FINALLY! Writer Beta 2!
After almost nine months, we’ve released a major new release of Windows Live Writer! I know nine months feels like a long time between beta releases, but that time was not spent idly–we’ve packed a metric truckload of features and bug fixes into this release.
Our official blog post on the subject hits a lot of the highlights, but I thought I would offer my personal list of favorite new features and bug fixes, some of which are not very flashy but nonetheless important to those who really use the product, day-in and day-out.
- Adding categories: Yes, you can finally add categories directly from within Writer! You can even do it while you’re writing a draft offline, since we don’t actually “commit” the new category until you publish. (WordPress users can even specify hierarchical categories!) Oh yeah, Blogger labels work now too.
- Extended entry support: I was embarrassed that we didn’t support this from the beginning, as this is a crucial feature for a lot of users. We probably would have, had we known then it would be nine months before our next release.
- Post synchronization: If you publish a post from Writer, then edit it online, then open it back up in Writer, you used to get just the original post. Now we’re smart enough to fetch the modified version.
- Fewer temporary posts: We’ll try mightily to detect your blog style without publishing and deleting temporary post. (Don’t know what I’m talking about? Good, don’t worry about it.)
- Inline spell checking: Surprisingly difficult to do right, but very important to our users.
- Sane windowing behavior: Beta 1 launches a new Writer window if you even think about a different post. Beta 2 almost always reuses the existing Writer window. (If you do want a new window, just hit the Writer shortcut again. If you always want new windows, you can go back to the Beta 1 behavior by going into Preferences.)
- Paste Special: I am proud of the job we do of scrubbing the excess formatting off of HTML as it comes in (one of the few features I worked on for Beta 1) but it bothered me that you didn’t have a choice about it. Now you do! As a side bonus, pasting embed tags from
YouTubeSoapbox works great.
- Category reminder: You can configure Writer to ask for confirmation if you try to publish a post without setting a category. Such a small thing, but I always forget to set categories otherwise.
- New look: Ah, so sexy. Personally I think it looks best on Vista, whereas the old version looks a little out of place on our newest OS. I mostly run it in the default color scheme, but try it in Zune Brown: Red-64, Green-64, Blue-0.
Seeing as how we had nine whole months to work on this release, we managed to get a ton of features and bug fixes into it. As with any other release, though, there was still stuff that didn’t make the cut, didn’t get finished in time, didn’t have high enough quality to ship, etc. Here’s my list of top regrets. As usual, I can’t make any predictions as to if or when they will be added to the product.
- No XHTML: Now I personally don’t care much about whether my blog is validating XHTML, seeing as how it’s being served up with text/html, but over the past nine months a passionate vocal minority has asked for–nay, demanded–that Writer generate well-formed, validating XHTML. I love hearing from passionate vocal minorities–they’re often onto something. XHTML support steadily crawled up the priority list but alas, the developers who could implement it were saddled with even higher priority work. Maybe next time.
- No Atom Publishing Protocol support (other than Blogger): Seeing as how we supported one Atom implementation for Beta 1, I thought it would only be natural to ship a generic Atom client for Beta 2. Unfortunately the Atom Publishing Protocol spec is not finalized yet, and the changes they’re still making are meaningful enough that anything we shipped today simply would not work with servers that were written to the final spec. We’d rather wait until the target has stopped moving.
- No Blogger image uploading: This wasn’t possible before, but is now, due to Google releasing an API for their Picasaweb service. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen until long after we were pencils-down for this release.
- Image quality bugs: We fixed some image quality bugs in this release, but some stubborn ones remain. We’ll do a more thorough pass in the next release.
- Subpar localized versions: I’m told by our international testers that the non-English builds of Writer have a lot of string truncation bugs (that’s when the text runs off the window or is obscured by another UI element). Rest assured that we are fully committed to making the localized versions of Writer as high-quality as the English version–we just weren’t able to get there with this release.
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