Monday, 13 January 2014

Using Microsoft Word with Blogger



The general consensus on this is ‘don’t do it’. However, it can easily be made to work, and it allows a much richer and better styled content to be posted.



In a slight break from my usual genealogy posts, I want to pass on some of my experiences with blogger.com in case they help someone else. Depending on the feedback from this one, I have further experiences that I may post.

The word blog was formerly weblog (i.e. a contraction of ‘Web log’) and was coined by Jorn Barger in December 1997[1]. The original content of a blog was commentary on Web links, or personal thoughts and essays. Contrary to recent reports[2], the blog is not dead; it has merely diversified. To understand how it has diversified, we need to look at the essential structure of a blog.

A blog is basically a serialised publication. Posts are made if-and-when the author(s) deem appropriate. The blog URL address will take you to the latest post, although any previous post can be revisited by using its specific URL address. Readers can subscribe in order to get a notification when a new post appears, and they can usually comment on posts to participate in some interaction with the author or other readers.

This basic structure has allowed the blog to be applied far beyond any concept of an online personal diary. Although many blogs are still concerned with news items in the author’s field of interest, the concept of an interactive serialised publication has found new uses such as advertising, special interest micro-publications (e.g. cooking recipes, or car restoration stages), blog fiction (i.e. serialised publication of narrative chapters), and technical presentations (for education, or for research and discussion).

The relevance of this bit of blog history and analysis is that some uses require more care and attention to their preparation than others. If your post is more than a few paragraphs, and you want to use a specific layout, or include endnotes or source lists, then the formatting tools provided by most blogs are too primitive. The longer you anticipate the relevance of your post to be, then the more effort you will want to invest on it. Yes, you can usually switch to editing raw HTML — as Blogger allows — but that’s outside of the skill-set of most authors. Also, why bother if you have access to a word-processor such as Microsoft Word.

So what is the issue with Microsoft Word? At first glance, it appears trivially easy to copy-and-paste from your Word document into the Blogger Compose window, and that was the route I used with my first few posts. Unfortunately, when I added support to notify subscribers via email, using a tool called feedburner, then it failed and no one was notified. Microsoft Word generates a lot of tags that are specific to Microsoft Office and this has two consequences: those Office-specific tags failed ‘validation’ by feedburner because it didn’t understand them, and the sheer volume of these tags (many of which are quite superfluous) regularly breaks a size limit within feedburner.

The consensus on Blogger forums is simply to “flatten” the post by removing all Word formatting (e.g. by pasting it into a simple text editor and copying it back), and then resurrect the formatting, as best you can, using Blogger’s own features. If you’ve used Word deliberately in order to craft a good presentation then this sort of help can be both frustrating and annoying. The suggestion may even be impossible because, as I’ve already indicated, Blogger’s features are more primitive as it’s not a professional formatting tool.

So what’s the answer? When your Word version is ready to be transferred, make sure you first save your definitive copy back to its native *.doc(x) file. Then, go back to the Save-As dialog and scroll down the ‘Save as type’ list to find the entry ‘Web Page, Filtered (*.htm, *.html)’. Save a temporary copy in this format, say on your desktop so that it doesn’t conflict with your master copy. Word will now be displaying an HTML version that has all the Office-specific tags filtered out, and you can safely copy-and-paste from what you see on your screen to the Blogger Compose window. When you’re done, you can delete the temporary copy from your desktop.

This copy-and-paste does not transfer your images but that's only a small issue. Your blog post will contain empty frames where your pictures should be, but these can be removed and your original pictures uploaded to Blogger and inserted at the correct position. The fidelity is generally very good, although it’s always wise to look at a ‘Preview’ before publishing a new post.



[1] Rebecca Blood, "Weblogs: A History and Perspective", Rebecca's Pocket, 7 Sep 2000 (http://www.rebeccablood.net/essays/weblog_history.html : accessed 12 Jan 2014).
[2] Jason Kottke, "The blog is dead, long live the blog", Nieman Journalism Lab, 19 Dec 2013 (http://www.niemanlab.org/2013/12/the-blog-is-dead/ : accessed 12 Jan 2014).