Combining WordPress and Live Writer photo gallery features

WordPress recently announced updates to the way media is managed from the blog dashboard (Manage Slideshows and Galleries — All in One Place). This makes using slideshows and inserting galleries in blog posts and pages much easier.

galleryEXP-32For preparing posts and pages in a fast and easy WYSIWYG (what-you-see-is-what-you-get) manner, nothing beats using Windows Live Writer. Live Writer also offers neat gallery access via SkyDrive photo albums.

So can both be used together?

Yes, indeed – sort-of.

Unfortunately, Writer doesn’t know about WordPress slideshows or galleries and has some editing quirks. The WordPress editor doesn’t understand the intricacies of the Live Writer “Photo Album” and tries to “optimize” the code. So between the two of them it is a delicate operation to get them to play together.

You can see that WordPress slideshows and galleries can be combined with Live Writer photo albums on my Gallery EXP page at Silver Canvas.

True, in the kitchen you should never use all the spices at once, and this is probably true in building a photo gallery blog as well. But my page is an exception, of course, as I am testing the gallery features of both WordPress and Live Writer.

The pitfalls and problems

Live Writer will not find a page created in the WordPress dashboard (most of the time), so to use Live Writer with a page, the page should be started in Live Writer. Besides that, Live Writer makes a mess of the gallery code generated by the WordPress editor. Example: The WordPress code for a gallery might be:

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Live Writer will replace the quote marks and the “corrected” code will be like this:

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You can imagine that when WordPress again gets a hold of this, the gallery won’t look the same.

Now the WordPress editor also attempts to correct and optimize code. When it gets a hold of the large set that defines the images and links of a Live Writer “Photo Album” insertion sometimes strange, and not necessarily beautiful things happen.

Especially insertions with individual thumbnails and links, like the one here, get mangled pretty badly. They get progressively more damaged on repeated use of the WordPress editor.

The strategy for getting an acceptable page or post is this: Plan ahead, minimize the use of the WordPress editor, and don’t make revisions.

Strategy and procedure

To get a post or page that combines Live Writer “Photo albums” with WordPress galleries proceed as follows:

1)  Plan ahead – Sketch out your post or page, note what photo albums and galleries you wish to include. Organize the photos for the albums and galleries.

2) Upload your SkyDrive albums – Set up the SkyDrive photo albums that you wish to include in the root of your SkyDrive. Live Writer cannot find sub-folders.

image3)  Start in Live Writer – Start the page or post in Live Writer. Include all elements and text, and any simple insertions. Insert the SkyDrive photo albums and pick the album styles and other features.

Live Writer provides a nice selection of thumbnail layouts, “Album styles”.

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4)  Publish to blog – If you are working on a page go ahead and publish it. Since it is new it will not be included in a customized menu. If you are working on a post, select “Post draft to blog” so it will not be published immediately.

5) Edit in WordPress dashboard – Once the page or post has been uploaded the next step is to add the WordPress features – slideshows and galleries – that are not available in Live Writer.

The WordPress Media Library is one huge shoebox with all your images. The new features that make it much more user friendly really do not yet go far enough. imageSelecting the photos for a gallery or slide show is easy in principle, but messy in practice. Here is why:

When you click “Add Media” you are taken to a beautiful page like this:

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Pretty nice. Click a thumbnail to select it. Only problem is the identification of the thumbnails. You can’t tell which image you are dealing with until you click it. imageThe pane on the right gives the details. Since the Media Library will be filled with many thumbnails and full images, the selection process is a bit cumbersome and time-consuming.

The procedure to get a gallery onto the page requires Create Gallery > Update Gallery > Update (page). The options for the type of gallery, Default, Tiles, Square Tiles, Circles, Slideshow, is a bit temperamental, galleryEXP-27and the interaction between columns and type – it it exists at all – is not obvious.

Re-arranging the pictures within a gallery is a quick drag-and-drop.

Still, WordPress galleries are nice. The slideshow works but the window size is not adjustable. The neatest gallery arrangement is “Tiles”. There is no control over the arrangement, but it is always pleasant.

For all galleries (but not Slideshow), clicking leads to a black-framed large image. A good way to view the pictures.

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Updating the Mixed Gallery

Updating the mixed gallery can get tricky. If Live Writer is used the WordPress Galleries are messed up. If the WordPress editor is used the photo albums inserted by Live Writer may get spoiled.

Editing in WordPress editor

The WordPress galleries can be easily maintained and modified in the WordPress editor.

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Clicking the Edit Gallery link in the gallery placeholder opens the Edit Gallery page which allows re-arranging, deleting or adding to the gallery, as well as changing gallery parameters. “Add to Gallery” can be done from the Media Library or by uploading. Uploading would be the preferred method – it is also a drag-and-drop process and avoids the confusion posed by the Media Library.

