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Microsoft blogging software available in beta

Windows Live Writer designed for easy use, compatibility with other blogging services. Images: Microsoft lends bloggers a hand

Microsoft has released a beta version of Windows Live Writer, a new blogging software designed for users with no HTML skills. Windows Live Writer

Most blog-authoring services--including Blogger, LiveJournal and WordPress--assume a bit of HTML knowledge on the part of users. But now that it seems as if everyone has a blog or two, the market has opened up for software aimed at less tech-savvy Web users. That's the niche that Microsoft's Windows Live service hopes to fill with Windows Live Writer, now available for a free beta download to Windows users who have installed XP's Service Pack 2.

The new software, which claims to be easy to use, features a WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) interface as an alternative to the tag-laden HTML coding found in most Web-based blogging clients. Live Writer also is designed to facilitate the addition of pictures, maps from sister service Windows Live Local, and a variety of video and audio players.

Easy-to-use blogging software is nothing new. Earlier this year, Apple Computer introduced its iWeb software, which lets users use templates and drag-and-drop functions to make Web pages and blogs, as part of its iLife '06 suite. But iWeb is specifically tailored to Apple's own hosting service, and consequently doesn't mesh with other providers. Windows Live Writer, on the other hand, boasts compatibility with not only Microsoft's own Spaces network but also other major blogging services such as Blogger and TypePad.

Because it is still in the early phase of a beta release, it's not clear what, if any, glitches may pop up--either in the software itself or in its compatibility with other self-publishers. Spaces itself has already encountered problems. But if Windows Live Writer is as easy as Microsoft says it will be, blogging could become a whole lot simpler for the HTML-phobic crowd.