One of the things every blogger is aware is the existence of off-line post editors. One of them, Windows Live Writer by Microsoft, is an extremely professional solution – available at no cost. What most Joomla! site owners are not aware of, though, is that this tool can be used to effectively edit new content of their web site.

Introduction

I am not a Microsoft fan boy, as you may have observed reading my posts. However, Windows Live Writer is one of the two reasons I even decided to buy my EeePC with Windows XP instead of Linux – the other being that Skype for Windows is far better and more complete than the Linux version. I mean, this tool makes publishing content on the web a no-brainer. If you’ve ever used any office application, be it Word or OpenOffice Writer, you really already know what to do to write great-looking content. I happen to like easy and elegant solutions. And this is our topic today: implementing an easy and elegant content publishing system for Joomla!, one that allows you to edit content even when off-line.

First things first, let’s take a look at how this works. The Windows Live Writer software on your PC communicates with your site through XML-RPC, using one of the supported protocols. Quite obviously, your site must support XML-RPC communications and “talk” one such protocol.

The good news is that Joomla! includes an XML-RPC server out-of-the-box. The bad news is that the single protocol implementation it uses – the Blogger protocol – is buggy and it’s recommended to turn it off. Even more, it doesn’t support some basic stuff, such as posting images. Thankfully, the good people at Joomler!.net have written an excellent implementation of the Movable Type protocol, made it into a plug-in and distribute free of charge.

Setting up your site

The first step is to download the plug-in on your PC. Next up, log in to your site’s back-end and click on the Global Configuration button. Click on the System tab and change the “Enable Web Services” options to “Yes”. Then save your changes. Take a look at what I’m talking about (click on the images of this article to enlarge them):

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The next step is to enable the plug-in, as it is installed de-activated by default. First go to Extensions, Plug-In Manager from the top menu of the administrator page…

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… filter by type,selecting “xmlrpc”…

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… and click on the “XML-RPC – Movable Type API” item. The edit page for this plug-in appears. Make sure that the “Enabled” option on the left column is set to “Yes”. From the right column, you can configure the behaviour of the plug-in in order to suit your site. Some especially useful options are:

  • Single category mode. Set to “No” in order to be able to select any category from within Writer. This is highly recommended!
  • Storage path. This is where images from your articles will be saved. The default path, “images/stories/”, is a sane default.
  • File type. If you’ll be uploading funky formats, you may want to add them there, separated by commas.
  • User level. Here’s the real convenience of this solution! You can choose the minimum user level which is allowed to post and edit articles on your site. Web developers out there, you can set it to “Publisher or higher”, create a Publisher account for your client and let them add site content easily without worrying that they mess something up if you give them access to the back-end with a Manager or Administrator account. That’s what I call ultra useful.

Here’s a sample of a possible configuration:

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After you’re done, save your changes and let’s configure our desktop client software, the Windows Live Writer.

Configuring Windows Live Writer for use with your site

Back to your desktop PC. If you haven’t done so yet, install Windows Live Writer, using the Windows Live Installer, available on-line from http://get.live.com. I will now demonstrate how to connect to your site. My WLW interface is in Greek, but I’ll translate for you. Please, bear with me.

Firing up WLW, it asks you to create a blog account. Even if your site is not a blog, this is the procedure to use. Remember, for all WLW cares, any site with a compatible XML-RPC protocol is a “blog”…

WLW will ask you which blogging service you’d like to use. Select the last option, “Other blogging service”

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In the next dialog, enter the URL of your site, e.g. http://www.example.com and your username and password for the Joomla! user who has adequate privileges to access the site through XML-RPC (see the last paragraphs of the previous section for more information).

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Since WLW is unable to automatically identify the XML-RPC services URL of Joomla!, it will pop a dialog like the one depicted below. You have to make the following choices:

  • Choose “Movable Type” as the blog type
  • For the URL, enter http://www.example.com/xmlrpc/index.php, substituting www.example.com with the URL to your own site.

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If all goes well, WLW will start figuring out things about your site and probably ask you if you want it to try to download your blog’s theme. Just click on Yes and let it work for a few moments…

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And, yes, it’s done! Just enter a descriptive name for your site in the text box – when you’ll be managing a dozen sites it’ll be good to make it easy which site is which – and you’re done.

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Just take your time and play with Windows Live Writer. I’m sure you’ll love it!

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