Psst! C'mere ... I gotta tellya somethin', and I don' wan' everbody and their uncle ta hear.
I've become hooked, and hooked deep. It's really, really bad.
It's quite true; I'm addicted to blogging.
Okay ... so maybe not just to blogging. I love writing, and I do it every chance I get, whether I'm supposed to be doing it or not. Kinda like right now, for instance.
It's not that I don't love blogging -- believe me, I do. But there are so many other, better bloggers out there to read and enjoy, I just don't think of myself as one of them. But, my Lord, I do love to write. Fiction, mostly, but I can prattle on uselessly about anything. Sometimes I like to put up a journal entry. This particular piece of literary gold you're enjoying now would loosely fall under that category, although I've been more revealing and intimate with information before. This is just a ... well, it's kind of just an excuse to write ... as if I need one.
Maybe it's because I just like the sound of my own voice in my head, chattering away endlessly about anything that floats through the soggy gray matter. Maybe it's because I have a big mouth and can talk a blue streak, and writing is just another verbose expression outlet. Maybe it's because I have so much wonderful information to share with the world that I can't just let it sit between my ears and rot ... okay, that last one's not likely, but you get the general idea. In the final analysis, I think the answer probably is just that I love writing, I fancy myself fairly capable of it, and I do it every chance I get.
The other thing that I'm addicted to is software that helps me do it. I'm willing to bet that a fairly large percentage of bloggers just blog in their blog site's interface, or maybe use a word processor for the more powerful spelling- and grammar-checking capabilities, and then copy and paste into as many blogs as they need to. Uh-uh, not me. That was not even close to good enough. I wanted a blogging client, one that would make the posting process easy and effective and let me post to multiple blogs from a single piece of software without having to involve the computer's virtual clipboard even once.
That turned out to be easier than I imagined. As a Johnny-come-lately to blogging -- at least in any serious way -- I didn't know that such animals had been around for some time. But once I did find out, boy, I was all over all of them I could get my hands on.
Some of them were web-based; some were browser-extensions. Some where based on ad insertion capabilities, so that you could "generate income" from your blog. And some of them weren't free (most were, though). I downloaded and tried them all.
Since I'm still using, for the moment, a PC powered by Windows (or "Windoze" or "Windhose" or whatever else the Linux/Unix crowd wants to call it), I had to limit myself to the several varieties that were available for that platform. In addition, I didn't really care for the feel of the browser extensions. I wanted the capability of doing my work offline, saving it as a draft, and posting when I have the time and inclination. So, I could eliminate a few more possibilities that way.
By now, the field was getting pretty narrow. I had to find one that worked with all my various blog sites (WordPress, the new Atom-powered Blogger, LiveJournal and finally a MS Live Spaces site, too) and post to all of them with relative ease. I also wanted a WYSIWYG editor. I know, I know ... technical people should lean towards better markup than that. But I'm interested in writing, not scripting code, so I wanted it to be fast and easy to make things look good on my blog.
I'm a stickler for control over my white space and since a lot of what I write is fiction, I want to use that space to assist with control over my readers' pacing. I do that with line breaks and punctuation, and I didn't want to have to experiment with my (very) rusty HTML to learn to do it. Or worse yet, have to learn an as-yet alien markup system like XML or XHTML to do it. I didn't want a new language skill, I wanted to write. The interface, therefore, had to be efficient, intuitive and understandable. Don't jargon me.
Another aspect of my search was ease of configuration. I'm a technical support guy, but I don't have a lot of experience with networking, particularly as it concerns the web. So I don't know the terminology, I don't know what things out there do what, and I don't know how to communicate with my blog site's servers and their addresses. I just know that I go to the site, I click on "New Post" or something like that, and I start typing. I check spelling and post. I wanted that same simplicity from my blogging client, so it couldn't be a science experiment to get it configured to use with my blogs.
With all of that in mind, the final piece was that I wanted it to be portable. That is, if the application can be run from a USB flash drive, I'm in hog heaven. It's not necessarily a deal breaker, but it's a deal-maker for sure, if it's there.
That left me with a few options, but I was heart-broken to find that my favorite client wasn't portable-capable.
Okay, so, the clients I tried were:
- BlogDesk (v. 2.6.600 and 2.7)
- ScribeFire (extension for FireFox)
- Bleezer (Java-based client)
There were a couple of others, too, but nothing that jumps out at me. Some of them were a problem to install; some of them didn't work with the very first blog I tried to set up, and I don't have time (or desire) to figure out why. ScribeFire was a browser extension for FireFox, and I just didn't like that. It would be nice, probably, if I were blogging about something right from the web, but I never do that. And even if I do, it's not a problem (and is probably a habit) for me to have the other site open in a tab and just jump back and forth. Not efficient, I know, but I'm being honest here. If I want to direct refer the reader to the site, I'll create a link to it and they can check it out for themselves. I really just never got used to working with a half-browser window for blogging. It just ... didn't work for me.
