I was drafting a blog post in Blogger. I was doing this in Google Chrome because Google, owner of Blogger, had made it difficult to edit Blogger posts in Internet Explorer. Unfortunately, as described in a previous post, the Chrome-Blogger combination managed to wipe out many hours of work, leaving me with just a few words and the obligation to start over completely.
Given previous problems, this experience enhanced my desire to have nothing further to do with Blogger. Hence, this post appears in a new WordPress blog. In addition, as I viewed the plight of other users who had likewise had their work wiped out in the process of composing posts in their web browsers, this experience provoked an interest in finding some other way to draft blog posts. Needless to say, I was particularly interested in finding a program that would allow me to edit and save drafts offline, on my Windows 7 system.
I had previously experimented with Windows Live Writer. It did not seem to allow me to save drafts locally. Regardless, there were recent indications that Microsoft was not going to be supporting or developing that tool anymore. So I went looking for alternatives.
Searches led to several lists of blog post editors. A list by Chris Hoffman mentioned Zoundry Raven and BlogDesk as locally installed, non-browser-based options. A 3Alternatives list likewise named BlogDesk and also Post2Blog. In a long list covering multiple platforms, Gustavs Jurisons cited several that met my criteria: Qumana, Post2Blog, Thingamablog, BlogJet, BlogDesk, and Zoundry Raven. The same names appeared in different order (led by Raven and Post2Blog) in an alternativeTo list. A page by Whiztechy listed BlogDesk, BlogJet, Raven, and RocketPost.
Those lists seemed to converge on several names, including Zoundry Raven, BlogDesk, Post2Blog, and BlogJet. Among those, I was particularly interested in indications that Post2Blog had a Microsoft Word toolbar. The possibility of composing blog posts in Word was appealing because I had numerous AutoCorrect entries, in Word, that helped to speed up my typing. The alternatives also sounded good. BlogDesk and BlogJet drew praise for their simplicity; BlogDesk claimed to be optimized for WordPress; Matt Smith praised Raven as the best blog client he had found; and so forth.
One concern was that these programs did not appear to be any more cutting-edge than Windows Live Writer. One webpage said that “the Zoundry Service has been shuttered”; it pointed toward the Zoundry forums, but several of those had seen no action for years. Things were even quieter in the BlogDesk forums, where there had been no posts at all for more than a year. The Post2Blog domain had expired and, at this time, was available for purchase. There was another page, pointing toward a CNET download page for Post2Blog version 3.01, dating from June 2007.
Of course, if a program worked, perhaps there would be no need of forums; and if its functions were simple, perhaps there was not much need for updates. Yet I noticed that ScribeFire, a browser-based alternative appearing in several of the foregoing lists, had continued to be updated, with the most recent update coming within the past eight months. My guess was that Microsoft had decided to abandon the offline approach, dominated by its Live Writer, and that it had done so for good reason. Yet I did want to try using something that would behave like other programs in everyday use on my computer, if possible.
So I tried Post2Blog. I started by installing it. I was not keeping notes at that point, but I believe the installation process gave me a folder in which I saw a shortcut called “Create Portable Version.” I chose that option, and apparently it worked: when I double-clicked on the newly created Post2BlogPortable.exe, it ran. It notified me that I didn’t have any accounts defined yet. I went with the Yes option, which was confusingly worded, and that was the right choice: it gave me an option of adding an existing blog account to Post2Blog. Next, it gave me various options related to file uploading. On that one, I stuck with the default, which was to automatically upload images and files via blog. The setup process finished, and I was looking at an empty Post2Blog screen that seemed to be ready for blogging. A quick menu check confirmed that there was indeed a File > Save As option; it defaulted to saving in HTML format, but was apparently prepared to save as text or PDF also, in whatever folder I might designate, and it did seem to have an HTML viewing option.
The next question was, how could I use Post2Blog with Microsoft Word? I hit F1 for the Help document and went into Quick Start > Post from Word. The concept appeared to be that I would run Word and would see Post2Blog among the list of available toolbars. In Word 2010, I right-clicked on a blank space on the ribbon and chose Customize the Ribbon > Add-Ins. There, I did see Post2BlogAddinObject among the Active Application Add-ins. So apparently it was in some sense installed. But the Post2Blog help instructions had been written for Word 2003. I wasn’t sure how to view the toolbar in Word 2010. One set of instructions to that end seemed to promise a somewhat complex process.
