How to make WordPress’ new Tags work with Windows Live Writer

Windows Live Writer Beta 3 works really well with WordPress and multi-level categories

Windows Live Writer Beta 3 was recently announced and it works really well. That is to say, it “does what it says in the tin”. Writing well-formed blog posts is really simple, it even downloads styles directly from my WordPress blog and allows to me to do proper previews to see exactly what I will get before I publish a post, even when working offline.

There’s even more rich functionality and interoperability with third-party platforms than you might expect from a Microsoft product. For example, WordPress.com supports hierarchical categories. I find this especially useful as I show my categories as a drop-down list rather than take up loads of the sidebar with lots of choices. Windows Live Writer (WLW) provides me the ability to categorise posts, and to add new categories if I need them, including specifying a parent category so they fit into the multi-level hierarchy. Oh, and it does all this offline as well. This is great, and it’s the sort of attention to detail which I appreciate being in a product I use several times a week.

And now the Bad News: WLW does not support the new WordPress Tags by default

WordPress.com have announced a change to the way they use categories and tags. Windows Live Writer Beta 3 was released before this change and does not know what to do with them, so it does not create any, and removes any that already exist if you edit a previous post. However, there is a way to fix this with a registry change, but I found it caused some instability.

What is the point of Tags?

Basically lots of people would create categories to use just once, in the way that they might use tags or keywords on other platforms in order to provide good search engine terms and attract traffic. However, this has a couple of problems. Firstly because categories are universal throughout WordPress (if I happen to create a category with a name matching one that someone else used it shows a really low Category ID number, a uniquely named one would get a new, high number).

It also makes a real mess of people’s category lists as they end up really long and to some extent pointless – as a blog reader, I expect the idea of a category to mean a container which will have more than one post in. “Hey, they have a whole category of posts for Live Writer! Oh, just the one post” is always a disappointment. The category list can also give me an idea of the overall angle of the site – is this a web copywriter writing about a useful tool for editing blogs, or a developer who happens to use this tool and maybe writes extensions for it?

So, the new definitions on WordPress.com now line up with most other blogs – categories are permanent things you create to organise your posts into groups, tags are just transient things you use to describe what is in a particular post in such a way that people can search for them more easily, and over time they may form a sort of grouping by serendipity as you use the same tags over and over when writing about similar subjects.

Tag cloud widget for finding posts by tags

There is even a new widget to show a “Tag cloud” in the sidebar of some themes, as you will have seen on many other platforms before. This shows frequent tags in a larger, bolder format to indicate their repetition (on that particular blog) so one-offs appear much smaller and less obtrusively. There is also a limit of 45 tags shown at once, according to a thread in the support forums, which prevents it from getting too huge. I assume this means only the 45 most frequent tags will appear, not the first 45 used. When you hover over a tag name it shows in a tooltip how many posts are associated with that tag, which is useful.

Tag cloud issues

This “Tag cloud” widget does not work properly yet. Firstly, it seems to take an absolute age for it to update after publishing posts with new tags. I’ve been waiting over an hour now for a bunch of words to show up and they have not yet done so. This might be because of some system issues as loads of regular bloggers are probably updating loads of previous posts (as I am), but it remains to be seen whether this improves with time.

Secondly, the widget simply does not link properly to the related posts. The FAQ about the difference between tags and categories says this:

A post into the category ‘food’ and with the tag ‘rice’ will look like this:
http://faq.wordpress.com/category/food/
http://faq.wordpress.com/tag/rice/

Hovering over a link in the Tag cloud shows the URL correctly formed to use the tags such as https://ukcrmguru.wordpress.com/tag/windows-live-writer/. However, when clicked this redirects to https://ukcrmguru.wordpress.com/category/windows-live-writer/ which in this case does not exist.

What about Windows Live Writer and WordPress Tags?

Problem 1: There is nowhere in the GUI of WLW Beta 3 to add tags in.

Categories still work as expected, but there’s no way to actually add a tag in WLW as installed. Hopefully they will add this functionality by default to the live release. This is supposed to be the last Beta before the final code, unless this WordPress issue changes things and they decide a Beta 4 is needed to push this out.

Problem 2: WARNING! If you use WLW to edit an existing post which has tags, they are dropped when you re-publish

Let’s walk through this:

You write a new post in Windows Live Writer (or the web editing tool).
You then use the web interface to edit the post and add some tags.
You later edit it in WLW (which will download the post from your blog if you have edited it in the web interface since last touching it in WLW).
You make a change and republish.

