent in it. I can't code a lick either (HTML links are as fancy as I get), but I write everything in markdown now. Handles bold, italics, quotes, links, bullets, lists. Great if you do any amount of your writing on your phone or iPad.

        Reply
  • Posted by iivo
    Mitch Joel

    you could try a firefox addon like (I think it's called) scribe, except for that, I love live writer too, or used too, i find the UI of the latest edition I tried a horrible experience... Come to think of it not many other products can compete with the live writer functions you mention, I might just have to install it again

    Reply
    • Posted by iivo
      Mitch Joel

      Sorry, for that double post earlier, my smartphone and the ISP was not agreeing with each other.. Anyway ScribeFire Next for Firefox, might be a good alternative worth checking out.

      Reply
  • Posted by Tim
    Mitch Joel

    Heij Mitch what about copying the VM and installing a parallels test version. Import the VM to parallels start it and try it out there. Might be the problem comes from some vm ware specifications.

    Reply
  • Posted by William Buist
    Mitch Joel

    I use Scrivener for big stuff and Scribefire in Firefox for blog entries.

    Reply
  • Posted by Todd Lohenry
    Mitch Joel

    Mitch, I'm so sorry to hear you're experiencing the problems that you are, but unfortunately, the experiences you cite are the reason why I have avoided Live Writer. It may be a bit of the ex-Apple in me surfacing, but that's one of the reason I avoid Microsoft solutions -- there's a[n unpleasant] surprise in every box! :-D

    I think the solution iivo was grasping for is ScribeFire. I use it on both Firefox and Chrome and while it does not offer the plugin architecture of Live Writer, it is solid and robust and works well -- I highly recommend it as an alternative to Live Writer!

    btw, lately I've been doing a lot of work with Nilofer Merchant and Ron Tite -- I'd be happy to demo for you why ScribeFire may be a better approach for what you're doing...

    Cheers!

    Reply
  • Posted by John Broughton
    Mitch Joel

    I realize that you said that the problem wasn't VMWare, but I'm not sure how you ruled that out. You could run an alternative to VMware, to see if the alternative handles Live Writer better. (For example, this February 2010 article recommends Parallels instead: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704140104575057251096106096.html )

    You're apparently using Windows Live Writer 2011 (that's the link), rather than the prior (2009) version. Any chance you could use (restore) the prior version (say, via Time Machine)?

    Reply
  • Hi Mitch, we meet at International Startup Festival last week. I wanted to see with you if you resolve your problem with Windows Live Writer 2011? If not, I would be more than happy to see with you what is the problem. Feel free to contact me, so we can fix it.

    Reply
  • Posted by David Pope
    Mitch Joel

    Hi Mitch, If you haven't sorted it out yet, I can recommend the new Mac OSX Marked App. It translates Markdown (also recommended above) which is super easy to learn (you could pick it up in an hour), and use Text Expander for your regular links. All you do is type in Text Edit (already on your Mac), open it in Marked and it will give you all the HTML code. Super easy.

    Reply
  • Posted by Pali Madra
    Mitch Joel

    I use Live Writer and have a tough time moving to others.

    BTW were you able to fix the automatic links issue?

    Reply
    • We just deleted that specific file and re-installed the software. I guess I had overloaded the system. I had to start over... which kind of sucked... but after a week or two, everything was better :)

      Reply
      • Mitch Joel

        I should do an interview with you on this story: it's awesome to see you liked the tool so much that you are using a VM and even with the bug you had, you still using it.

        I use it to create my blog posts too: I didn't know about this tool prior to joining Microsoft.

        Fred

        Reply
    • Posted by Todd Lohenry
      Mitch Joel

      Interesting to see this convo coming alive again. I have to admit, Mitch, that our emails around this topic actually turned me into a Windows Live Writer fan for my Windows blogging but I'm still not so addicted that I'd do the vmware thing to use it on the Mac.

      I still recommend using ScribeFire or MarsEdit for Mac blogging and use TextExpander or something like it to replace that one feature you love -- autoreplacing text -- but I'm not as committed to a Mac only blogging workflow as you are. Even as a former Apple employee and Mac fanboy I think blogging is better on Windows 7 and I have both computers sitting side by side...

      Cheers!!!

      Reply
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