Before taking that route, I took a closer look at the Post2Blog instructions. The purpose of the Post2Blog toolbar in Word 2003 seemed to be simply to facilitate posting of a document composed in Word. I didn’t really need a program to do that. It seemed that it might be only a minor hassle to copy and paste text (even HTML text) from Word into the normal user interface for a blog, and then post it there. My problem with Blogger (and, potentially, with WordPress, though not yet) was just that they were not very safe for drafts. In other words, if I liked the idea of using Word as my blog composition tool, why not just dispense with Post2Blog and these other tools?
For that matter, even if I didn’t like Word for that purpose, why not use a regular HTML editor? In a post two years earlier, I had glanced at SeaMonkey and CoffeeCup, and since then I had also played with a few others among the many HTML editors currently available. The two that came to mind were KompoZer and Amaya; I saw that both were still listed as top free WYSIWYG editors in a Gizmo page. Other sources recommended PageBreeze and Ace HTML as well. My sense from such sources was that KompoZer would be my first choice. Of course, users who wanted simplicity rather than capability might reasonably find that these tools were overkill. Post2Blog did tentatively seem adequate for most blogging purposes.
But how about the Word option? I had rarely if ever used Word to compose HTML. (I did not check, but presumably a person lacking Word could use LibreOffice or OpenOffice instead.) A search led to an indication that the Windows (but not Mac) versions of Word would at least support HTML editing. It also appeared, however, that Word 2010 might have lost some HTML capabilities that were present in earlier versions. A thread on Word formatting of HTML gave me the idea to experiment with some text in Word 2010. In Word 2010, I typed “This is a test of Word”; I highlighted “a test”; I went to Insert > Links > Hyperlink; I entered a URL and closed the dialog; and then I copied and pasted that little sentence into Notepad. But no, it just gave me the text. Likewise with Notepad++. I saved the Word doc as Doc1.htm and opened it with Notepad. There: I had HTML and (apparently) XML code. Lots of it. (I could also have opened Doc1.htm in a web browser and used its View Source option to see the HTML.) I saved the document in Notepad as Doc2.htm; I deleted almost all of that code (everything down to the start of my actual text); I also deleted all of the code after my text (starting with the last </p>); I saved that; and I double-clicked on Doc2.htm in Windows Explorer (actually, Explorer++) to open Doc2.htm. It opened, and its enclosed HTML link worked.
It appeared, then, that I might not be able to view HTML source code in Word 2010. It could make sense to use Word to compose a draft blog post; I could insert hyperlinks (and, presumably, images and tables) and save it as an html document; but if I needed to edit its HTML code, I might have to close the document in Word and do the editing in something like Notepad, and then reopen in Word and continue composing.
Since it sounded like Word 2003 might be a different story, I opened Doc1.htm in Word 2003. Well! Unlike Word 2010, there was a simple View > HTML Source option on the menu. That opened Doc1.htm in the Microsoft Script Editor, with all that nasty Word code looking right at me. I closed that and went to View > Toolbars > Web (and also Web Tools). While I was opening those two toolbars, I noticed that there was also a Post2Blog toolbar, so I opened that. These all seemed to be working. I guessed that these tools disappeared from later versions of Word because Microsoft wanted to promote its old FrontPage HTML editor, or perhaps because Microsoft was phasing out FrontPage by 2003 and had not yet decided to promote its newer SharePoint and Expression Web HTML editing tools. An interactive Microsoft webpage, claiming to show where I could find menu options that had been available in Word 2003, simply left out the View > HTML Source option. It appeared that Microsoft did not want to display that item and have to explain that, in this regard, Word 2010 represented a step backward.
