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Saturday
May252013

Blogging software

I've recently been having a few problems with Windows Live Writer and Squarespace. Well, one problem actually: they refused to work together any longer. Each time I clicked on "Send to blog", an error message popped up saying "We can't find it", or words to that effect.

Photo by Ed Yourdon http://www.flickr.com/photos/yourdon/That's all fixed now, thanks to the good folk at Squarespace, but in the meantime I thought I'd check out some of the alternatives. Don't get me wrong: I love Windows Live Writer, despite the fact that it crashes at least one=ce during the course of writing a blog post. It's fully-featured, intuitive (especially if you're used to using Word), and free.  But there is no harm in exploring the competition, just in case one of these days Windows Live Writer decides to pack its bags and leave permanently.

I came across this article on the web, which is pretty good:

4 Alternatives To Windows Live Writer For Blogging

After reading it, I decided to give Scribefire another go (I did try it aeons ago, but didn't like it much). It integrates with your web browser, which in my case is Firefox, and has an intuitive interface, as you can see from the screenshot a little further down this page.

Scribefire has an intuitive interfaceThings I like about Scribefire

If you're doing research on the web, Scribefire has two great advantages over Windows Live Writer.

First, you can see the web page you're researching on, and write about/from it, without having to flip backwards and forwards between your web browser and your article, as you can see in the screenshot.

Scribefire integrates seamlessly with your web browser

Second, it is really easy to extract the details of the webpage and insert them into your article: all you have to do is right-click on the web page and then select Blog This. That will insert the title of the page, with a link to it, into your blog post -- like the link above.

Third, you can very easily change or configure templates for your blog posts. For example, the default template is as shown below.

Scribefire's original templateHowever, by inserting 'title=$T' just before 'href' (without the quotation marks), the title of the link (that's the text that shows up when you hover your mouse over a link) will be inserted automatically, which was one of my bugbears until I discovered this (see my third point blow). But this is only useful if you feel knowledgeable and confident enough to mess around with the underlying HTML code.

Fourth, Zemanta, which finds related articles automatically, is built in to the design.

Things I don't like about Scribefire

First, there are no paragraph styles, ie Headings. So you have to format headings manually each time.

Second, there appears to be no draft publishing option -- although I have thought of a work-around. You can set the post to publish in the future, so if you set it to publish in, say, an hour's time, that gives you time to edit it in your blogging platform should you need to. In my case, for example, I like to display a summary of my articles on the front page of my blog rather than the whole article.

Stop press: I tried scheduling a blog post, and it didn't work! So, in effect there is no draft publishing option as far as I can see.

Third, when you extract a link to a web page as described just now, the link doesn't automatically insert a title. In an article I wrote after trying Scribefire for about 4 minutes, I mistakenly said it wasn't possible to insert a title for a link easily. In fact, all you have to do is select the link and then click on the link icon, and a box pops up in which you can configure the link. However, see my third point under "Things I like about Scribefire".

Fourth, I wish there was a spellchecker!

Conclusion

I still prefer Windows LIve Writer, but Scribefire will prove extremely useful for those occasions when I want to quickly throw a post up based on a web article I'm reading at the time. It's well-worth having a look at. You can download it from here: ScribeFire: Fire up your blogging

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