Windows Live Writer Beta 2 Released

writer_screenshot Microsoft have released a new version of Windows Live Writer, the desktop application that makes it easy to publish rich content to your blog. Having created this post immediately after a smooth upgrade installation, first impressions are good. 

Some of the new authoring features include:

  • Comprehensive table creation and editing tools
  • Auto spell checking as you write
  • Improved hyperlinking and image insertion
  • Full synchronization between online and offline applications 
  • Paste Special – Plain Text or HTML (Embed Tags, YouTube etc)
  • Support for categories, Blogger labels and back-dated posting
  • Excerpts and extended entries

Writer can now publish to Windows Live Spaces, Sharepoint, WordPress, Blogger, LiveJournal, TypePad, Moveable Type, Community Server, and other weblog services.

Customization

With just a mouse click the feel and look of the application can be changed instantly to any color you like using the new colorize button on the menu bar.

New image editing options allow rotation and contrast adjustment and it’s now possible to automatically link to a previous post via the insert hyperlink menu.

Other useful Writer capabilities include back-dated posting – you select any date for the post to appear, easy insertion of maps from Virtual Earth, and rich media plug-ins like audio and video tools available from Windows Live Gallery and reviewed at Windows Live Writer Plugins. Just Select Add a Plugin from the app sidebar to launch the Live Gallery site. 

 

Good Things Coming…

Having been nine months in the making, this is a worthwhile update for existing users with a range of very usable improvements. The open plug-in platform and API-driven building tools make further customization ongoing and easy to implement. Judging by developments at Popfly the future looks very promising indeed, watch the video below.

The above video was inserted using Paste Special.

If you’re upgrading from a previous installation remember to update your account settings to ensure you’re getting all the latest features (Tools/Accounts). As usual with beta software releases, reporting and solving application problems is part of the process so don’t expect perfection.

Further details of this release and developer information can be found at the Windows Live Writer team blog – Writer Zone. For more Live news, free applications and Vista resources see Windows Live Tools.

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Galleries and Lists of Widgets for Blogs, Web Sites and Desktops

Widgets are tools you can use to personalize your web site without knowing HTML. They make it easy to add extra features and functionality to web pages such as games, music, weather reports, photo galleries, job search and much more. Here are some resources for finding them and links to widgets freshly released.
 
 
Widget Types and Resources
 
BBC Radio 1 Musicubes – the Musicubes Constructor lets you build an interactive tower of blocks that represent musical genres. When selected the colourful blocks expand to reveal circular links that connect to radio 1 shows. Selecting a show launches the BBC’s online radio player, each show remains available online for 1 week after the initial live airing (see images below). 
 
Best Widgets for Music: Roundup in Review – Peter Kirn from CreateDigitalMusic.com presents a selection of Konfabulator and Dashboard widgets for the desktop. 
 
ClockLink – provides galleries showcasing fashionable clocks that can be embedded in web pages. You can choose from a range of clock face styles and countdown displays with customizable time zones and city locations.
 
Dashboard Widgets – main resource for Mac OS X mini-applications.
 
Google Homepage Modules – lets you add modules to your start-page for a wide range of applications.
 
Microsoft Gadgets – mini-applications designed to enhance an application or service on your Windows PC or the Web. The latest category allows users to build and share their own search macros that can be used on Live.com. See How to use Window Live Search Macros for further details.
 
TypePad Widget Gallery – Typepad have partnered with various companies and created a widget directory which makes it easy for bloggers to add new elements to their blogs. If you’re not a TypePad user it’s still worth digging around as this type of viral marketing is generally non-exclusive by definition. For example here’s a link to the Squidoo lens button widget. However to get the additional functionality you do need a TypePad account.

Wikipedia Widgets, Widget Toolkits and Dashboard – overview, technical GUI and Mac OSX app resources. 

Widgetopia – a collection of widgets and UI elements from various websites.

WordPress Widgets – a plugin that eanables users to add widgets to their WordPress installations.

Yahoo! Widgets ( Konfabulator)has a gallery with thousands of desktop widgets built by users.

 
 
Metalists and Searches
 
Blinklist Widgetssocial bookmarks and tags to related resources.
 
 
Gada.be metasearch – lets you search various information databases including social bookmarks and blogs.
 
Listible: Best stuff tu put on your blog sidebar – a shared list of useful widgets that anyone can submit resources to.
 