Bleezer wouldn't work right no matter how much I tried. In all honesty, I haven't tried installing it on the computer's local drive; I've only tried putting it on the USB flash drive I carry with me everywhere. I couldn't get it to run that way, for some reason.
BlogDesk installed easily and ran fine. It absolutely would not connect to any of my blogs, though. At least, not after installing on the flash drive. It gave me several errors while trying to connect to the blog sites, even after I'd gone through their wizard repeatedly and tried to contact my blogs. None of them -- including the ones they listed as compatible (like WordPress, for example) -- worked. I couldn't post anything. In addition, it didn't seem to support any of the other blogs I have, like LiveJournal and the MS Live Space I have (but can't figure out why). While the MSLS didn't surprise me, the Blogger and WordPress portion did. Almost all clients support those formats, and without those connections, I wasn't interested in using the tool. Besides, one requirement was that I be able to use it for ALL of my blogs, so BlogDesk would have been eliminated anyway. I just like playing with software.
Qumana seemed to work effectively, but I didn't want to insert ads into my blogs. I like them clean. So I didn't use that one too much. I also couldn't get it to run portably, so I figured, eh, why bother?
I was going to give Ecto a try -- I'd heard about it on the web and it was supposed to be cross-platform -- but it's not freeware. It's a paltry $17.95, but if you've got a bunch of options that are free, why would you pay? It didn't have any features that I couldn't get somewhere else for free. So I can't comment on that particular client ... I never used it.
Post2Blog worked. It worked pretty well, actually. But for some reason, it screwed up my formatting royally in LiveJournal and in another blog (but I can't remember which one right now to save my soul). I was having to go in, edit the HTML code (because editing the WYSIWYG didn't do diddly-squat) on those couple of blog sites and re-publish. Double the effort for half of my blogs didn't sound like the right solution to me, so I dropped and uninstalled it. It did, however, work portably on the USB drive, and loaded quite well when launched (that is to say, it didn't take forever to launch).
My favorite, and the one I use more than anything else (and I guess I'm stuck with it until I have to bail on Windows), is none other than Windows Live Writer. That's right, Microsoft's product beat all these other freeware products and beat them soundly. It has a brilliant design, a very simple and easy to understand setup and configuration routine (all I needed was my blog site's web address), and it even simulates the blog's style sheet in its interface so you can see what your post will look like against the style you've got set up on your blog. It's amazing. It sends a temporary post to your site, gets the style information, configures itself and removes the test post as if it weren't ever there. Nice.
It took a bit of searching around, but I finally found WLW in a portable version, made by a guy on TechLifeBlogged.com. He's pretty clever, and he solved his own dilemma of love for WLW and not being able to take it with him by creating a portable launcher for it. Now I have it tucked snugly into my 8GB flash drive with a launcher on my PortableAppsMenu listing; I can use it at any computer, anywhere, and it leaves only the tiniest little footprint behind. I have a tendency to clean up after myself, but if you don't, it need not be a problem, I don't think. Just leave it be. When you're finished using it, the program moves everything back to your flash drive so you don't lose or miss anything, although that process can take upwards of five minutes to complete.
So, it's not a stealthy app, and it's not a fast one either, as far as the copying process goes, but remember that the developers did not intend for this to be a portable app; only the resourcefulness of the one programmer made that possible. I don't belly-ache about it; I'm just happy to use it.
The interface is top-notch and very intuitive, if repetitive. Every command on the menu is redundantly on the toolbar, so you really don't need both; I leave them there for aesthetics. I just like 'em. The configuration of blogs was really slick and very, very simple, as I've already stated. And to change from blog to blog, all I have to do is click a selection on a drop-down list. I even have the option of viewing the blog in a browser window when I've published.
It's totally, completely, and inarguably sweet. What is isn't, though, is cross-platform. So, if you're a blogger and you're using a Mac or any Linux distro, this ain't happenin' for you. You gotta go score somethin' else, dude(tte)s. But, make sure you know what you want from it and make sure it's going to work for you before you kill drive space and bloat your system (bogging it down) with trial versions and apps that don't perform. Keep it clean, keep it simple and make sure you're getting what you want out of the deal.
For Windows bloggers -- even if you're very anti-Microsoft, please do yourself a favor and try this client. It's incredible, it's easy, and unlike most anything else with Microsoft's name associated with it -- it's completely free. You can download it here.
Happy blogging, y'all.