Remember Windows Live Writer? If you don’t, it is not surprising.

Microsoft has virtually forgotten about it since its last major release in 2012 — until yesterday, that is, when an open source fork was released as Open Live Writer.

A fork occurs when developers take a copy of source code from one software package and start independent development on it, creating a distinct and separate piece of software. In this case the new tool, according to Microsoft Principal Program Manager Scott Hanselman, is available through the .NET Foundation and is set to enjoy a new lease of life.

Live Writer Roots

The roots of Windows Live Writer stretch to 2007. The product is based on Onfolio Writer, which Microsoft obtained from the acquisition of Onfolio.

Live Writer was part of the Windows Live range of products. It offered users a WYSIWYG  — "what you see is what you get" — blogging tool that let users publish to multiple platforms, including WordPress and Google’s Blogger.

In 2012 Microsoft shelved the Live brand, and it looked like Live Writer would go the same way as the other tools in the Live bundle.

However, it seems there was a small but dedicated fan-base that have kept the pressure on to keep it alive. In 2013 rumors began to surface that Microsoft or at least a group of people within Microsoft might be doing something with it.

Last June, Hanselman confirmed that Live Writer had a future via a tweet:

What You Should Know

There are a couple of things to note here, which those behind the project have stressed.

The first, Hanselman wrote in a blog about the release, is that Open Live Writer is not a Microsoft product. While some of the people who helped open source the product are Microsoft employees, they worked on the Live Writer project as a labor of love.

The second is that much of the code is 10 years old. He points out that the coding conventions, styles and idioms are from .NET 1.0 and .NET 1.1., which may make some of the code unusual or unfamiliar to new developers.

All that aside there are already a number of functional changes:

  1. Spell check: There is no spell check because Liver Writer is out of data and the Open Live project doesn’t have a license to include a third party checker. In the future, Hanselman hopes to incorporate the spell check that was developed for Windows 8.
  2. The ‘Blog This API’: This was a plug-in for Explorer and Firefox that is being removed.
  3. The "Albums" feature: This was a way of uploading photos to OneDrive. Hanselman writes that they couldn't easily get permission to distribute it in an open source project.
  4. The Google Blogger:  The Open Live team have been working with Google Blogger to update the Open Live project to work with Blogger. The result is that Open Live will soon move to the OAuth 2 system, as will Blogger. OAuth 2 is an authorization framework that enables applications to obtain limited access to user accounts on an HTTP service, like Facebook or GitHub.

This first release has been labeled version 0.5. The .NET Foundation explained that they released it in this format instead of waiting to develop the version 1.0 as they wanted to get people outside of Microsoft contributing.

The also wanted it to be available over the upcoming holiday vacations, presumably so that those with spare time could work on it.

This is clearly very early days for the Open Live Writer project, but it adds to the growing number of open source applications available to business workers. The .NET Foundation is also seeking more volunteers to work on the project so if you’re interested, visit the website.