What’s all this, then?

In response to a recent question in one of my favorite Windows Live Groups, I discussed some of the lesser-known blogging tools that are available in WL Spaces:

As you’re reading a blog post on someone’s WL Space, you may have noticed a string of links across the bottom of the post. While most of these are pretty obvious, you may wonder about the function of a permalink or trackback, or what exactly Blog It does for you?

Mysterious options

These mysterious options are part of every blog post

A permalink provides a direct link to your blog post (or entry, as it’s formally known), as opposed to the main page of your space. The permalink is not dependent on the title of your post or any of its content, so it doesn’t change if you modify and republish the post. Permalinks are handy when you expect a lot of people to link externally to a specific post instead of your main page, because your that page typically includes only your most recent posts.

Trackbacks can be used by other bloggers whose posts reference yours. When they use the trackback URL (at the bottom of your post) to create a reference (by clicking Add Trackbacks at the bottom of the editor), it notifies the trackback server, which updates your trackback counter and enables you to get a list of who’s linking to you. Trackback URLs cannot be used to create direct links to your content, however; they only work as tags within posts.

Oddly, the trackback feature seems to be missing from Windows Live Writer; as far as I can tell, it’s only available if you’re composing within the web-based editor. If I’m overlooking something (and that’s entirely possible, as it’s pretty late), please let me know.

Adding a trackback URL to your blog post

Adding a trackback URL to your blog post

Blog It simply creates a new post on your WL space that references the target post’s trackback URL. For instance, if you wanted to link to my new Win 7 Beta Review (shameless plug), you’d click Blog It, and (tada) you’d get a new post in your editor, complete with a “Talking about…” title and an automatic trackback to my post. It’s simply a way to get the ball rolling on a new blog post.

If you prefer to use WL Writer, then you can use the Blog This button on the IE toolbar, which magically launches the program and creates a new blog post with a conventional hyperlink to the target page. Again, the support for automatic trackbacks appears to be absent.

Blog This

Blog This

Needless to say, these are rather elegant blogging features of WL Spaces and Writer that are completely lost on average users. You can disable trackbacks in the the blog options, but I don’t think there’s anything you can do to remove the other options from appearing below your blog posts. But honestly, why would you? I’d encourage everyone to make better (yet appropriate) use of them to improve our community experience. Viva la Windows Live!

– Greg

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11 thoughts on “What’s all this, then?

  1. Thanks for all that info Greg, I always wondered what they were all for! One question I do have, I am using Internet Explorer 8 and I haven’t got a ‘Writer’ Blog it icon visible iin it anywhere! if I need to enable this then please tell me how to do so. You have to realise that the ‘ordinary blogger’ will never need most of the stuff Gregg, it only tends to be ‘professional bloggers’ who want all this ‘trackback’ pings, etc. I will try and find it in Writer though because I think you can do this, will get back to you.

  2. That’s correct. The permalink is the static URL assigned to each post on your blog. It’s equivalent to the URL that is displayed in the browser’s address bar when viewing individual blog entries. And you’re correct: it’s only displayed on pages where multiple posts are displayed, such as the blog module on the Spaces main page.

  3. I use Writer for blogging and it’s good to have that BLogIt button in the toolbar (@ Technogran: the button should be the very last one, right on the end of your toolbar. The sign of the pen with the orange squiggle. It’s there by default, or should be. Click it to enable "Writer".)Thank you, Greg for explaining the Permalink thing along with all the others. I use Blog it and get a clickable title within my blog which people can click on to go to the relevant page I might be talking about. I find that the easiest way for me to Synch things, quite honestly.You’re writing some really good stuff lately, Greg. The style is very easy to follow as well. Thanks again.

  4. @ TG – If you’ve installed WL Writer, then I’m pretty sure you already have the button. I didn’t see any option to customize it when I installed the program; it was just automatically added to IE8. There are a couple of things I might recommend that you check in IE8. First, the Blog This icon may be hidden on your command bar. Right-click the command bar, and click Customize > Add or Remove Commands. Look for Blog This in the Available Toolbar Commands list, and add it to the Current Toolbar Buttons list. If it’s already there, then you may just need to move it up on the list to see it, especially if your command bar is too narrow to show all of the buttons you’ve placed on it. You can also unlock the toolbars in IE8. Again, right-click the command bar, and uncheck Lock the Toolbars. Then drag the edge of the command bar to give it more space and show more icons. Hope that helps! Let me know if you have any more questions.

  5. It isn’t there! Honestly I can’t believe it! It isn’t in the list either. Do remember though that this version of IE8 that ships with the beta of Windows 7 is NOT the same version of IE8 availale elsewhere. But come to think of it, I am sure that i have never seen that button up there! this is most strange. Anyway thanks for your help in this matter.

  6. @Technogran: Click these in sequence – Tools (Dropdown menu on the bar), Toolbars, Customise. A pop-up window should appear with button choices within. If "Writer" button is there, ‘add’ it to your toolbar. If that fails, look for new buttons in Gallery is possibly your next best bet.

  7. I just noticed that the Blog It feature (which I’ll admit that I seldom use, since I mainly compose using WL Writer), automatically includes the trackback link for you. So, in one fluid step, you can add a new blog post based on an interesting post you read, and link your post to it to generate traffic. Genius!

  8. Oh, is that right? I only ever noticed that you get the "talking about" prompt in the title line. If I ever come across anything in the news and "blog it", which I haven’t used for ages, I’ll look this feature up. Is it a recent change, Greg?

  9. @TG: The button should be installed automatically if Writer was installed. You may not be seeing it, however, if the toolbar is too small. You can reorder and resize the toolbar to make it visible by right clicking the toolbar>Customize>Add or Remove Commands… If there is a right pointing chevron at the end of the toolbar then there are "hidden" commands that you can access by clicking that chevron. Using the Add or Remove command you could either add the missing button (as Jen suggested below) or simply move it higher in the list so it appears with the other visible commands. Or, you can unlock the toolbar and simply make it bigger to expose the button. Note that there are three modes to display these button – two with text and one as an icon only. HTH!

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