(Sorry, I’m a bit late with this post, as we went live with the RC on Monday morning.)

Windows Live Essentials 2009 RC has shipped, including a new drop of Writer. Here’s a fairly generic announcement from the official Windows Live blog. Check out the post on the Writer team blog for a complete list of new features since the last beta.

Here’s some coverage from labnol, Lifehacker, live-writer.de (German).

And my customary list of highlights and lowlights:

Highlights

  • Spell checking in more languages. Users have been asking us for more spell checkers for a long time. Due to a combination of contractual and technical reasons, we haven’t been able to deliver—until now.
  • Server-side tagging. As a WordPress user myself, this means I can finally start using tags instead of just categories. BlogEngine.NET users can get in on the fun too.
  • Type-down filtering in the Open dialog. The Open dialog is one of the more neglected corners of Writer. It’s always been difficult to find old posts you want to edit—the older, the harder. Hopefully this will make it a bit easier. (And by the way, Spaces users can finally look at more than just the 20 most recent posts.)
  • More AtomPub under the covers. Though there are no new features to speak of for 3rd party AtomPub servers, some might be happy to know that Writer now uses AtomPub to blog on Windows Live Spaces and to publish images and photo albums to SkyDrive. (These AtomPub services aren’t available for 3rd party developers to use—yet.)
  • Performance. We took a big bite out of startup time and removed a lot of latency from general text editing.
  • Photo albums. Just look at that, come on!! You have to admit that’s pretty sweet!
  • Windows Server 2008 officially supported. See? We do listen to user feedback! You can all stop sending me hate mail now. (Not you Windows Server 2003 users, you guys can keep sending it.)
  • New support forum. We finally got off the horribly antiquated MSN Spaces, and onto a modern forum platform. Check out our new digs here.

Lowlights

  • Photo album performance. If you drop images straight out of your 12-megapixel camera into a photo album, it can take several seconds for us to draw the splashy thumbnail. This was the best performance we were able to eke out with the technology we had on hand (GDI+). Clearly we have lots of room for improvement here.
  • Low-res support. Netbooks are all the rage this year, and some parts of our UI were not designed for a 600-pixel vertical screen resolution. For example, some options on the image sidebar are simply inaccessible.

On a more reflective note, this was the first full milestone (Beta to RC) we did without Charles Teague, our dev lead and voice of reason since the earliest days of Onfolio, who left the team and Microsoft this past September to join a Boston-based VC firm. While we do sorely miss his leadership, it’s gratifying to see that our team has continued to thrive even in his absence. What can I say… he taught us well.


I’ve posted workarounds before to make the Firefox Blog This plugin for Windows Live Writer work for Firefox 3.0 and later. Now we’ve finally taken the first (public) steps to solving this problem the right way.

Our revised extension is now available on addons.mozilla.org. We’re currently in their “Sandbox” which means you will have to log in to download the extension. After enough people download it and write reviews (please!), we’ll be allowed to nominate the extension for graduation from the Sandbox. At that point we’ll take down the older version of the plugin from gallery.live.com and announce the new plugin on our team blog.

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By the way, there is no new functionality in this version, other than an updated (Windows Live 2009 style) icon.

Sorry for making you wait for six months for this. Our (and especially my) bad!


Untitled - Windows Live Writer Beta (2)I’m about 14 hours late with this blog post—at noon today, we officially released the first beta of the Windows Live “Wave 3” client suite, and that means a new release of Windows Live Writer. It’s all available—for free, of course—at http://download.live.com.

For a list of the new features in this release, you’ll want to refer to the official Writer blog post. Personally, I’m really excited about the new look and feel—whereas the old Writer skin called a lot of attention to itself, the new skin just gets out of the way and lets you focus on your content.

Under the covers, a ton of bugs have been fixed, in many different areas across the app. If you’ve had trouble with a previous version of Writer, I’d encourage you to try again with the new beta, and if it still doesn’t work, be sure to let us know in our forum.

On a sour note, we found a new bug last night that causes blog configuration to fail for certain (mostly less-popular) blog types. When blog configuration is almost finished, a crash occurs and you’re unable to complete the blog configuration wizard. We’ve spent today taking steps to mitigate the problem, so hopefully most people won’t encounter it. If you do happen to see a crash in the blog configuration wizard, restart Writer and try again. If it still happens, leave me a comment and I’ll get back to you.

Thanks—and keep the feedback coming!


Every once in a while we hear from a user that text renders smaller in Windows Live Writer than it does in the browser. We tried numerous times to get to the bottom of the problem, which we suspected had to do with the Text Size setting in Internet Explorer, but no amount of tweaking in IE options made a difference.

Thanks to Noah Coad and some friendly folks on the IE team, the mystery is solved.

What’s going on here is that there is a registry key that defines the default text size for IE6 and earlier.  IE7 kept the old key for embedded browsers but uses a new one for full instances of IE.  Some apps (like Product Studio, an internal MS app) change the regkey without setting it back.  The result is that embedded browsers across your PC now look wrong, and there isn’t an easy way to fix it since embedded browsers don’t usually present a text size option.

See his blog post for the solution. You can just click “Download the Reg Fix” if you don’t feel comfortable mucking with the registry yourself.


The Technical Preview release of Windows Live Writer has only been out for a day, but a few intrepid programmers have already released plugins based on the new SDK features.

