If you follow this blog, then you know that I use Dragon NaturallySpeaking to write blog posts on this site.

[stextbox id=”info”] (By the way, Dragon NaturallySpeaking is on sale right now – and if you’re thinking about buying Home or Premium, you have until March 17, 2012 at midnight to save $80 on Dragon NaturallySpeaking 11.5 )[/stextbox]

This post is part of a 3-post series on looking for a better way to blog by using Dragon NaturallySpeaking.

  1. First, we looked at how you can blog quicker with voice recognition software (and why I used DragonPad when I use Dragon NaturallySpeaking.)
  2. Then, we talked about whether there was a difference between how accurate Dragon NaturallySpeaking transcribed your words in different web browsers or programs.
  3. Today, we’ll be looking at using Dragon NaturallySpeaking with Windows Live Writer to write your blog posts.

What is Windows Live Writer?

Windows Live Writer is a free download from Microsoft. It’s part of the Windows Live Essentials suite that you can download here – (Think Windows Live Messenger – aka MSN but for blogging. You can choose which programs to install from the suite.)

The nice thing about Windows Live Writer is that it gives you an easy way to write posts on your WordPress, Blogger, or TypePad site.

  • It’s easy to sync with an existing blog
  • You can add photos, online videos, and Bing maps (it is Microsoft, after all)
  • It’s free.

Benefits to using Dragon NaturallySpeaking with Windows Live Writer to write your blog posts.

1. You can add rich text formatting (i.e. bold, italics, bullets) and links to other webpages directly in your blog post draft as you write it.

I used to use DragonPad which is a rich text editor in Dragon NaturallySpeaking. I would dictate my blog posts, and then copy and paste the text into my WordPress blog. Then I would go through and add the formatting and hyperlinks in WordPress on my web browser.

  • That’s a pain, because it’s much more natural to add in the links and formatting as you’re researching and writing the post.
  • Windows Live Writer lets me add hyperlinks directly to the document, as I work, and it also gives the option to add the no follow tag.

2. Windows Live Writer is smart enough to be able to figure out the formatting on your blog so you can draft your post and what you see is what you get (WYSIWYG).

When I set up the connection between Windows Live Writer and my WordPress blog, it asked me if I want to temporarily publish a post in order for it to pick up my blog [HTML] styles. I’m glad I did.

I’m writing this blog post right now, and everything I dictate into Windows Live Writer looks exactly the way it will when I publish the post.

  • Think about it: when you draft of the post on your WordPress blog, the WordPress post editor shows you some formatting, but it doesn’t look exactly like how things will look when you publish the post.
  • As well, you need to preview your work in order to see how things will look to the public. Using Windows Live Writer, it’s figured out how wide my posts are, so I get an immediate sense of how long my paragraphs are getting. That’s a very nice feature.

3. Windows Live Writer has document auto recovery

The problem with dictating your blog posts using DragonPad is that DragonPad doesn’t have document auto save or document auto recovery.

  • In other words, when DragonPad crashes, you lose everything (and I’ve lost several blog posts because of DragonPad crashes)
  • I got used to constantly hitting CTRL-S to save my work in DragonPad.

Windows Live Writer 2011 has document auto recovery. This means that if Windows Live Writer doesn’t shut down properly, I get a little message asking me to recover changes. (Older versions of Windows Live Writer had timed autosave, which meant that your work would get saved every X number of minutes, but it also meant that once your work was saved, you couldn’t revert back any mistakes (CTRL-Z.)

4. Windows Live Writer lets you write your blog posts, preview what it will look like live on your blog, as well as view the source code for your post.

At the bottom of Windows Live Writer, you have three tabs that let you choose how to view your post (before you publish it to the world or save a draft on your blog.)

  1. The (default) edit view is nice because it lets you see what you’re typing using the same formatting and page width as when you eventually publish your work. What you see is what you get.
  2. The preview view is great because it shows you what your blog post will look like in your blog’s theme. (This preview works off-line as well because you downloaded your theme in the initial set up. If you need to update the theme for your blog, read this FAQ.)
  3. Finally, the source preview is good because you can see exactly what HTML code is getting sent to your blog. I like this because back in the day, when you copy and pasted text from your Microsoft Word document to your WordPress blog, there used to be a bunch of style codes that came along for the ride. Now, you can see that’s pretty much simple plain basic HTML that’s getting posted on your site.

The only complaint I have about the three different views in Windows Live Writer is that when you switch between different views, it doesn’t remember what part of the page you’re looking at.

For example, if you’re working on a section halfway down your post, it would’ve been nice if Windows Live Writer would jump to the exact same section when you switch between the edit view, the preview view, and the source view.

Problems with using Dragon NaturallySpeaking with Windows Live Writer

1. You can’t undo things you said if you’re using Dragon NaturallySpeaking in Windows Live Writer.

Oh sure, you can use CTRL-Z to undo regular mistakes that you make when you’re typing with Windows Live Writer, but if you use Dragon NaturallySpeaking to dictate into the program, for whatever reason, CTRL-Z doesn’t undo any changes made by Dragon NaturallySpeaking.

You need to say the Dragon NaturallySpeaking command “scratch that” to undo the change in Dragon NaturallySpeaking.

2. Some of the Dragon NaturallySpeaking commands don’t work the way I would expect them to in Windows Live Writer.

The Dragon NaturallySpeaking command “bullet that” doesn’t seem to work in Windows Live Writer which makes me wonder about other commands.

