Blog Tools: Reading & Writing

If you read blogs -- especially if you read a lot of blogs -- and regularly browse the Internet to keep up with what's going on in the world, check out Google Reader, Google's web-based news feed reader/aggregator. It's fresh out of beta and really is quite fantastic.

Other than providing you with the obvious benefits of an aggregator:

Aggregators reduce the time and effort needed to regularly check websites for updates, creating a unique information space or "personal newspaper". [Source: Wikipedia]

it is free, fast, efficient, and very well designed. You can check your feeds online (which is really cool) but can take them offline as well (up to 2,000 posts).

It also has a few extra features thrown in. For example, you can bookmark your posts (by 'starring' them) though that's not all that special. What is special is that you can share your favourite posts online as well. You do that simply by clicking on the 'share' icon that appears at the bottom of each post. Doing that adds that particular post to your personal, automatically generated open-to-the-public Google Reader page (which, by the way, even has it's own RSS feed). Quite fantastic.

For The Blogger

Meanwhile, if you are a blogger yourself -- and you use Windows -- check out Windows Live Writer (WLW), Microsoft's new (still in beta) blog authoring tool. It may make your life a lot easier.

Much like an e-mail client, WLW lets you write blog posts offline in a full-featured rich text editor (which is generally better than what your blogging software has online). You can then publish your postings to your blog with the click of a button. That in itself is really cool: You can be blogging even when you're not connected to the Internet and you can save your drafts locally as well.

What makes WLW fantastic though is that, when you add your blog account to it (it supports all popular blogging tools and services), it downloads your design template and tags. It then loads those into its editor so, when you compose a post, it actually looks like you're typing into your blog! For example, this is what I see as I type this post in WLW:

Screenshot - Windows Live Writer

That actually looks like I'm typing into the blog itself. Compare that to the WordPress view that I would otherwise have gotten:

Screenshot - WordPress

That makes quite a difference, doesn't it?

Another cool thing is that you can save your drafts online (to your blog) so you're not tied to that particular computer when composing a post. Again, quite fantastic. 

The Bigger Scheme of Things

In the bigger scheme of things, it's great that both Google and Microsoft are taking on board the fact that people like doing things both online and offline. And that this is not true for just e-mailing (for which I use Thunderbird offline and Yahoo! online, by the way) but for other things like blogging and composing (and collaborating on) documents, spreadsheets, and presentations. Most cool.

Want to Know More?

These days, lots of software development teams that are working on online products and services maintain blogs. The Reader and Live Writer teams are no exceptions:

By the way, the big three -- Google, Yahoo!, and Microsoft -- have lots of other product/service blogs as well. You can find them all online but here are three each to get your started:

Enjoy :)