Widget Finder – Accessories for Blogs and Social Spaces – my Squidoo lens that helps you to quickly find widgets and hacks for MySpace, MSN Spaces, Xanga, Friendster, Tagworld, hi5, Blogger, WordPress, TypePad and more.
 

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Add to: | Technorati | Digg | del.icio.us | Yahoo | BlinkList | Spurl | reddit | Furl |

 

Musicubes Constructor and Tower

Lightbox JS – Floating Images JavaScript

Lightbox JS is a simple piece of JavaScript that allows you to place images above the page rather than within. A thumbnail image can be clicked on to show the full size image ontop of the page which remains darkened in the background. Closing the overlayed image brings the webpage back to normal, the user never leaves the current page.
 
It’s a very neat solution that works on all modern browsers. Unfortunately I can’t show it here because Spaces doesn’t allow JavaScript but there’s a working example along with the script at the Lightbox site. The idea is currently being developed by Lokesh Dhakar, here’s his blog Huddle Together.
 
 
 

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Del.icio.us Play Tagger Mp3 Streaming for Webpages

Play Tagger is a simple way to place an mp3 player in a webpage using javascript. The lightweight script allows you to stream your mp3 bookmarks directly from a small play button on the page using a Flash movie. Visitors can also easily tag and post the mp3 link to del.icio.us. (Javascript not allowed in MSN Spaces).
 
This following code is added to your site template between the <head> and </head> tags:
<script type="text/javascript" src="http://del.icio.us/js/playtagger"></script&gt;
 
Now any links in the page to mp3 files will automatically have play buttons for streaming the audio.
ie <a href="URL of MP3 file">Link text</a>
 
 

Online Tool for Creating Pop-Up Windows with Embedded Videos

The Video Pop-Up Link Maker is an online tool that writes the code for you to generate pop-up windows with embedded videos. Simply paste the video URL, a title, and an optional image URL into the wizard to automatically build the link code and then place it in your blog post. I’ve put a link to it in the Tools List.
 
Creator Joshua Kinberg (FireAnt) explains why you may want to do this in his post at unmediated.org. Embedding video links this way may help with RSS distribution which is something to think about considering the launch of the Video iPod. You can learn more about videoblogging at Wikipedia:Vlog.
 
Here’s an example of what it looks like minus the pop-up function. The media link opens in a new window.
 
Building on the Past (7Mb, mov) – Creative Commons moving image contest winner.
 
 
 
Video Resources
  • Free Video Hosting – offers a list of online tools and services for audio/video distribution.
How to add media files to MSN spaces
 
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Bitty Browser an Embedded Interface for Web Pages

Bitty Browser is a miniature browser that can be embedded into any web page using some HTML code. You can display your choice of Web site, XML, RSS and Atom feeds or podcasts. It works on all popular browsers without the need for a plugin.
 
Unfortunately it doesn’t work from within MSN Spaces so I can only show a working preview here. DISS link also lets you view this site full size in the Bitty Browser which provides access to features through the navigation panel at the top of the screen. You can learn more about the features at The Bitty Browser Guide page.
 
Cool
One of the many cool things I like about Bitty Browser is the Open URL feature. This enables the browser as a type of command-line tool capable of quickly accessing a range of online services and tools.
 
Some of the things you can do:
  • Browse tags saved on popular social bookmarking services just by typing a keyword or user name.
  • Browse and play podcast feeds.
  • Read XML, RSS and Atom feeds in the browser window.
Other features include:
  • An out-of-the-box directory of web sites and Google search.
  • The option to add the active browser to your own Web site with customization. A site from the directory can quickly be grabbed for viewing via an embedded browser on another site.
  • Network links for sharing your content with a wider audience. When other sites join your network, your content then becomes available to their visitors too.   
It’s going to be interesting to see how people use this tool considering the many applications it can be adapted to.
 
 

Blog Building Tips For Business And Pleasure

If you’re looking for sound advice on how to build a better blog then read on. Sharing practical tips built from experience is one of the best ways of learning about effective blogging. This handy collection of blogging resources is designed to help beginners and the financially motivated gain control of their blog space. I’ve included some tools that I find useful for blogging along with a few tips of my own.

General blogging tips

This group of links covers essential blogging tips and answers the most frequently asked questions. There’s advice here for both beginners and experienced bloggers to digest.

