Word is a great tool for writing stuff, right? Blogging is all about communicating with words (and pictures, too). So, why not use Word to write your blog posts?
Stop, don't jump to the end of this post to push the comment button yet. I'm not an idiot. I'm not endorsing you commit HTML suicide. If you've ever written a post in Word 2003 or before and then copied and pasted the text into your web browser you know what I'm talking about. Sure you can do it, but you have to run one of those HTML clean up tools so that your posts don't look mangled. Even then the HTML is not tight and clean, right?
Well no more. We've been working late into the nights and very late into our development schedule for Word 2007 and we have a special goody for all you bloggers in Beta 2 of Office 2007. That's right blog post authoring from Word. This is a very late breaking feature and is definitely beta software. That said, I hope that everyone is pleasantly surprised with where we are going with this feature.
When I write a blog post using my blog providers web-based editor I miss some of the familiar Word features that I've come to rely on, specifically background spelling (those little red squiggles) and autocorrect. These features keep me from making stupid mistakes. Also, I simply want to use the tool that I use for most of my other writing tasks.
Targeted user experience
Click on the picture above to see the a larger version of the image. Notice that the new user interface has been scoped to include the feature you most likely will need when authoring a blog post. We've gone from seven tabs on the ribbon to just two! The Home tab has been replaced with a Blog Post tab. We've add some special commands that you will need to manage your blog service accounts and publish your posts. We even added strikethrough to the basic text group since bloggers like using it so much.
Click on the images below to see the full tabs.
Publishing clean HTML to your blog
That's right. No more verbose Word HTML. The goal for this feature is not pure fidelity, but the right fidelity for your blog. The HTML for this post was created by Word. Go ahead, click View, Source in your browser and look at the HTML starting with "Word is a great tool..." We really are going pretty basic here. Bold become
<strong>, Italic becomes
<em>, Heading 1 become
<h1>, Quotes become
<blockquote> and on it goes. There are definitely kinks in Beta 2. For example we are encoding smart quotes incorrectly so I had to turn off that feature in Word, but the goal is to output just what is needed to make your blog post clean and readable (code and rendered HTML).
When you set up your blog you can specify an upload site and Word will take care of uploading any pictures that you insert in the blog post. Also, we'll automatically generate & upload PNGs for the Office graphics (charts, diagrams, etc.) that you insert in your post.
In Beta 2 we have basic FTP support. We hope to add support for metaweblog API picture handling, SharePoint picture libraries, and one or two others. While we have a limited ability to add many more providers to this late breaking feature, the feature is extensible and other providers can insure that their systems work with Word even after Office 2007 ships.
You can start a new blog by simply going to the File icon, New dialog and selecting "New Blog Post." Or, if you want to start your post from an existing document go to the File icon and select Publish and Blog.
Setting up your blog
This is pretty standard stuff if you've ever used one of the many blog post authoring applications. In Beta 2 we support MSN Spaces, SharePoint 2007 (of course), Blogger, and Community Server (which is used for blogs.msdn.com). You can also set up a custom account with services that support the metaweblog API or the ATOM API. All the blog providers seems to interpret these APIs a bit different so there kinks we're still working out. But the basics should work in Beta 2. We hope to add a few more services to the list before we ship. The Word blog authoring feature is extensible and we will publish information so that blog providers can insure that their systems work with Word.
More info coming…
We're excited about getting into more details about this feature, but I'm calling it a night now.
PS. A little honesty
Did I mention that this was beta software and we were running hot? For complete transparency I need to admit a couple things. I had to make a few hand tweaks to my post due to bugs (I'm sure our developer would blame it on user error). I had to upload and hand code the pictures because I had problems with my FTP site. And, I had to hand change the items with the CODE tag since we didn't map the Word code style correctly. You too can help find a report bugs with this feature once beta 2 is available. More on that later.
Whew! That feels better. Now I can sleep soundly.