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Thursday, July 13, 2006

Blogging with Word 2007: My experiences

I have been trying different blogging clients for a while now: w.Bloggar, BlogJet, BlogDesk, Qumana, Ecto, etc. So far I love BlogDesk because of its nice and clean interface and also its ability to add effects to images like drop shadows, paper tear effect, borders, rotations, etc. Best of all its free! No wonder its my default client for blogging.

But my quest for finding something better has not stopped and to add to my list is Word 2007. I heard about the blogging features in Word 2007 when the Beta 2 was released. As any curious observer I got my copy of Word and started playing with it. Initially my blog posts were limited to text only, which made it easier for me to upload it to Blogger and also the Movable Type blog that I use at workplace. Today my co-worker and I decided to setup an FTP server so that we could upload images through Word 2007. The blog configuration for Movable Type is pretty basic right now, which I am sure will improve as we get to the RTM version of Office. After some initial hiccups with the configuration, we got the image-uploading capability in place. Uploading those sexy-looking images (SmartArt, WordArt, ClipArt) in Word was finally possible :-)

To give Word 2007 a real test run, I decided to create a long blog post to explore many of the image/text editing capabilities. BTW, I am blogging a lot about Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) in my internal blog. Today I also got to know that I could officially publish those posts even on my external blog! Sweet. I should have them here soon.

Now let me switch back to the topic of blogging in Word. The editing experience in Word is definitely superior compared to any of the other clients I have used before. Word 2007 makes it even more enjoyable with all those nice features for creating rich art and typography. But it is not without problems. Before I tell you the bad, let me give a quick listing of the good:
  1. I like the fact that I can just copy code from the editor window of Visual Studio and paste directly into Word, preserving all the syntax highlighting. That is a big plus for me as I tend to write lot of code in my posts...mostly XAML/C# code.
  2. The image editing tools are great. I love the different effects that I can apply on an image: drop shadows, reflections, 3D rotations, borders, etc. This really makes my post look outstanding!
So what's the bad?
  1. I had chosen an FTP location for uploading the images. When I published the post all my image URLs had an ftp:// protocol but without the user information. The problem is that none of these images show up on the browser or in a client. This is probably because I was not using an anonymous login. Since my blog is internal I don't mind if the username/password attached to the FTP Url, but there is no way to specify that. I guess I should be using the anonymous login anyways. Something to try out tomorrow.
  2. The nice images that I create in Word are poorly rasterized during the upload stage. I like the fact that Word is using the PNG format and not JPG or BMP but the rendering is pretty bad.
  3. The numbering on the bulleted list was not properly maintained. I was using a bulleted list where each list item was having many paragraphs + images. That kind of broke the numbering and every item was numbered as 1. on a list of 5 items.
  4. I could not upload the post as a draft and it complained that images could not be uploaded because the directory was set as read-only. However when I published the post directly (not as a draft) everything went well. I guess Word is doing some name mangling to publish as draft and in doing so it was looking for a different directory than the one I specified in the configuration.
Even with all these problems I published the post, only to open it up again in BlogDesk and make a ton of corrections like fixing the list items, fixing the image Urls, changing some font-styles, etc. I am glad that the blog editing experience is very enjoyable but the published result is pathetic. I hope this will be fixed soon, may be in the next CTP/Beta/RC release of Office. I would be glad to hear anyone having a better experience.