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Writer Beta 1 Update September 27, 2006

Posted by J.J. in Windows Live, Writer.

Today we are shipping an update to Beta 1 of Windows Live Writer. Highlights include:

  1. A new tagging feature which supports a handful of tagging services (and is user extensible to support additional services).
  2. Support for the latest version of Blogger (Blogger Beta).
  3. We fixed the top 20 customer issues/bugs to smooth out some early rough edges.
  4. Writer now has its own space on Windows Live Gallery where a bunch of 3rd party extensions are available (with more to come). Highlights include “Blog This” extensions for both IE and Firefox as well as a Flickr plugin.
  5. An Event plugin that we developed in collaboration with Eventful. This plugin highlights Writer’s ability to publish microformats and to use Live Clipboard to flexibly translate structured data into presentation.

If there are Writer features and enhancements you are hoping to see and they didn’t make it into this release, rest assured we are continuing to listen closely and have lots of additional improvements on tap for our next beta release.


Video Players for Writer August 24, 2006

Posted by J.J. in Code, Writer.

Creating an image publishing feature for Writer that worked well with all weblog services was reasonably straightforward – most weblogs are able to host images and support direct uploading from clients via newMediaObject.

On the other hand, creating a video publishing feature was another challenge entirely. Unlike images, weblogs don’t normally host videos. Instead, videos are published to a wide variety of specialized video portals (which are still springing up left and right). There was no way we could properly support the diversity of current and future video hosting services with a feature baked directly into the product.

The solution: put all of the infrastructure required for video publishing into the product but don’t expose it directly to end users. Instead, expose this infrastructure to developers through the Writer SDK, allowing them to build the requisite bridges to (hopefully) all of the popular video services on the web.

If you are thinking of creating a video player plugin, the best way to get started is to read the “Embedding a Media Player” article in the SDK. While it is possible to create a simple video player very quickly, I think the best ones will also support some or all of the following behavior:

  • Be created as a subclass of SmartContentSource. This makes their implementation a bit more complicated but enables many of the cool features described below.
  • Enable insertion of videos either by “browsing”  (InsertableContentSource) or through a Url (UrlContentSource).
  • Rather than publishing an <embed> tag for videos (which RSS readers and many weblogs will strip) publish a JPEG snapshot of the video which links through to a page that plays it automatically. This can be accomplished using the HtmlScreenCapture class.
  • While publishing JPEG snapshots will ensure broad compatibility, it is still very cool to have a real embedded player when possible. Plugins can use the AdaptiveHtmlObject class to do this auto-magically.
  • If the video service supports variable sizes of embedded player, Plugins should allow users to directly manipulate the size of the video (check the SDK article “Making Content Resizable” for more info on doing this).
  • Create a sidebar editor that allows users to control things like captions, layout (text-flow and margins), and linking behavior (open in new window, etc.).

I’m excited to see a slew of cool video plugins come down the pike in the weeks ahead. If developers building them have questions or run into trouble feel free to leave comments here and I’ll try to help you through!

Writer Plugins and Windows Live Gallery August 24, 2006

Posted by J.J. in Code, Writer.
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I have been pleasantly surprised by the uptake we have gotten for the Windows Live Writer SDK. We have had thousands of downloads of the SDK and in just over a week there are already a dozen plugins available, covering everything from Flickr and SmugMug photos to ink-blogging.

A few resources for people interested in either building or trying out plugins:

In late September we will be rolling out a new section on Windows Live Gallery dedicated to Writer plugins (more info on this will be available soon).