The only downside is that Live Writer Photo Albums might get mangled.

Updating Live Writer Photo Albums

Maintenance on the Live Writer Photo Albums is a matter of updating the corresponding SkyDrive album. That is a snap, especially when using the SkyDrive Desktop App. Just manage the folder like any other folder on the PC and let the app do the updating. Even relocating the album will not affect the operation of the blog post or page – it will continue to work just fine.

If you don’t mind the occasional update headache, combining the features offered in Windows Live Writer and the WordPress online editor can lead to some gorgeous looking photo galleries.

.:.

© 2012 Ludwig Keck

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Using SkyDrive as your Photo Gallery

Windows Live SkyDrive offers a lot of storage for photos and documents. Recent improvements make organizing albums and folders much easier. SkyDrive is not designed to be a photo sharing service, but with some care you can present your gallery in a pleasant manner and make it fun to visit.

Here are some tips for making your gallery a nicer experience for your visitors.

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Organizing your Gallery

imageYou can have folders with sub-folders in SkyDrive, so one album page can lead to others. Recent changes now allow “root location” folders to be moved to any other folder or sub-folder. This makes organizing and re-organizing your gallery quite easy.

Right-click on a folder tile to get a drop-down menu with various options. One available choice is Move to. This allows you to move the folder to any other folder.

imageThe order of sub-folders in a folder is not under user control, however the photos inside an album can be rearranged.

imageIn the right pane, click Arrange photos to go to the “Arrange photos” page. If you have Silverlight installed, this is just a drag-and-drop procedure.

The alternate procedure is just a little more time-consuming. Each thumbnail is shown with a text box below showing a number that indicates the current order. Just replace that number with the new location order.

imageWhen a thumbnail in an album is clicked, it will be shown large. imageThe information pane on the right can be turned off with a click on the “Collapse” chevron.

The right pane also offers a “Play slide show” option. All this can make your album and entire gallery a nice experience for visitors.

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Uploading photos

There are two easy ways of uploading photos to your SkyDrive albums. You can open the “Add files” dialog from folder view. imageAgain there is a drag-and-drop option. Just drag photos from your computer to the “Add files” panel. imageThey will start uploading as soon as you release the mouse button.

Here too, there is a manual method that opens a standard “Open” dialog where you can navigate through your libraries and folders and select the photos to upload.

The second way of uploading is directly from Live Photo Gallery. There is a serious limitation in this method. You can upload photos only to albums in the root of your SkyDrive. You cannot upload to subfolders.

The procedure is simple. imageSelect the photos and click the SkyDrive icon in the Share group on the Home ribbon. Photo Gallery opens a dialog that connects to your SkyDrive. You have to sign in if you are not signed in to Photo Gallery.image

The upload dialog shows your albums so you can select the one to upload to. You may even see other albums that you are permitted to upload to.

You can also create a new album right in this dialog.

Another option is to specify the size of your photos. If they are larger than this specified size, the photos will be scaled down to this size. The default is 1600 pixels on the larger dimension. For most uses this is just fine. You can select “Original” in this dialog to upload photos in their full size. There are uses for that, but that is the scope of this article.

 

Providing a path to your gallery

Now, unfortunately, comes the part that is a “downer”. There is no short, easy to remember, web address for SkyDrive albums. One way to inform your friends of the album and provide them with a link is with an email. This can be done right from the SkyDrive album.  imageClick “Share folder” under the Share group in the information panel on the right.

As you can see in the illustration, there are a number of options. Besides sharing with an email you can post to Facebook and other social networks and to get links that you can distribute separately.

For the email option just enter the recipients’ email addresses. You can include a message in the email. Note that the “Recipient can edit” check box is already checked. Normally you want to uncheck that. imageYou can also require that the recipients sign in to their Windows Live account to view your album. Not something you want to require when just casually sharing photos.

The recipients get a pretty email that looks like the illustration here (the recipients address has been removed). The email contains a “View photos” link that takes the visitor right to the album in folder view with the pretty tiles of the photos. In fact, clicking on any thumbnail in the email opens the browser right to that photo in large view.

imageYou can copy the URL of the photos or the folder. These are very long and ugly, as you can see in the illustration. You definitely would not want to type out such a link. Better to stick to the pretty email. If the album is public, that is shared with Everyone, the email can even be forwarded to others.

My suggestion is this: Set up one folder as your “gallery”, organize you photos in subfolders. Share your gallery with “Everyone” if you want public access. Private albums should go into a separate folder or folders with more restrictive sharing. Note: You can share individual photos. However the visitor will have access to other publicly shared photos and albums.

If you want a public gateway to your gallery consider setting up a blog. Here in this blog post you can see how links to your gallery could be set up:

Using Live Writer as your blogging tool offers a number of ways to show album links. Above is just one example.

.:.

© 2011 Ludwig Keck