I’ve been experimenting with Windows Live Writer a bit lately, using it to post not only to my Windows Live Spaces blog, but also to a couple of other free services, including WordPress, Blogger, and LiveJournal. I have sort of a love/hate (well, “hate” is a bit harsh, how about love/disappointment) relationship with Spaces blogging features, but I’ve never been able to quantitatively put my finger on exactly what kind of improvements I’d like to see. Until now.
Buried in the guts of Writer is the Blog Capabilities window, which provides a snapshot of several key metrics about your selected blogging platform. To get there:
Select a blog account (on the Blogs menu), and then click Blogs > Edit Blog Settings. The Edit Blog Settings window is displayed.
In the Edit Blog Settings window, navigate to the Account page, and click View Capabilities. The Blog Capabilities window is displayed.
There it is. A laundry list of exactly what your blog can (and can’t do) via the Writer API. It allows you to get an apples-to-apples comparison of features (some of which, granted, are a bit obscure). After doing a bit o’ research, I made the following matrix to quickly compare our beloved Spaces blog with the competition.
|Post draft to server||Post a draft to the server without making it visible to your audience.||Y||Y||Y||N|
|File upload||Push content to your blog using an file upload process.||Y||Y||Y||Y|
|Extended entries||Split longer posts into multiple parts, including an excerpt, a main body, and an extended body. The excerpt is designed to be a quick summary of the entry to help readers decide whether to bother reading the rest of the entry (also pulls into RSS feeds). The main body and a link to the extended body typically show up on your index page, and your archive pages usually display the main body and the extended body.||N||Y||N||Y|
|Custom publish date||Apply a custom publish date to your posts.||Y||Y||Y||N|
|Update publish date||Change the publish date of a previously published post.||Y||Y||Y||Y|
|Categories||Assign categories to organize your post.||Y||Y||Y||N|
|Multiple categories||Assign multiple categories to an individual post.||N||Y||Y||N|
|Hierarchical categories||Organize categories using a hierarchical structure (e.g., Technology > Computers > Operating Systems > Windows).||N||Y||N||N|
|New categories||Create a new custom category for a post.||Y||Y||Y||N|
|New categories inline||N||Y||Y||N|
|Keywords||Use keywords to describe a post. Typically multiple keywords can be applied to an individual post, and they can be used to search for posts.||N||Y||N||N|
|Keyword retrieval||Retrieve a list of previously used keywords.||N||Y||N||N|
|Comment policy||Apply a set of formal rules to determine how comments may be added by readers, such as whether email address is required, whether links can be included in comments, and whether comment moderation is used. Helps to curb comment spam and other abuses.||N||Y||N||N|
|Trackback policy||Apply a set of formal rules to determine how the post accepts trackbacks. Trackbacks are links created from other blog posts that automatically appear at the bottom of your post to help readers find related information. Helps to curb comment spam and other abuses.||N||Y||N||N|
|Author||Assign an author name to the post. Useful when a blog has multiple contributors.||N||Y||N||N|
|Slug||Allows you to create a semi-readable permalink for the post based on the title (e.g., a post titled “Make a Wish” might be slugged as “make-a-wish.” Slugs improve the readability of your post’s URL and make it easier for readers and search engines to find your posts.||N||Y||N||N|
|Excerpt||Create a condensed summary of your blog post, either specifically written to summarize the post, or generated automatically by using the first few paragraphs of the post or using the post up to a specific point, as assigned by you.||N||Y||N||N|
|Pages||Organize pages using a hierarchical structure. For example, suppose you are creating a site for a travel agency. You would like to create an individual page for each continent and country to which the agency can make travel arrangements.||N||Y||N||N|
|Page parent||If multiple pages are used, specifies the parent page to which the subpage belongs in the hierarchy.||N||Y||N||N|
|Page order||If multiple pages are used, specifies the position of the page within the page list.||N||Y||N||N|
|HTML titles||Allows HTML formatting to be applied to the post’s title.||N||Y||Y||Y|
|Empty titles||Allows a post to be published without a title.||N||Y||Y||Y|
|Embeds||Allows external content to be embedded within the post (e.g., YouTube videos).||Y||N||Y||N|
|Default view||Web layout||Web layout||Web layout||Web layout|
|Requires XHTML||Requires the post to use XHTML-compliant code, which ensures cleaner code with fewer errors and provides better cross-browser support.||N||Y||Y||Y|
|Template is right-to-left||Specifies whether text in the post’s template reads right to left.||N||N||N||N|
|Category name limit||Specifies the maximum length of category names.||128||55||200||Unlimited|
So, what does all of this mean? To me, it means that Windows Live Spaces is better than LiveJournal, but WordPress and Blogger still seem to offer the most features by far. With wave 4 of Windows Live services on the horizon, I’d really like to see a few of those N’s change to Y’s, especially features like multiple categories, multi-page support, and scripts.
PS: Building the above table in Writer was harsh and tedious, because of the non-existent table formatting tools. I ended up switching over to Office SharePoint Designer 2007 (also free), which gave me much better layout and formatting control the table’s elements. Plus it has a crackerjack Find and Replace feature, which is also sorely lacking in Writer (c’mon guys, even Notepad has Find and Replace). I’ll put those on my wave 4 wish list as well.