Our Windows Live MVP, Scott Lovegrove, wrote up a nice tutorial on writing PublishNotificationHooks and HeaderFooterSources. He also unveiled a slew of new and/or updated plugins—including Now Playing, signature, and profanity checker—all of which use the new plugin types.

Tim Heuer of Flickr4Writer fame popped out a Creative Commons footer plugin. As usual for Tim it’s slick and polished.

John Papa redid his DotNetKicks (like Digg for .NET programmers) plugin as a footer plugin. He’s got two separate posts [one, two] on the subject. The DotNetKicks plugin is a perfect example of a plugin that was impossible to do gracefully under the old SDK, but trivial with HeaderFooterSource.

We also shipped two sample plugins as part of the Tech Preview SDK. They’re primarily intended to be code samples, but as plugins they’re also quite suitable for everyday use.

Twitter Notify makes it easy to tell your Twitter followers that you’ve published a new blog post.

Twitter plugin screenshot

DiggThis automatically inserts a DiggThis badge or button into every post. You get a couple of options for style and placement.

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To install the samples, download the Tech Preview SDK, and copy the two *.dll files from the Samples directory to C:\Program Files\Windows Live\Writer\Plugins.


image In the Tech Preview release, we rewrote the category picker to work better for two kinds of bloggers:

  • People who have lots of categories
  • Keyboard lovers

For those who have lots of categories, there’s a filter box at the top. Fairly self explanatory. But the keyboard shortcuts are a little less obvious.

Launch category picker: Ctrl+Shift+C
Dismiss category picker: Escape

Focus starts in the filter text field. While you’re in there, you can use the following shortcuts:

Move selection up: Up-arrow
Move selection down: Down-arrow
Check/uncheck currently selected category: Enter
Check currently selected category, and dismiss: Ctrl+Enter

(For Windows Live Spaces and other blogs that only let you choose one category per post, Enter behaves the same as Ctrl+Enter.)

The idea is that you can hit Ctrl+Shift+C, type the first couple letters of the category you want, up/down if necessary, and then Ctrl+Enter. Much smoother than the old workflow: grab the mouse, scroll around, click the category, and then click away to dismiss. And if you prefer the old workflow, hey, you can still do that.


Windows Live Writer screenshotGood news for those of you hungry for new Writer bits: Windows Live Writer Technical Preview is now available for download.

Official announcement: Windows Live Writer Technical Preview

And for developers: Windows Live Writer Technical Preview SDK

We’re calling this a Technical Preview release because the primary reason for it is to gather feedback on some enhancements to the SDK we’ve made. (The Tech Preview is available in English only, but don’t worry, the other languages will be back later in the release cycle.)

That said, there are a bunch of nice features and significant bug fixes thrown in. You can read about the new features on the official blog post, and as far as bug fixes, here are just a few of my favorites:

  • WYSIWYG editor no longer munges <object>, <embed>, or (most) <script> elements
  • WYSIWYG editor now uses literals instead of escape sequences for most characters (apparently this was causing a lot of pain for some European language bloggers)
  • Dragging and dropping one image thumbnail on top of another image thumbnail no longer causes them to show the same image when clicked
  • More reliable configuration for Blogger users

And here’s one lowlight:

  • Switching between Normal and Web Layout mode got more confusing for existing users. Both modes are represented by the Edit tab; you can toggle between them using View | Edit Using Theme.

Please try it out and let us know what you think, preferably at our new Beta forum. Thanks!


Here’s a first crack at a plugin for Windows Live Writer that lets you easily insert screen captures into your blog posts. You can capture a window, a rectangular region, or the whole desktop. Sort of like the Snipping Tool in Vista, but without the ability to capture free-form regions, and minus the annoying red border.

Note that for capturing a window or the whole desktop, (Alt+)PrintScreen and Paste work just about as well.

Later this week, I’ll write an installer and put it on the Gallery. In the meantime, just download the file below to your C:\Program Files\Windows Live\Writer\Plugins directory.

Download Now [skydrive.live.com]

Update 5/19/2008: Wow, this UI is so much better than mine. I’ll be back.


I love photography. And I’m not afraid to admit that I also love photo gear. My family has long since figured that out, and I recently celebrated a milestone birthday (hint: it begins with a 3).

Bring on the glass!

My brother surprised me with a Micro-Nikkor 60mm f/2.8. So far, I’m thrilled with this lens. I’ve always read that a 60mm macro is not ideal for shooting insects, but for flora and portraits, it’s wonderful. Sharp, contrasty, colorful, and a nice balance of heft and compactness. At $370, it’s a decent value if not quite a screaming bargain.

The ubiquitous Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 D is a bit sharper and a true bargain ($110!), but I often find myself hitting the minimum focus distance with that lens—not a problem on the Micro-Nikkor, that’s for sure!

All of the following are directly off the card—no edits other than RAW to JPEG conversion (courtesy of Lightroom) and one crop. My wife shot the second and fourth ones. She’s quickly surpassing me in her photographic abilities.

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I often hear it said that great photographs are the product of great photographers, not great equipment. That may be true, but boy, having a D300 and a Micro-Nikkor 60mm sure helps a lot!

The other new lens I received was the Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6 super-wide. More on that later, after I get the chance to take some decent shots with it.


I recently realized that this blog has become little more than a place for Windows Live Writer announcements and tips. The last seventeen posts—I just counted—have been about Writer.

While I’m happy to share this information, I didn’t start this blog to be just a Writer knowledge base and news page. I started it because I wanted my own blog, and I intend to start treating it as such. So get ready for the signal-to-noise ratio to drop!