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August 6, 2010

How To: Make your blog look its best with Windows Live

If you haven’t noticed, I blog. A lot. I know a lot of you do too, and like me, you’re always trying to make your blog look its best. For me, there’s no easier way to do that than using Windows Live EssentialsIt’s a standard software load on all of my many PCs, and I use it all day, every day to manage my photos and videos, and the posts that in which I’m using them.

My main weapon of choice is Windows Live Writer, which I use to compose and post all of my posts. Why Live Writer (Microsoft connection aside, of course)? Unfortunately, with most blogging sites like WordPress, BloggerLiveJournal you need to have an online connection while you blog or you have to create the content offline in a separate program and then reformat once you’re ready to post. Sometimes I find the inspiration to write but don’t have easy access to an online connection, like when I stole my mother-in-law’s HP G62 for a review.

Windows Live Writer is different. Not only is it a free desktop application, but it offers the ability to work fully-functional offline so you can write whenever the mood strikes you. Like right now, when I’m writing offline because the stupid wireless network in the Hilton isn’t working.

Aside from working offline, it’s super-familiar to use and looks and feels a lot like Word With Live Writer, you can edit offline with inline spell checking, and easily insert, resize and format individual photos and videos, or entire photos albums, and have them automatically published with the blog entry. The best part is that you can complete all of these tasks while seeing exactly what your blog posts will look like before you publish it! Windows Live Writer is compatible with the top blogging platforms and allows for quick preview before posting which is very handy for gut-checking a post before hitting “publish.”

I always try to include as much rich content (nerd for “photos and videos”) as possible to spice things up. For that, I use Windows Live Photo Galleryand Windows Live Movie Maker which are closely integrated into the Writer experience. The new versions of these apps, which are currently in beta, have a pile of new features that make working photos and videos a breeze. For example, I use the new “retouch” feature all the time, because it lets me edit out scratches in the PCs I review. Careless co-worked smashed up that shiny new gaming rig? No problem! I just highlight the damaged section hit the “retouch” button, and voila – the PC looks like it came right out of the box.

And of course, you’ve probably already read about Photo Fuse and how it can seamlessly blend multiple photos into one perfect shot. For example, using Photo Fuse I turned these:




Flugtag Team Photo - Crop

This looks like we shot it at one time, but we actually blended it together from three different shots. It’s basically a pro-grade editing feature for free: BTW, we shot this for a soon-to-be-disclosed ULTRA MEGA AWESOME event that we’re doing. Stay tuned on that for more…

For videos, I love how easy it is to edit a movie in Windows Live Movie Maker. I use this for a lot of my short shoot-‘em-in-my-office videos of PCs, and it gives me all that I need to make an otherwise mediocre video look professional. For example, the video Ash and I shot of Windows Live Sync was edited completely in Moviemaker:

There’s a lot more inside all of these programs than I can cover here, so I highly recommend that you go get the beta right now and try them out for yourself. And if you’re attending BlogHer make sure to sign up for the “Bring Your Blog To Life with Windows Live” session in our Windows suite (#4331).

Good luck and happy blogging!

Have a question about how Windows Live can make your blog rock, or have a PC question?  Post a comment, hit me on Twitter or Ask Ben Anything via email.  Your question might appear in my monthly Ask Ben Anything Q&A column