When you sit down at your computer to craft a new blog post, you probably do it one of three different ways. Though some services such as Tumblr have added new ways to add new entries, most bloggers that write posts of any length do so via one of a few means.
In some cases, choosing the way you write your post can be just as important as what you write about or the style with which you cover it. Inevitably, the tools one uses to create their writing seeps into their writing style.
For example, if you find it difficult to add images to a post, you’ll be less likely to include them. Likewise, if your software does a good job checking for spelling and grammar mistakes, you’ll likely have fewer errors.
So before you fire up your computer to write your next blog post, it’s worth while to think a moment about how you do it and if a change might be in order.
1. Word Processor
Though a traditional word processor might seem like an archaic way to write a blog post, there are many bloggers who write at least their first draft in Microsoft Word, OpenOffice, Pages or some other traditional word processing application.
The reason for doing this is simple. Power and familiarity.
Word Processors bring a lot of features to the table including robust spell checking, that often includes a basic grammar checker, tools that can help make writing easier with long posts, such as macros, and a sense of familiarity that can be comforting for new bloggers.
They can be useful for those who are publishing a long-form piece, such as a novel, in blog format. The reason being that they can keep the entire work together and break off the bite-sized sections as needed. Likewise, many literary bloggers also write in word processors first to have their work print-ready if needed while taking it later into the blog
The biggest problem with word processors is getting the material into the blog itself. Though some, including later versions of Microsoft Word, offer integration with most major blogging platforms, it generally does not work very neatly. Though nearly all word processors can convert a document to HTML, which makes it usable in a blog post, the code tends to be unclean and flawed.
Typically, to get a document in a word processor to a blog post requires pasting it into a blog entry and then working with the formatting to get it to look right. It’s an ugly process that can defeat the time saved by writing in a word processor very easily.
2. Web-Based Blog Editor
Every major blogging platform has a built-in Web-based blog post editor and, through advanced scripting they have become very powerful.
Most now include an optional visual HTML editor, auto-saved drafts and, in modern Web browsers, basic spell checking. These interfaces make it easy to do basic tasks such as adding links and images while keeping the interface fairly simple. Even better, these interfaces work directly with with the blogging platform, ensuring that the formatting stays as true to the original as possible.
These Web-based editors are surprisingly powerful and easy to use. Best of all, they can be accessed anywhere in the world with an Internet connection. There’s no need to make sure your computer has a particular application installed, so long as you have a browser.
However, there are still a few drawbacks. First, your ability to edit posts when you’re offline is limited. Though WordPress, via Google Gears, can do some things offline, this once against goes back to needing specific software installed. Also, people who want to keep an offline copy of their work, for example to print and give out, may be frustrated.
The biggest issue, however, is that, despite how powerful they become, they still lag behind the power of standalone applications. You can’t for example, build a table easily using a built-in visual editor and many specific formats require editing the HTML. People who routinely do very complicated posts but aren’t very good with HTML are frequently frustrated by these editors.
Still, they are powerful enough for most blog posts, available anywhere and built into your blogging platform. There’s not a lot to hate, especially if you can add plugins to your blogging platform as they can help extend and improve your writing experience.
3. Blog Editors
Nearly every major blogging service allows their users to take advantage of an API that allows for external publishing of blog posts. This has given rise to a series of blog editing applications including Windows Live Writer, Marsedit and Blogo among others. These applications serve as something of a hybrid between word processors and the built-in interface.
They are more powerful and more robust than a Web interface, though not as much as most Word Processors. They format code better than a processor, but not as well as a built-in editor. They can work offline and also can allow a user to manipulate multiple blogs in one interface. However, once again, you have to have it installed on every machine you plan to write from to have a consistent experience.
In short, blog editors mitigate the drawbacks of either but don’t have as great of benefits. They do provide great features and many people swear by their blog editor, but generally these are best suited for either those who have many blogs do manage, do a lot of offline writing or are extremely uncomfortable with HTML.
Personally, I use my default Web-based editor for the most part. Though I have one site that requires me to edit in a word processor since I have to submit my posts in an RTF, I typically just favor logging in and editing it the old-fashioned way.
That being said, I have used blog editors extensively, in particular MarsEdit, and enjoyed them. However, as I added plugins to my WordPress installs, I found that I was doing more and more “cleaning up” in the Web-based editor anyway and, besides, I blog on many different machines and appreciated the consistency of having one editor.
Still, even if you do use a blog editor it is important to familiarize yourself with your Web-based one just in case you need it. Being comfortable editing your posts in the most basic way is handy if you find yourself at a different machine or if something goes wrong.
You always want to be prepared.