Not so long ago, there were about four ways to get useful applications for a computer – buy a book and key in a program (usually in BASIC) from it, write something yourself, buy commercial software or engage in piracy and steal what you need.
We’re a long way from those days. Books and magazines listing out computer programs are long gone and most computer owners aren’t hobbyists who have an interest in learning to program. Fortunately, another thing has changed – there’s a lot of great things out there for free.
So I figure on spending some time mentioning my favorite free applications out there. The programs I’ll mention are always top notch and quite often compete favorably against commercial applications.
The first one I’ll mention is Windows Live Writer. That little application is surprising for at least three reasons – it was developed by Microsoft and it actually works, it was developed by Microsoft and it’s free and, finally, it was made by Microsoft and it doesn’t feel like a pale copy of a better piece of software.
What is Live Writer? A content management system that makes the ones bundled in with most blogging software look downright pitiful. Windows Live Writer is, in essence, a front end that works well with Blogger, Wordpress and most blog services.
Live Writer makes it a snap to link to sites, post photos, slap nifty effects on those photos, put videos on your blog and a whole lot more. It’s easy to set up, integrates easily with your favorite blogging service and acts more like a decent word processor than those often feature-depraved content management systems that are built into the likes of Blogger.
One of the best things about Live Writer is that content is saved locally – that means making changes is a heck of a lot easier than using a blog service to wander through a few screens, edit or update posts, etc. Creating new categories is a breeze, too.
Ah, and then there are the plug-ins. Yes, you’ll find things that will let you easily share your posts on Twitter, put Digg buttons with copy and such.
If you’re blogging and using Windows Live Writer, you should give it a try. It’s simple to use, flexible and there are a wealth of plug-ins out there so you can customize it to your particular needs. This free application is so great that I’m still surprised that Microsoft made it.