In Word 2003, the tooltips for the Web Tools menu told me that Word was offering HTML options not offered in the Blogger and WordPress website interfaces (but possibly available in tools like Post2Blog): drop-down boxes, option buttons, checkboxes. In that sense, Word 2003 could unexpectedly be a superior blog composition tool, assuming all went well in the process of identifying and copying over the desired material from Word to the webpage (e.g., the WordPress blog posting page) where I would post that material to my blog.
I did wonder, at this point, whether OpenOffice or LibreOffice would offer comparable features. I opened Doc2.htm (the file without all that Word code) in OpenOffice Writer. It gave me HTML Source and some toolbar options. I couldn’t tell, without further investigation, whether it might offer more than Word 2003. But there was potential. I could imagine making one of those programs my default HTML editor and customizing it for just that purpose.
So I tried using Word 2003 to compose a real blog post. I noticed, right away, the advantage mentioned above: I was able to use my AutoCorrect and other options where Word would have a real advantage in composition. There were also no delays in saving, unlike composing on a webpage. And, as expected, I could save generations of drafts, so that the risk of catastrophic loss was greatly reduced.
It seemed that I had to make a conscious decision about the choice of font, unlike when I was composing directly in e.g., WordPress, because I guessed that Word was going to be inserting codes expressing a choice of typeface — not only at the start of the HTML document, but whenever I inserted an odd character that would entail a change to some other font, and then a reversion back to whatever Word felt was my default. A search led to webpages exploring the complexities of Web fonts. It seemed that specifying a font (rather than leave it to the user’s default) could involve more work than I cared to devote to this particular question. I took a look at the HTML code for the present post, which I was composing in the WordPress interface on Internet Explorer, but it did not seem to have inserted any font commands. One webpage awoke me to the understanding that, of course, the font would be determined by the theme I had chosen for my blog, not by WordPress as a whole. Users of WordPress.org might have additional options not visible to users of WordPress.com. I tried copying and pasting some mixed text from a webpage into the middle of a paragraph here, and also tried inserting <font=”arial”> followed by a word and then </font> but in both cases WordPress seemed to be stripping out the font codes. So, OK, I formatted some text in an HTML document in Word, using some bizarre fonts, and then just pasted it here. WordPress stripped out the fonts when I pasted to the WordPress Visual (i.e., WYSIWYG) tab, but preserved the “span style=font-family” codes (hence the funky look of the chosen fonts) when I pasted to the WordPress HTML tab. The conclusion seemed to be the same as above: I would compose in Word, view the composition in Notepad, save only the portion of the HTML pertaining to my actual composition (i.e., excluding all that stuff that Word added at the start and end), and paste that HTML into the WordPress HTML tab.
Was all that hassle worthwhile, or should I just use something like Post2Blog or KompoZer? That depended on whether I would find it more productive to compose a blog post in Word 2003. I felt ready to give that a whirl now.
I began composing a post in Word 2003. Along the way, I decided to set Word to always create absolute rather than relative hyperlinks. Microsoft offered advice on this and related topics. In Word 2003, the recommended steps were to go to Tools > Options > General tab > Web Options > Files tab > uncheck Update links on save. Also, I had previously customized my toolbar to remove the Insert Hyperlink button, so I had to add that back now by right-clicking on the toolbar area, choosing Customize, and dragging that icon back to the toolbar.
Another issue arose when I tried to indent a chunk of text — what would normally be introduced, on a webpage or in a blog post, with the HTML <blockquote> tag. One source suggested that this would basically be impossible. That source had only marginally better luck with OpenOffice Writer. Text indented in Word (i.e., with the left and optionally the right margins moved slightly toward the center), I thought, would lack these tags. But in the proposed approach, that was not a problem. When I opened my draft blog (written in Word, saved in HTM format) in Notepad, I saw that it had tags like “style=’margin-left:.5in.” These led to undesirable formatting, but it seemed that a simple find-and-replace operation, substituting <blockquote> for those tags, would suffice.
Except for the issues just described, I found it very convenient to compose a blog post in Word 2003, saving the file in htm/html format. I was able to work for hours without delays due to Internet connections or browser issues, and I was able to save multiple drafts and backups of the text that I was developing, while working in a word processing environment that was dedicated to the painless production of text. This seemed to be something that I should have done years earlier.