  • Building a Better Blog by Brian Bailey, presents his Top 10 ideas for how to build a better blog. Good back to basics advice and tips dealing with topics like categories and content.
  • How to Blog is a piece by Tony Pierce, winner of the Bloggies 2005 category ‘best article or essay about weblogs’. 30 topical tips on style, technology and telling it like it is.
  • 47 key tips from the World’s best BLOGGERS serves bite sized chunks of wisdom with links to each guru’s weblog.
  • Blog Tips – Central Register has a collection of links to blogging tips covering many important aspects of blog building and maintenance.
Business blogging tips
 
These links focus on commercial blogging interests. If you’re interested in monetizing your blog or blogging professionally you’ll find some helpful info on how to approach it here.

Useful blogging tools

A few of the tools I use, how and why I use them. There are lots more tools scattered around the home page that come in handy from time to time.

Checking Spelling

Using a spell checker is the most reliable way of correcting spelling mistakes in your posts. If it’s a lengthy post I recommend backing it up by pasting it into a word processor or notepad and saving it. At that point you can run a spell check, more sophisticated programs do this automatically and can highlight problems with grammar. Apart from this here are some free tools that can help.

  • SpellCheck.net is an online tool that lets you paste in text for checking. There’s also links to other useful reference tools for language and maths.
  • tinySpell is a small Windows freeware utility I use. It monitors your typing on the fly and alerts you whenever it detects a misspelled word. It also checks the spelling of every word you copy to the clipboard.
  • ieSpell is a free Internet Explorer browser extension that spell checks text input boxes on a webpage.

Search Engines

  • TurboScout is an online tool that lets you search across multiple engines from within a single window. If I need to widen my search options this is the tool I use. You only need to type your keywords once to compare results from 90 popular search engines including blogs. This is a speedy tool for finding blog posts, news, products and media files. It pretty much puts all your favourite search engines in one place. You can also use it to quickly find information about your own blog.

Tip; use the ‘subject’ prefix in Blogdigger to narrow your search by categories like this;

subject:(Tips and tricks) blogging

Search Engine Optimization

These next couple of tools I came across at the LawTech Guru Blog which also discusses how to use them. They’re not tools that I use regularly but if you’re interested in search engine optimization they can be useful. Calculating your keyword density certainly provides insight on how search engines may be seeing your work.

Submitting RSS Feeds and Getting Your Blog Listed in Directories

Here’s a tool for automatically submitting your RSS feed to the main directories. This means your blog posts can be found in RSS search engines. The other links take you to sites with comprehensive lists of services to submit your blog address and feed to manually.

Pinging Services

Notifying blog search engines and similar services that your blog has been updated is a fast way of advertising your efforts. Here’s a couple of tools I use to ping important services. You should only ping when you publish fresh or updated content.

  • Ping-o-Matic is a popular notification tool. Once you’ve pinged, bookmark that page for launching automatic pings later to save filling in the form each time.
  • Pings.ws is a form that lets you notify manually or automatically the most important weblog sites at once. An alternative to Ping-o-Matic.
  • Blog and Ping Profit Secrets has a list of 45 URLs you can add to your update services blog.

Tagging

You can categorize your blog posts by adding Technorati ‘tags‘. Once ‘tagged’ you can ping Technorati to have your post show on Technorati tag pages. Other people interested in searching for items using the same tag names will then find your posts.Tags also offer value for your readers by providing additional pathways to categorized resources. You can learn all about using tags here.

RSS Resources

There are lots of new RSS tools and resources emerging daily. It’s good to have a few sources for finding them. Here are some sites and tools I use;

  • RSS Compendium is a good place to drop by for news and tools. The blog is a fountain of all things feed worthy. See also Weblogs Compendium for weblog resources.
  • RSS Specifications Blog has news and a good selection of RSS categories.
  • Feed2JS has links to online tools for converting RSS feeds to JavaScript. These tools are used for displaying news and blog headlines on your site simply by adding a short piece of code written in JavaScript. The actual Feed2JS builder is here.

Interesting…

  • Eyetools Research Greg Edwards on design and content optimization through eyetrack testing — Interesting viewing data and rules-of-thumb from measuring what people read, look at, skip, and ignore on webpages. 

Tags: Business Blogging Blog Internet Marketing Professional blogging Search Engine Optimization, Google, Search Engine Marketing RSS SEO tags