Shortly after I moved my first blog from Blogger over to self-hosted WordPress, I discovered a great tool that made it so much easier to write and edit blog posts. In fact, I’m using it now, to write this one. It was called Windows Live Writer (WLW) and I’ve used it almost exclusively to write all of my blog posts for several years now. I has a much easier interface to use than WordPress (although the WordPress one has been greatly improved over time as well), and I love that I can write and save my drafts offline – it simply connects and posts them online when you hit ‘Publish’. And one of my biggest reasons that I love WLW is the ability to add plug-ins to customize the experience – I have one that lets me set up templates for commonly-used blurbs of text (like contest rules) and another that automatically brings my Flickr feed in so I can pull photos directly from there and insert them right inside my posts where I want them.
Windows Live Writer is now part of the package of tools available through Windows Live Essentials – that also includes programs like Windows Live Photo Gallery (WLPG) and Windows Live Movie Maker. Last year I tried out Windows Live Photo Gallery to see what it was like, and I haven’t gone back to my previous photo editing and organizing program since. WLPG is so easy to use and lets you tag faces (it even recognizes them most of the time), add descriptions and other tags and even upload photos directly to your favorite photo sharing sites like Flickr or Facebook right from the program itself. I used to have to use one program to name, organize and edit my photos and another to upload them to Flickr. Now I can do it all in the same program – which is a huge time saver.
I’ve only used Windows Live Movie Maker a few times, and am having some technical glitches, but I love the interface and it offers so much more than the simple Windows Movie Maker that came with my laptop. I’m looking forward to when we have the glitches worked though and I can get my videos exactly the way that I want them!
Last week, the Traveling Mom blogger network had the opportunity to attend a live web-based tutorial about Windows Live Photo Gallery and Windows Live Movie Maker, and I was completely surprised to learn that there were even more features in both of these programs that I didn’t know about yet. The one that I’m the most excited about is the ability in WLPG to ‘fuse’ your photos together to choose the best poses for everyone in your picture and create the ‘perfect’ photo, that let’s face it – kids don’t always cooperate for.
Here’s an example of where I used this feature just yesterday… I was putting together my Wordless Wednesday post over at Mom of 3 Girls, and I couldn’t find a picture of my girls that I liked, where all 3 of them had posed well. I had taken a few different shots but there was something just a little wrong with each of them. There were these two, where my older girls had posed nicely – but my youngest hadn’t:
And then there was this one, where my youngest had actually cooperated, but her oldest sister had turned away from the sun shining in her eyes:
Now, normally I would simply decide which photo was the best overall, and just go with it – knowing that nobody ever expects kids to pose perfectly anyway. And they’re right. I do love seeing the girls’ personalities in these photos and would never delete them. But still, there are times when I like having a picture where they’re nicely posed overall – to send to grandparents, print out for scrapbooks, or post on Facebook. And so I tried the Photo Fuse option in Windows Live Photo Gallery. It was so easy – I just chose the photos that I wanted to fuse, and then it let me choose which face I liked better for each of the girls, from each of the photos. You can make the ‘fused’ area larger or smaller if you need to, so that your end result looks as natural as possible. And it really does a good job matching everything very well. Here’s the final, fused photo (and you can see it in my WW post as well):
I can’t even tell that the photo wasn’t originally taken like this – there’s maybe one little spot up in my oldest daughter’s hair bow that looks different, if you really compare it with the originals, but I’d never notice if I weren’t comparing closely. I am blown away by having this feature readily available for me to use – and in a program that’s a free download as well!
If you have a PC and haven’t tried out the Windows Live Essentials suite of programs, I highly recommend them. There are more than just the ones mentioned here but these are the ones that I’m familiar with and use myself. And no, I’m not being sponsored or compensated in any way (other than the free tutorial which I had gone through before deciding to write this post anyway). I just wanted to share how excited I am about these programs!
No payment or compensation was received for this post. All opinions given here are solely my own or those of my family.