Those that took a look at my “About Me” page know that I worked on Office products for a long time before moving over the Windows Live division. I saw the days when we would take the Office applications and place them together to truly make sure we had the same menus and toolbars in alignment pixel by pixel. This lead next to shared code across the Office suite with Office ‘95 and the introduction of “command bars”. Later on Office finally received “The Ribbon” with Office 2007. Personally I was really happy to see the ribbon add to Office. Having working on areas of Excel like charting and pivot tables there were just too many features that were buried or hidden that the power that was in the product was just on being discovered by users. Of all of the Windows Live applications in my mind the application that can most benefit from the ribbon is Windows Live Writer. Many features are buried and as an example a few months back many of the tweets about Live Writer were that it had watermarks for images. This feature has been in Writer for many years now but was buried under the Advanced tab for images. Why would you think that you needed to into Advance to add a watermark to an image? With the ribbon it is right there for you to use as a top level action on the Picture Tools Tab.
For this post I want to start by talking about the Home tab of the ribbon for Live Writer. But first I should make a few comments about the ribbon itself. The whole Live Essentials suite is sharing the same ribbon code. In fact this code is the same code you see in the applications in Windows 7 that have the ribbon like Paint, WordPad, the Calculator, etc. This is not the same ribbon code that you find in Office applications. As such one of the things you will find in Wave 4 applications is that the ribbon is not extensible for plug-in developers. In Wave 4 the sidebar remains for developers to use and if you were doing things to customize the menus there is a place where your customizations will live but unfortunately you will not be able add your own buttons to say the Home Tab.
The picture above shows the Home tab as it appears in the Beta build. As you can see the Home tab looks a lot like what you would see in Microsoft Word and really the whole Office suite. On the left hand side you have the standard Clipboard buttons for Cut, Copy, and Paste. The Paste button will drop down to allow you to do Paste Special.
Next are the common Writer buttons for publishing. There is a big button to Publish your blog post. There is also a button to add a blog account which takes you through the same configuration wizard that we had in the previous version of Writer. The last button in this group which is the top on the right is a drop down button that lists all of your blogs you have configured along with an option to manage your blog accounts. If the blog server is using a Writer manifest file on the server where they have included an icon for the blog you will see it next to the blog name. In the list below you can see icons for my Spaces blog and WordPress blogs with icons.
The next part of the ribbon is the Font controls. You can select the Font family and size. The button next to those is the clear formatting button which will clear any and all font formatting that had been applied. Below that is bold, italic, underline, and
strikethrough which were available on the toolbar in Wave 3. New to Wave 4 are subscript and superscript buttons. Also new is text highlight color and like Wave 3 there is font color. Since the font color button is a drop down now it is faster as a user than Wave 3 to pick a color.
The next set is the Paragraph controls. This is the same as in Wave 3. You can select from bullet or numbered lists. There is a button for block quotes. There is also the paragraph alignment controls for left, center, right, and justified. Not show in the picture above but part of the product is paragraph direction controls so that if you have your blog set to write to a right to left language like Hebrew or Arabic you can set the input direction at the paragraph level.
With the ribbon one new thing we could do was to show you the HTML styles as they were defined in your blog theme assuming you had selected to detect it. In the picture of the home tab it is for a fairly generic them. In the pictures below you will see a couple of other themes where fonts are different and there might be colored fonts or backgrounds. I should note that we added in keyboard support that matches Word’s keystrokes for switching styles which is something that did not exist in Wave 3. I should also note that the picture below show the gallery expanded.
The next ribbon set is the common things you will insert into a blog. We have a whole Insert tab in the ribbon for all of the things you might want to insert but we put Hyperlink, Picture, and Video on the Home tab. As you can see from the picture below for the Home tab the picture button we give you the ability to add pictures or photo albums. Also we added back the ability to insert pictures from the web on Windows 7, something that we lost between Wave 2 and Wave 3.
The last section of the ribbon for the Home tab is the Editing section. Here you have spelling, word count, find (sorry no replace), and select all. Word count is another example of a feature that was buried in the old UI but now is really accessible with the ribbon.
In my next blog post I will talk about the other main ribbon tabs; Insert and Blog Account along with the new and existing keyboard shortcuts. In later posts I will talk about what is on the application menu and the new Post Properties UI but I wanted to also talk about other parts of the ribbon itself for those that had never used it in a program.
The first is the Quick Access Toolbar (QAT). By default this is above the ribbon tabs and where you can find a Save and Undo/Redo buttons. From the picture below there are other options built in to what you can add there.
What you might not know is that you can also add any button from any part of the ribbon to the QAT by just right clicking on it.
From either location you can also minimize the ribbon if you want the space for editing your blog post. Click on any ribbon tab will drop the ribbon down and you can select the button you want. You can also minimize the ribbon by double clicking on a ribbon tab. You can also move the QAT below the ribbon and above the Post Properties area if you want it closer to the ribbon.
Lastly the ribbon itself is fully keyboard accessible so you do not need to use the mouse at all. If you hold down the Alt key you will see shortcuts appear on the ribbon as you enter the associated character(s) you can navigate to the button you want to use.
As I wrote above this is the first of a few posts on the beta for Live Writer Wave 4. Please leave me comments so I know people are reading these posts. Writing is not more forte so I do not know if I am writing too little or too much. I hope you will enjoy the beta which will be out “soon”.
PS. This post was written with the Wave 4 beta build of Live Writer.
Update: I forgot to mention that you can also minimize the Ribbon with via the keyboard with Ctrl+F1.