Sunday, 21 August 2005

Blogger: using Word to draft and publish posts

Earlier this week Blogger released an add-on or plugin for Word 2000 upwards, which lets you create and save posts (and drafts) in Word, then publish them direct from Word to your Blogspot blog. Here's a review, written in Word with the addon.

You can download Blogger for Word here. The installation takes seconds (but make sure Word and Outlook etc are closed before you try to install it).
Tip: before using it, update your Word for the latest service packs. Until I did, my recent posts list in my main blog was blank or produced an error message or crashed.

What this addon does is to add an extra toolbar to Word with a few buttons: Blogger Settings, Open Post, Save as Draft and Publish.

You write your post, then hit Publish and you get a popup to fill in the post title (the title is in fact filled in automatically for you from the first line of your post, but you can change it in the popup), and pick which blog to post to - or, if you've not yet set up your settings, you get the Settings page, same as when you click Blogger Settings, to fill in your Blogger username and password (I've ticked "Remember Username and Password" for ease, and also "Preview HTML before sending" - as to which more below).

Unless you'd picked "Preview HTML before sending" in your Settings (discussed below), when you click Send, it then publishes the post to your blog. Nice and easy.

But note that your published your Blogspot web page won't be identical to what you did in Word. Some things translate properly, some don't.

What works

  • Font styles and sizes that you set in Word (e.g. Arial - size translates to a %)
  • New lines - show up as <br />
  • Bold, italics
  • Bulleted lists (bullet point items)
  • Numbered lists where you've used automatic numbering in Word (format bullets and numberings) will show up as ordered lists (but watch the line breaks)
  • Hyperlinks you inserted in Word
To insert hyperlinks in Word: type the link text (the bit to be clicked), highlight it, then choose menu Insert, Hyperlink (or hold down Ctrl and press and release the k key) - a box pops up and in the Address line (the cursor should already be in it) just type or paste the URL.

What doesn't work

  • Font colours
  • Headings (so the styles heading1, heading2, etc do NOT get converted into h1, h2 etc - just into the matching font styles and font sizes)
  • Blockquotes
  • Indents
  • Text alignment (right align, left align etc)
  • Code like "<pre>" (which gets shown exactly as is, and doesn't get interpreted as code - useful however for those who want to display HTML as raw code without having to encode it or use a converter).

A solution for what doesn't work

In the Blogger Settings, make sure you've ticked "Preview HTML before sending". If you have, then after you click Publish, fill in the title and pick the blog and then hit Send, an HTML Viewer window pops up which looks just like a text editor window (much like Notepad), displaying the raw HTML which is going to be published.

Here's where you can edit the underlying HTML, e.g. put in those tags for headings like <h3> or font colors, blockquotes and other HTML tags that you want treated as proper tags, add CSS, Technorati tags etc. (For ease, when I draft in Word I use another easily visible symbol instead of angle brackets, and then change those in the HTML Viewer – as, especially for longer posts, it's too much of a pain to view/type all the tags in the HTML viewer alone).

Here too you can edit out the odd stray <br /> inserted by Blogger and Word whenever you have a new paragraph code in Word or a new line in Blogger, e.g. between bulleted list items (having foolishly had "Convert line breaks" set to Yes in my Blogger formatting settings – can't turn it off now or it'll mess up my older posts…).

Other stuff

It's all pretty self-explanatory. The Save as Draft button lets you save a draft from Word to Blogger's servers (but NOT your own computer, you can just save a Word document as normal for that). Again you can edit the HTML before you save the draft.

The Open Post button supposedly calls up a list of your 15 most recent posts which you can select for editing in Word (again, you can choose which blog if you have several). But for my main blog it just didn't work or crashed Word - until I updated Word. There's also a Local Files tab, which took me a while to figure out. As far as I can see, for the Local Files tab to be anything other than empty, you need to have (1) opened a recent post via the Open Post button, AND (2) saved that opened post as a Word document on your computer's hard drive. (It doesn't seem to recognise draft blog posts that you just save as Word documents on your computer, as opposed to using Save as Draft to save to Blogger).


The Blogger intro is here, and their FAQ/known issues page is here.


  • Making what doesn't work at the moment work! (see above) – especially allowing people to include tags as tags (not just HTML tags such as headings, horizontal lines etc, but also e.g. Technorati tags)
  • The HTML Viewer window should be resizeable, and maximiseable (both, preferably!)
  • A Find/Replace facility for the HTML Viewer would be ideal, so I can correct the HTML for headings etc that this tool has converted to display as text rather than as HTML tags!)
  • Keyboard shortcuts to access the buttons in the new toolbar (and move around in it, though as expected the Enter/Return and Tab keys work, and Escape to get rid of the popup windows)
  • Extending it to allow editing and publishing of templates
  • Integration with publishing pics.

All in all though, this is very positive. Composing and saving drafts on Blogger was, I'd found, a nightmarish Russian roulette - sometimes the last part of a long post would vanish (often on changing from Edit HTML to Compose view or vice versa). Even worse, when I highlighted the text and copied to clipboard, it sometimes vanished too (without being copied to clipboard either). I'd taken to drafting and saving posts in Word (which can mess up your posts e.g. if smart quotes are turned on – turn' em off in the Autoformat tab in the Tools menu (Autocorrect or Options) by unticking "Straight quotes with smart quotes" in the Replace section) or even draft emails/notes in Outlook, or using w.bloggar. But this Word add on is potentially a much neater solution – though personally, while I've written this post in Word as an experiment, until they let you add tags which get interpreted as tags (maybe if you include some symbol before the angle brackets, like a backslash?), it will be too time consuming for me to use this for anything but the shortest and simplest posts. Still, it's good to know Blogger are moving onwards, and hopefully upwards. Let's hope Blogger continue to develop this, and other, features.
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Zoli said...

BlogJet or the free Qumana do a better job....

ChickyBabe said...

I've already tried it and I still have tofigure out how to retain the front in my blog rather than the one in my Word template. Apart from that, it's good to use. Now only if it could do my Technorati tags. Oh well...

Improbulus said...

Zoli thanks, I'll check out Qumana.

CB, know what you mean - it's good for basic stuff, but I've ended up not using it myself now, it's too limited.

ritzy said...

The installer even crashed but that's likely b/c I'm not using the full XP servicepacks. It annoyed me for a while, then I remembered the little "blog this" plug I have in my IE toolbar which I very rarely use because it is too limited. But really, I wish we had some full function tools like this, both for Word and IE.

Improbulus said...

Absolutely Ritzy, Blogger ought to release something a lot more sophisticated.

anna said...

thanks for this post! i hadn't gotten around to trying this plugin yet. going to check it out.

Improbulus said...

Thanks for the comment Anna and good luck with it. I have to say because it doesn't do enough of what I need quickly enough, I no longer use it myself.

kuheli/bulbul said...

hi, i have installed blogger for word. but my post is not getting published as the blog name is getting selected. plz help!!!!!! and i also want to know whether there is any tool for publishing a word or excel document on blogger. thanks.