Oops! Because you have no means to add tags, it now has none. It does not keep this metadata somewhere, untouched by your edit. It does not try to do a clever merge, it just replaces the post and all its metadata, categories etc wholesale. (Except it keeps the original posting date/time stamp). If you don’t make a change to WLW (see below) and you are adding tags in the web interface, expect to see thm disappear when you edit with WLW.

How to add a tags field to WLW to solve these problems

Actually, you can add a field for putting in tags (or keywords, as WLW calls them).

<edit:
Joe Cheng has published a tool to do this to save you from editing the registry directly. You can read about it and download from here.
Also, Joseph Scott has updated the manifest at WordPress.com to make it automatic so if you start WLW, close it again and restart you should get the new settings and the keyword field will be available to you without doing anything else.
Thanks to both guys for their contributions via the comments. The rest of the post remains for anyone that still wants to see it, although you should not need it given both options above. /edit>

You need to make a change to the registry, so make sure to close WLW, check that you have backups, permission from your parents, and you are not too drunk to do this safely. Don’t edit the registry if you are not sure what you are doing. This information is provided “as is”, I can’t help you if you break things by following this advice.

If you have a version before Beta 3, Windows Live Writer was a separate application, and the reg key you need will be here:

HKCU\Software\Windows Live Writer\Weblogs\{blog-id}\UserOptionOverrides

Beta 3 became part of the Windows Live Suite, so the path changes to:

HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Windows Live\Writer\Weblogs\{blog-id}\UserOptionOverrides

If you use WLW for editing multiple blogs, then go to each {blog-id} in turn and check the BlogName value for the one you want. Now you have the right one, under UserOptionOverrides you need to add a String “supportsKeywords” with a value of “yes”. Restart WLW.

To the right of the publish date at the bottom right hand corner is a double up-arrow. Click it and a box expands which gives you access to all the metadata for your post, and now the keywords tag is available for you to put a comma-separated list of tags into before you publish. This does solve the problems above, but I have found it makes WLW unstable in certain ways, such as trying to edit a draft which did not have tags associated with it, and even downloading a published post to make changes has been causing me some crashes in an otherwise very stable product. More testing required for me to pin down what combination causes a problem.

<edit2: I can now only reproduce the instability on one particular post (this one, as it happens), all others seem fine. /edit>

About ukcrmguru
I'm an MVP for Dynamics CRM, consultant, Microsoft Certified Trainer and self-confessed geek. I also lead the UK CRM User group when I'm not too busy with all that.

17 Responses to How to make WordPress’ new Tags work with Windows Live Writer

  1. Joe Cheng says:

    Can you e-mail me with your log file? (You can find a link to your log file in Help | About.)

    I’d like to see what errors are being caused–it seems to work fine for me.

  2. Kaol says:

    Hey Vero, I did what u said in this post to WLM beta 3 and WordPress 2.3 RC1. But when I publish my post in WLW it warn “The response to the metaWeblog.newPost method received from the weblog server was invalid:
    “. How can I fix it?

  3. Adam Vero says:

    @Joe – will do. Some things are fine, others (including this article, ironically) fail if I re-open the last draft and WLW closes. When I get it re-dowload the article instead it hung, kept one processor (of a Core duo) tied up and the memory kept climbing from 50 MB. I killed it at 85MB. I’ll send the log through.

    @Kaol – sounds like you are using a self-hosted WordPress.org installation. This article is about WordPress.com (which I do mention but I’ll edit for more clarity). Sounds like you need support from the forums for WordPress.org

  4. Joseph Scott says:

    I’ve update the WLW manifest file on WordPress.com. You should be able to see the keywords field after restarting WLW and starting a new post.

    For WordPress.org 2.3 users you can use the zip file attached to this ticket:

    http://trac.wordpress.org/ticket/5023

    It includes a WLW manifest file (and some images) that enables the keyword support. Unfortunately I didn’t notice this in time to get it included with 2.3, but I expect it will be committed not long after 2.3 is released.

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  6. Joe Cheng says:

    Adam, I wrote a tool to do the registry modification–do you mind pointing to the tool rather than (or in addition to) giving instructions to make the change manually? A lot of users don’t make the change correctly.

    http://jcheng.wordpress.com/2007/09/24/enable-keywords-wlw/

    Thanks.

  7. Joe Cheng says:

    Thanks Joseph–even better!

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  11. sameh says:

    i have the same problem here

  12. Adam Vero says:

    Sameh – what exactly do you mean about having the same problem? What problem exactly? This post describes several ways to use the new functionality, so I am a bit confused.

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