  • Other Dragon NaturallySpeaking commands like bold that, underline that, italicize that, [bracket that] and “quote that” seem to work fine, however.

3. When you give the Dragon NaturallySpeaking command “new paragraph”, it seems to work by adding two lines breaks instead of an enter key.

  • In other words, when you’re making a bulleted list like this one, you need to physically hit the enter key to make a new bullet.
  • Saying “new paragraph” simply adds another paragraph under the same bullet.

When you look at the source code, Dragon NaturallySpeaking is adding to break codes <br> instead of a paragraph code <p>. Why does this matter?

  1. Well, in some cases, this can make a difference in the layout of your site depending on your CSS formatting: your styling for <br> may be different from <p>
  2. If you’re writing paragraphs in Microsoft Word, Dragon NaturallySpeaking automatically enters a blank line between your paragraphs. (You may not want that extra space.)
  3. From a blogger’s perspective, if you’re writing a longer essay with many paragraphs and you’re using the “new paragraph” command, then Windows Live Writer considers this all one paragraph (broken up into chunks using line breaks.)This means when you click on a paragraph to become a bullet, the entire essay becomes one bullet (because Windows Live Writer sees the entire essay as one paragraph.) Annoying.

4. Dragon NaturallySpeaking might misunderstand you and accidentally publish your work before you’re ready

Dragon NaturallySpeaking accidentally published my work because I said the word, “publish”

  • In an earlier draft, I wrote about how Windows Live Writer asked me if I wanted to temporarily create a post.
  • I wanted to change the word “create” to “publish”, so I highlighted the word “create” and said the word, “publish”.
  • Dragon NaturallySpeaking thought I was giving a command because I said the word by itself. The computer thought I wanted to publish my draft, so it did.
  • As long as you say the word “publish” in a complete sentence (and you don’t pause to say it,) Dragon NaturallySpeaking will write down the word publish.
  • You could also put Dragon NaturallySpeaking into dictation mode (on the Dragon bar, click on modes, and then dictation mode… or just hold down the SHIFT key…) Then, Dragon NaturallySpeaking will write the word publish, even if you say it by itself. Like this: publish.
  • The problem with dictation mode is that other commands don’t work as well. Things like, bold that, correct that, scratch that don’t work.

5. Windows Live Writer doesn’t truly sync with your blog.

You can get two options to open files in Windows Live Writer:

  • Open local drafts will open any posts that you’ve saved onto your computer.
  • Open recent posts will open any posts that you’ve uploaded (saved) on your blog as a draft. It will retrieve the post from the blog to see if there are any changes that you made online (that aren’t reflected in your copy in Windows Live Writer.)

Here are the two problems with this set up.

Problem #1: You can’t edit any posts that didn’t start in Windows Live Writer. (If you write a post by logging into your blog, it won’t show up in Windows Live Writer as a recent post.)

Problem #2: Windows Live Writer only downloads any changes in the post from your blog when you click on Open Recent Posts. Here’s how you might accidentally overwrite changes you make on your site:

  1. You write a blog post on your computer using Dragon NaturallySpeaking in Windows Live Writer.
  2. As you work, you post draft to your blog to save your draft online.
  3. When you finish, you hit the publish button, or you tell Dragon NaturallySpeaking to “publish”, and all of a sudden, your post is live to the world. (The nice part about this is you’ve already set up access to your blog so when you hit the publish button, you don’t need to sign in again. Very magical.)
  4. Now let’s say, you make a few minor changes by logging into your WordPress blog online.
    • Windows Live Writer has no idea that you’ve made those changes to your blog post. It doesn’t sync with your WordPress blog unless you click on open recent posts.
    • If you hit the publish button again from Windows Live Writer, your old copy of your blog posts will automatically overwrite any new changes you’ve made online.

6. There can be a glitch if your blog post has a table and you’re using Dragon NaturallySpeaking

I can’t track it down, but every now and then Dragon NaturallySpeaking doesn’t work correctly when you’re writing a blog post with certain types of formatting.

Things definitely go wonky when you have a table inserted into your blog post, but I’m pretty sure other types of HTML formatting messed things up as well.

For example, right now, I’m writing this post using Dragon NaturallySpeaking in Windows Live Writer. Everything was working great, until I inserted a table.

  • Then, all of a sudden, when I spoke to my computer, Dragon NaturallySpeaking would insert my words but delete a character or two, just before or after it.
  • If I say, scratch that, Dragon NaturallySpeaking would delete a few words from my blog post.
  • Restarting Dragon NaturallySpeaking or rebooting the computer didn’t seem to fix this problem. The only thing that worked was temporarily deleting the table.
  • This unpredictable, glitchy behavior was the main reason why I didn’t want to blog using Dragon NaturallySpeaking directly into my WordPress site on Internet Explorer or Google Chrome. (Dragon NaturallySpeaking inserts text in the wrong spot in Internet Explorer.) That’s why I used to use DragonPad to write my draft before copying and pasting it into WordPress. I thought it was a web browser thing, but it looks like the problem also happens in Windows Live Writer. I wonder if it happens in Microsoft Word?

This post on Windows Live Writer and Dragon NaturallySpeaking is part of a longer essay (3-part series) on finding a better way to blog with Dragon NaturallySpeaking.


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