There are three main ways every blogger can go about creating and submitting content (from a technical point of view). You can either: edit it straight inside WordPress, write everything in Word, Writer or any other text processor, or you can use an offline blogging app.
Now, I don’t know if “offline blogging app” is an official name for such software, but essentially, it describes exactly what it does. In this post I’m going to share some benefits of using such apps and point you towards the best ones. Tune in if you’re kind of new to the topic and haven’t heard about the idea of blogging apps before.
WordPress and traditional text processing software – main problems
Here we’re only talking about the actual process of creating content, and not focusing on any other aspects. I’m only saying this to let you know that I’m a big fan of WordPress as a piece of software, and I think that there are very few things wrong with it. However, when it comes to writing new posts, there’s one main problem that EVERY piece of online software shares.
There’s no possibility for any kind of online app to work as fast as its offline alternative.
Online apps are run through a web browser, which is a piece of software itself, so this is the first factor that slows everything down. Another thing is that every piece of data has to be sent through the biggest network we know – the internet. Sometimes our message has to be transferred through tens of different servers before it reaches its destination. Finally, the HTTP protocol is not the most effective one for getting this task done.
Offline apps, on the other hand, have none of the above things to deal with. They run on your computer with only the operating system above them, so they are always more responsive and essentially faster.
Many people choose to create their posts from start to finish inside WordPress for many reasons. The most important one is that they have the post sitting in the place where it is eventually going to be published, and the only thing that has to be done is changing the status to “published.” Also, the post is editable from every computer with an internet access you can get your hands on.
But when it’s all said and done, WordPress is still a bit slow as a text processor. That’s why some people choose to create their posts in apps like Word or Writer. Just because the sole writing environment is more friendly and more responsive.
This however, creates other problems. The biggest of which occurs once you have the post created, and you need to somehow copy it into WordPress. You can do a simple copy-paste, but sometimes it doesn’t turn out that well.
Word and other text processors use different means of text formatting (bolding it, underlying, adjusting font and size, etc.), and most of those means are not compatible with WordPress. What often ends up happening is lots of strange CSS code being included along with the post when you copy and paste it from Word. So every time you do this you have to take a look at the HTML code and make some manual tweaks to make sure that everything is fine.
And of course, you still have to create a blank post in WordPress before you can paste anything, so it’s not exactly that big of a time saver.
It’s about time to introduce offline blogging software and some benefits it brings.
Advantages of using offline blogging apps
The biggest advantage is that a good blogging app is much faster than going to WordPress and writing a post there. More than that, often it’s much faster than traditional text processors. That is due to the fact that it’s not as complex, so it doesn’t need as much processing power.
Another benefit is that the posts are stored on your local hard drive, so you can easily back them up somewhere, or send them to a friend for some editing help, without the need of creating an editor account on your blog.
Blogging apps also provide all the basic settings that you’re used to in WordPress. You can assign categories, tags, include pictures, tables, videos, create links (and even assign attributes like nofollow), and more.
Finally, you can upload the post to your blog with just a click of a button.
There are some downsides though
Just a minute ago I said that the fact you have all posts saved locally is an advantage, but I’m afraid it’s a flaw at the same time. A situation in which your hard drive crashes and you lose all your posts is a possible scenario (but only when you don’t do any backups).
Of course, once you send a post to your blog it’s safe, and you can even go ahead and delete it from your local hard drive.
Best offline blogging apps
This is the part where I can proudly say that PC users have it better than Mac users. Microsoft really knows their craft as they provide a great offline blogging app – Windows Live Writer. This is a brilliant piece of software, one I’m actually using to write the post you’re reading right now.
Now, a really not-microsofty thing – the software is free with no strings attached. Simply download it from microsoft.com and start using it.
If you’re a Mac user there are 3 things you can do:
• Install a virtual machine, install Windows 7, install Windows Live Writer – but that’s just too much hassle.
• Buy MarsEdit for a shy of $40. It has somewhat similar features to Windows Live Writer but on the price to value relation it loses widely. There’s a 30-trial available if you want to test it before you buy.
• Get “Qumana”. Which is a free app similar to MarsEdit but doesn’t have quite so many features.
How to use Windows Live Writer and other offline blogging apps
I use Windows Live Writer, so this is the one I’m going to describe, but there are some similar steps you need to take when dealing with any other offline blogging app.
First of all, you have to enable your blog for remote publishing. Simply log in to your blog as the admin, go to Settings > Writing and select the checkbox next to the “XML-RPC” label. From now on you can post to your blog remotely using Windows Live Writer or any other piece of blogging software.
Also, you may want to consider creating a separate author’s account for your Windows Live Writer submissions. This doesn’t bring any benefits other than visually distinguishing your remote posts from all the other ones.
Windows Live Writer itself is very easy to use. After launching it you’ll have to add your blog through the wizard (later on you can modify all settings in the blog settings section).
Once you set the blog you’ll see the main window of the app and the sidebar containing a list of all your previous posts, the name of the blog you’re working with, and a list of possible things you can include into your blog post (like pictures or links – image below).
At the bottom there’s an expandable section for setting the publication date, tags and categories, the slug, the excerpt, and even the trackback URLs.
There are three main ways of working with a blog post. The edit tab (default), the preview tab and the source tab. The edit tab is where you do most of your work. It’s simply a text processing unit.
The preview tab allows you to check what the post is going to look like when published on the blog. Windows Live Writer goes through the blog, gets its theme and then uses it to present previews of posts.
The final tab – source is an HTML source view. Not full HTML, more like WordPress-HTML.
Writing, editing, and fine-tuning the post is very intuitive and straightforward, so there’s no point in describing it. Once you’re done with the post the only thing left to do is click the “Post draft to blog” button or the “Publish” button. And that’s it.
It’s a lot quicker and a lot simpler way of writing blog posts than logging into WordPress and doing everything there. And it’s surely a way better approach than using traditional text processing software like Microsoft Word.
For me, Live Writer is a big time saver. I write a minimum of two posts every day. If it wasn’t for a tool like Live Writer I wouldn’t be able to keep track of all those articles and posts, and I mean it.
What I’m curious about is your opinion. Did you try using Windows Live Writer? What’s your experience with it? Did you find any problems worth mentioning here?