I’d been using Windows Live Writer (WLW) for about two years. There is no question that it is probably the best desktop client for writing articles for your website.
Yesterday, I discovered it has a serious problem – as do most blogging clients.
All comments about Windows Live Writer refer to Build 14.0.8117.416 en. This is the last version before Windows Live Writer 11. Personally, I doubt much has changed under the hood, but I can’t be sure.
Despite the issue I discovered with Windows Live Writer (and other blogging clients), I still think WLW is the best blogging client for the average user who does not use a lot of images in their posts.
Windows Live Writer has a very nice presentation and editing text is very easy (though, to be honest, it is pretty easy with other clients as well) and you can edit your posts using your website’s theme – all the colours and fonts show up, pretty much, as the would on the final page. What really sets Windows Live Writer apart from other blogging clients is the ease with which you can insert images into your posts: just insert the image, decide on how the thumbnail will look in your post, decide on the size of the version embedded in your text, add a watermark, do a little image processing – cropping, rotating, color effects, etc… (if you want) – and Windows Live Writer will automatically upload your image, its thumbnail and link the two together for you. In other blogging clients, you can insert your thumbnail version (the version that is embedded in your text), but you have to manually upload the full size image and manually link it to your thumbnail.
One of my concerns in uploading images is to ensure they are as small (in bytes) as possible to ensure the visitor is not put off by long waits for the images to download. I carefully massage the images using Gimp to get the smallest size I can.
Yesterday, I discovered that Windows Live Writer rewrites my images when it uploads them and, in most cases, increasing their size – sometimes dramatically (I noticed one file went from 66kb to 960kb – a 15x increase in size. I was horrified! I would never image uploading a 1Mb file, unless it was absolutely essential – even then, I would warn the visitor that the image was large).
When I checked my image directory, I discovered there were 1080 images. What!!! I only had 19 posts on this site. A little investigation revealed that WordPress insists on creating 3 thumbnails images for each image I upload (that is a story for another day, when I figure out why or if this is really necessary) – so, in reality, I only had 270 images and 3x that number in WordPress thumbnails. Anyway, all those images totaled 39Mb of data. That seemed far too much.
I downloaded them. Examined a few and noticed that Windows Live Writer was rewriting my images. I had expected some increase in size because I use the drop shadow effect and add a watermark to each image.
Using XnView, I reprocessed all the images. I did two things: (1) converted the images back to 256 colours (WLW had converted them to RGB – 3 bytes per colour instead of 1 byte – I originally processed them to have 256 colours), (2) set the PNG compression to 9 (the maximum). This reduced the size of the files from 39Mb to 8.9Mb – a significant improvement. Uploaded them and replaced all the existing images with these newer (and smaller) ones.
Then I ran some tests with WLW to see just what it was doing to images. I used two test images:
- JPG image : 1024×683 pixel, size 72,205 bytes
- PNG image : 1042×1166 pixel, 256 colours, maximum compression, size 67,969 bytes.
I inserted them into a test post and tested 4 combinations of image effects using my standard of an embedded image (thumbnail) 480 pixels wide and linking to the full size image:
JPG Results (size is in bytes):
|480 pixel thumbnail||full size image|
|no shadow, no watermark||65,060||145,939|
|shadow, no watermark||66,850||145,939|
|no shadow, watermark||67,567||149,299|
The full size image doubled in size and the embedded image (thumbnail) was barely smaller than the original.
PNG Results (size is in bytes):
|480 pixel thumbnail||full size image|
|no shadow, no watermark||130,552||84,112|
|shadow, no watermark||131,319||84,112|
|no shadow, watermark||133,789||168,830|
When there was no watermark, the full size image size increased about 30% (but the image remained a 256 colour PNG). When the watermark was added, the full-sized image almost tripled in size! In all cases, the embedded image (thumbnail) was about double the size of the original (despite having a little less than a quarter of the number of pixels). sigh.
I tried a different test: I inserted the original photograph (4,037,612 bytes) into a post, set an embedded image of 480 pixels wide with shadow and watermark. Embedded image size: 65,452 bytes. Full sized image size: 1,958,549 bytes. Ok, so if you’re the type of person who willy-nilly uploads unprocessed images from your camera to the web, then using WLW will actually save you space and bandwidth because WLW will compress the image for you.
The Search for Solutions
Since I consider this behaviour (increasing the size of my uploaded images) a serious fault, I examined other blogging clients in more detail. I found none of them, except for w.bloggar, suitable. The main problem is that they do NOT allow you insert an image into the text AND link to the full size version (unless you want to upload the full size version to your website and then create a hyperlink on your image to it – which is unacceptable and too much work). I want a solution where I can embed the image in my text (most clients allow this) and link to the full size image – I don’t want to have to manage things at the server end. Only w.bloggar meets this requirement (and Windows Live Writer).
I tried Post2Blog, BlogDesk, WB Editor, Qumana, Zoundry Raven, and ScribeFire (the latest version 1.5). None of these allow me to upload the thumbnail and linked file in one step (ScribeFire doesn’t even allow me to upload a file – although my understanding is that ScribeFire Next is a complete reboot of the original ScribeFire).
The good news is that if you do nothing to your image (don’t ask them to do anything fancy), they will upload the raw image as you had prepared it. Bonus!
The bad news is that if you apply any effects they may provide, your image files swell in size. For example, I created a 480×537 pixel version of my PNG file, suitable for embedding in my text (it’s 51,309 bytes). If I ask Post2Blog to add a shadow to it, the image size swells to 80,291 bytes. sigh.
The w.bloggar Solution
While w.bloggar hasn’t seen any development in the last 3-4 years, I can easily embed an image and link to a full-sized version of the image.
It is a two step process: (1) upload the original image as a hypertext link, (2) upload the embedded image in place of the text for the hypertext link.
(1) Select Upload file from the Tools menu (or press Ctrl+D):
(2) Click on the Link to the file button, then click on the button in the upper right to locate and select the full size image. Finally, click on the Upload button. This will upload the file and embed the link in your post.
(3) Locate the link in your post and delete the text for the link (this is the text just before the closing </a>. Leave your cursor there.
(4) Select Upload file from the Tools menu (or press Ctrl+D):
(5) Ensure the Image on the post checkbox is selected. Then click on the button in the upper right to locate and select the image to be embedded in the text. Finally, click on the Upload button. This will upload and embed the image in your post.
Here is an example of an image which links to a larger one:
While editing with w.bloggar is not as pretty or nice as using WLW (it is not WYSIWYG), at least I know my uploaded images are going to be the size I specified.
Now, all I have to do, is find some way of adding nice watermarks to my images.
You can download w.bloggar from here.