Offline Blog Editors: w.bloggar

One of the neatest programs to take the blogging world by storm (somewhat) has been Windows Live Writer, a program from Microsoft that allows you to create drafts, and publish to your blog from just about anywhere, no browser needed. I almost got to the point of downloading it, but then I thought of a program that was already on the computer.

The program is one that had laid dormant for quite a while, but is now again in part-time development – w.bloggar, a piece of freeware developed by a guy in Brazil, who has had this around for quite a few years now. It was the first offline editor that I had used (mostly because it worked with Blogger, and allowed me to quickly edit posts without having to deal with Blogger’s old system of constantly having to republish the blog every time you made a post.

There are obviously other offline editors out there (most notably WLW, which I have not used, but almost downloaded before digging this program out of the archives), but w.bloggar is the one that I’ve used almost exclusively, unless you want to count EditPad as an offline editor (which is just as valid) 😉 .

Getting started

When you download the program (if you want to use a portable version, that is available as well as a full version that can work with either Internet Explorer or Mozilla with an installer), you can go ahead and install it, or just run if if you downloaded the portable or zip versions. Now, since I’ve already got it installed and set up, I will just jump to getting your blog set up on here.

The program works as an extension of your blog; when you first start up the program, you may be shown this screen –

If you do start with that screen, then you’ll need to click on the little button next to the drop-down box and select new. This will bring up the new account wizard –

As you can see, you don’t even need to have a blog to get started with w.bloggar, but for the case of this tutorial, I’ll show you how to go about making a new account for a blog you already have (it’s fairly self-explanatory, so the screenshots will just be a guide).

The first screen you’ll see after selecting that you want to add your current blog as a new account is one where you can select which blogging platform you’re using (the program supports a whole host of them), along with setting an alias for the blog you’re setting up. For this tutorial, I’ll use my testing blog and aptly call the account Sephy Test.

In the next screen, this is where you put in the information about your blog – since I like to keep my test blog’s address somewhat quiet, I’ll leave the sample stuff in there for the shot. Anyway, simply put in the address of your blog (only the domain name, i.e. www.sephyroth.net), and then in the Path box, put the directory that you have WP installed on, followed by xmlrpc.php (so, if your blog is in the /blog/ subfolder, then you’d put /blog/xmlrpc.php; if it’s in the root, then /xmlrpc.php). You can also adjust the port you use, turn on encryption, and choose if you want to use UTF-8 encoding.

The next screen is quite simple – just put in your username and password for your blog – if you want to save it, go ahead, otherwise you can leave the box unchecked.

And, that’s it – you’ll now be in the editor window, ready to make a post to your blog! (well, of course, now I have this post in there as a draft, but you know what I mean. 😉

Touring the editor window

Now, let’s take a quick tour of the editing window. The first few buttons on the first toolbar are fairly obvious, through to the spellcheck.

After that is one of the features that I didn’t even know about until starting to write this (in fact, there’s a lot of hidden stuff in here – so if you decide to get it, do some exploring!); as a matter of fact, it’s quite a handy feature – custom tags. This button allows you to put in your own HTML tags that you use frequently (i.e. for me, one making a centre-aligned paragraph would be useful because of all the pictures I post).

Then you have a control area – Options, a pseudo-logout button, which brings you back to the w.bloggar start window. Next is your blog list – if you use Blogger, this is a very handy tool – it will retrieve your full list of blogs, and you’ll be able to select the blog you want to work on. The next button (the one with the red checkmark on it) is the Blog Properties button, if you click it, you will be brought to this window, where you can make custom settings for previewing, how you upload your images (yes, you can upload images properly to WP – with thumbnails!), and media information –

The other buttons of importance on the first row are the next one – go to blog site, which loads the blog in either IE or your default browser (a simple option you can switch in the options), and the Posts button – if you click on the down arrow next to Posts, you’ll be able to edit the last number of posts, or choose a post number to edit (if you know the number of the exact post you want to edit, that is 😉 ). The Template button that you see at the end, before the Help button is grayed out because you can’t edit the template for WP blogs, only for Blogger blogs that use classic templates.

If you select a number of posts to edit, you’ll see this dialog, from which you can select a post to edit (by the way, it doesn’t have to have been made in w.bloggar to edit) –

The second row of buttons is a standard formatting bar, with a couple of buttons that are important at the end – first is the upload button, which allows you to upload a file to your blog. There’s also the Post and Post & Publish buttons – Post is used to save a post as a draft on your blog’s site, and Post & Publish is used to publish the post to your blog.

This is what the Upload dialog looks like –

Now, in the main body of the screen, you have your basics, like post title, and categories (which are culled from your category list; if you want to use more than one category, click the ellipsis to bring up your tag list and tick as many boxes necessary. The tabbar that is there is used to create options – More is for if you want to have a jump in your post, and preview allows you to look at your post in what should be your blog, but so far I’ve had issues with getting it to work properly with WordPress.

One of the features accessible from the More panel is the Advanced options. This is where you can set your trackback and comment settings, along with text filters (if enabled), and edit the date and time.

Using these advanced options has created an interesting problem – if you choose to edit the time of your post, WordPress will read that as having been posted at the time you set, GMT. For example, if I set a post in w.bloggar to have a timestamp of 4 PM, my blog would think that it was published at 10 AM, or 6 hours behind server time. However, if you use the current date & time option, it will publish the post at the time it currently is on your blog.

The status bar has the usual stuff – date, lock info, insert/overwrite status, and a couple of other things – first, the WordPress logo is clickable – that will bring you to the account properties, where you can adjust the settings from the original setup, and the notes brings you to the Media page from the Blog options dialog

Using the Editor

It’s simple to use the editor in w.bloggar – it’s just like using any other plain-text editor (EditPad, or the WordPress “code” view), where you need to insert the HTML code manually, but the program does give you a generous helping hand, by way of the Format and HTML menus, along with the HTML toolbar.

You’ll notice that the HTML toolbar and the HTML menu have the exact same layout, save for the Custom Tags item appearing in the menu and not the toolbar as it is already in the main Toolbar. If you want to try a preview of how it would look on your site, you can try the Preview tab, but it has some pitfalls, as this is what a preview of this post looks like in there –

As always, your mileage may vary with your platform, but so far I’ve had issues with WordPress, and when I used this for Blogger, they didn’t have the customised CSS functionality that I remember.

Give it a go!

If you’re interested in giving w.bloggar a go, check out the download page – there you’ll find links to download all the versions of the program. It is Windows-only, with a selection of languages available. If you’re adventurous, you could always use the first stable version, but then you’d lose a lot of the additional functionality of the newest versions, including uploading files. 😉

I have to say, by the way, that I’m actually pretty sold on this program again – it’s simple to use, there isn’t that much of a learning curve, and the best feature of all – I’ve had it running for quite a while, and done a lot with the program today, and it’s only using 17 megs of virtual memory, and 25 megs of RAM; I bet Windows Live Writer can’t live up to that. 😉

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