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Microsoft employees give Live Writer, the beloved blogging app, a open-sourced second chance

Good news, Windows Live Writer fans! Microsoft has open sourced the app, and it will live on as Open Live Writer. Updated features and a plugin system are coming soon.

Windows Live Writer was a desktop program you can use to write blog posts offline, preview how they’ll look on your site, then publish to a wide range of content management systems including WordPress and Blogger. It’s been a tool of choice for bloggers since its release way back in 2006, but never found a massive audience outside that niche. No updates for the software have been offered since 2012, and features have been slowly breaking ever since.

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But a core group of Microsoft employees wanted to keep the app alive, and have been fighting behind-the-scenes to bring it back as an open source project since April of 2013. As of today, Microsoft is letting them go ahead.

“An independent group of volunteers within Microsoft has successfully open sourced and forked Windows Live Writer,” wrote Microsoft employee Scott Hanselman in a blog post announcing the release. “We’ve successfully open sourced a previously completely proprietary piece of Windows software that shipped as part of Windows Live Essentials.”

Open Live Writer is a C# language fork of the original program, distributed with the permissive MIT license. You can download the app right now, or even check out the code on GitHub if you want to contribute to the app’s re-imagining.

A few features have been removed as part of the transition to open source. Spell check, which previously depended on a closed third-party tool, is gone for now — it will later be replaced with the system-wide tool included with Windows 8 and newer. The Blog This API, which hasn’t aged well, is gone entirely. The plugin system needs lot of work to maintain compatibility. And support for Blogger’s API is currently based on an old standard, which Google has extended specifically for Open Live Writer, but won’t do forever. Support for the new protocol is a top priority.

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Obviously, there’s a lot of work to be done, but the first time in a long time Live Writer users can rest assured that someone is working on making those changes — and dedicated users can help make the changes if they wish.

Here’s hoping this sort of open sourcing becomes common. Seemingly abandoned programs with a loyal group of users can find a second life, if the companies who own them are willing to open up.