Microsoft’s Live Writer is the WYSIWYG blogging editor used to write many of the posts you see on TeleRead. No, Live Writer isn’t perfect. It clutters up our server with duplicate images; so we may compose in LW but add photos later via WordPress.
Still, this is just the ticket for people like TeleRead Editor Chris Meadows and me who want to crank out lots of copy. Furthermore, Live Writer could be even more useful for folks on the wrong side of the digital divide with slow Internet connections, which bog down composition online. Live Writer works offline for uploads later to WordPress, Blogger, Live Journal, TypePad and a bunch of other blogging tools. It’s catnip to thousands of serious bloggers, even if the masses may not even know it exists.
For many months, I’ve been begging the Digital Public Library of America to create an improved version of Live Writer, with either different versions or hidden features that could be toggled on for special needs of K-12 students, academics and others. The reborn Live Writer could use the DPLA as a pipeline to a rich collection of text, image and video links, through which users could easily search while writing. In fact, other collections such as Wikimedia Commons could also be a part of this. A student writing on Dickens could catch up instantly with an image of the novelist and automatically give due credit in a professional format to the source of the picture. That’s how seamless it could all be. Academic bloggers and others could also use guided tags and other metadata to prepare copy for the DPLA’s possible use.
Now let’s dream. Suppose Microsoft could open-source Live Writer for others to refine. Imagine the possibilities of improved versions for students, library patrons and the world at large, even if at the start the new Live Writer could simply fix flaws of the existing one, such as those pesky duplicate images.
In fact, that’s exactly what Microsoft may do in a matter of months—open-source Live Writer if speculation in Ars Technica pans out. I’d urge library-related organizations such as the DPLA to work close with the open source community on Live Writer if open source happens. They should also work to make certain that open source is a certainty. What’s more, libraries should also help the programmers get money to turn this into a major endeavor, not just for the Windows world but also for linux and the Mac. Funds could come from a mix of government and private sources, if the Institute of Museums and Library Services didn’t oblige sufficiently.
Libraries have plenty of value to add. Microsoft would have been keener on Live Writer and have bothered with a Windows 10 version if more customers had understood its glories. For people like Chris and me, it was no big deal to learn Live Writer. But the typical user will need hand-holding, either through one-on-one instruction or classes even though LiveWriter’s interface overlaps heavily with Microsoft Word.
Needless to say, I’d also like to see Live Writer taught in K-12, as a way for students to create link-rich blogs and other content—a skill useful not only in school but also on the job. Let’s encourage young and old alike to set up their own blogs rather than just be captives to Facebook and other canned solutions. Not to mention the possibilities of library-hosted blogs. Libraries should worry about capturing the future, not just preserving the past with scanning projects.
I approve of the DPLA’s efforts to use APIs and other technology to open up library collections to the Net at large, but that’s only part of the equation for the “generativity” that the DPLA has talked about. Also, consider DPLA Executive Director Dan Cohen’s laudable hopes for good nonproprietary tool for scholarly writings online. That’s just one of the possibilities that an open-sourced Live Writer can help realize.
Meanwhile, if you don’t use Live Writer already but are running Windows and want to see why I’m so excited, you can download Live Writer as part of Windows Essentials.
Related: Live Writer booster Scott Hanselman’s download links and accompanying commentary. Also, kudos to a namesake, Scott Lovegrove, for launching a petition initiative to convince Microsoft to open-source Live Writer. And thanks, of course, to Microsoft itself if the Ars Technica speculation is accurate.
Note: My original post used the word “will,” based on a Computerworld account. But when I learned of an Ars Technica update, I decided it would be better to say “may” until we know more. Once we do, I’ll revert to “will” if the facts justify it. My hunch is that they eventually will.
Detail: The screenshot, from Wikipedia, shows the 2011 version of Live Writer. The last came out in 2012.