There’s been some discussion happening on Twitter about different ways to post to WordPress powered sites. one of the recommendations that came in was to use Windows Live Writer to do this. So I thought I’d post a tutorial on the basics of using Windows Live Writer with a screen reader in the hope that it will make writing and posting easier for those who are blind and who don’t necessarily want to use the standard WordPress add new post screen.


What’s wrong with the editor that comes with WordPress?


There’s nothing wrong with the standard editor, but sometimes it’s easier to write in a truly distraction-free space, which is something that can’t be offered by the WordPress content editor due to the fact that you have to enter forms/browse mode if you’re using a screen reader. This means that you’re stuck writing in what is normally viewed as an input field, which has the effect of limiting your writing, even if it is just psychological.


Having a distraction-free writing space means you can focus on your writing and not on the unintended distraction of an input field. So in this tutorial, I’m going to show you the basics of Windows Live Writer, and how to get around it with a screen reader. I’m using Jaws in this case, but it will work reasonably well with NVDA as well. I haven’t tested with Window Eyes or System Access. It also goes without saying that this is a Windows-specific application. For the Mack, there’s MarsEdit.


Getting Started with Windows Live Writer


The first thing you’ll need to do, if you haven’t done so already, is download Windows Live Writer and install it. Next, you’ll need to set up your blog. This screen is useable with Jaws, although if you want to read the whole dialog you’ll need to do some cursoring. You’ll enter in your blog/site’s address, without the we-admin, and then the username and password for the site.


Next, Windows Live Writer will ask you if you want to download your blog’s theme so that you can preview what your post is going to look like. You can try this, but I didn’t have any luck, and the preview doesn’t appear to be accessible at all.


Once you’ve gone through all the setup, you’re ready to start writing. There are a couple of things to note. First, the title and body fields aren’t labeled, but you’ll be able to arrow up and down to get in and out of them. Yeah, this is weird. At first I assumed I could tab between the two, and you actually can’t. So first, you’ll type your title, and if you want to change that at any point, you can arrow up from the body section and change that, which will then reflect in the title bar of the window. The next thing to note is that you have ribbons, just like you would in any other modern Microsoft application. These are completely navigable with the keyboard, and you can insert hyperlinks, images and everything else, as well as interact with everything else in the ribbons.


To deal with categories, tags, and scheduling, you’ll need to use your screen reader’s specific cursor to navigate above the title field, and find the “categories”, or “tags” or whichever field you want to modify and then left-click on it. Once you’re in the field, everything is tabbable and you can edit away.


After you’ve done all your writing/editing, you can either save as draft or publish from the ribbons. If you’re using WordPress SEO by Yoast, you’ll probably want to save as draft so you can go back and enter your keywords and further optimize the post. But for the writing aspect, Windows Live Writer does the trick, and it’s not as heavy as Microsoft Word when it comes to the system resources it consumes. I haven’t tested this on Windows 8 yet, but it works at least up to Windows 7.


So far, the only thing I don’t like is that there doesn’t seem to be an easy way to see the word count of the post. But I suppose this isn’t a deal-breaker.


This tutorial should get you started on using something other than the standard WordPress post editor to write, and hopefully, it will encourage you to write more and write/post more often.

The obverse of an Olympic gold medal from the 1920 Olympic games

One of the most important things we can do for ourselves, either in our business or personal lives, is to create a “yay” file. It doesn’t matter how this file takes shape, but what it contains. Our “yay” files should contain any positive comments from clients or friends or coworkers, summaries of goals we’ve achieved, or anything else that makes us feel good about ourselves.

We need to keep a “yay” file around not so we can enlarge our egos, but for rainy days when it seems like life is spinning out of control, or when things just suck, and especially when things seem to be going horribly for a very long time.

Our “yay” file serves as a pick me up when we’re in the midst of trouble or bad days and we feel like giving up. It’s not meant to solve any problem other than the one we have with ourselves. We’re still responsible for doing what we can in the present to fix the messes we make. But even while we’re fixing the messes, we still can’t fall into the trap of beating ourselves up continuously, even for mistakes or screw-ups we make.

I’m including myself in this advice, which is why I’m saying “we” instead of just “you.” I have a hard time recognizing my accomplishments, and I know I need to remind myself more of them. So to create my “yay” file, I’m going to open up a text file, start copying the positive things I can find from social media and email and all the other places they show up, and make it a point to add some time to my daiy schedule to take a look at the file, because I need to constantly remind myself.

Now it’s your turn. Do you plan on creating a “yay” file, and if so, how will you do it? Is adding time to your schedule to look it over something you’ll consider doing? Let me know in the comments.

And thank you, Curtis McHale, for a totally awesome tip that’s applicable in multiple situations.

Hang around the WordPress community long enough, and you’ll eventually run into a prospective client who needs something you can’t offer. For instance, in my case, if a prospective client is looking just for design work, or graphic design, I know that’s completely outside of my territory and not something I can legitimately offer and call myself honest. But in cases like that, there’s still something I can do to help that prospective client. I can help that prospective client by giving them a referral to someone who’s better suited to handle those tasks.

By giving that referral, I provide value for the client, strengthen my relationships within the community, and create the likelihood that someone else will refer work to me that either they don’t have the time to handle, or don’t have the requisite skills for. Everybody wins.

Whether you’re an implementer, (someone who knows just the right plugin and theme combination to build what your client needs), a developer, or a designer, the referral technique applies. And regardless of where you fit in the WordPress community, it can be a winning strategy for both you and your clients.

Picture frame

I’ve written before about how important it is to add images to your content, even if you’re totally blind. In that post, I recommended Flicker as a great source for free images, and also cautioned that attribution has to be given when someone’s image is used. Those tips still apply, but there’s an easier way to find those free images and make sure they have proper attribution.

The Flickr – Pick a Picture plugin will allow you to search for free images to use from within WordPress itself, so you can avoid the mess that is the Flickr website if you’re using assistive technology.

Once you’ve installed and activated the plugin, you’ll see a new settings screen under the “settings” section of your WordPress administration panel, and you’ll also see a “Flickr – pick a pic” bchoice in the toolbar above the content area of your WordPress post/page editor. When you want to add an image, select that and a new window will open. If you’re using a screen reader, the window will appear at the bottom of the page.

Search for the kind of picture you want, and the plugin will return search results with your search term either in the caption, description, or name of the image. The plugin will also make sure that only Creative Commons images are searched so you don’t accidentally use someone’s copyrighted work. Each image will have a “choose” button near it. For screen reader users, it will appear underneath the link labeled “graphic” with a whole bunch of numbers. If you’re sighted, and you want to see a larger version of the image, click on the thumbnail to see a larger version. If you’re blind, this isn’t going to matter.

Once you press “choose,” you’ll see some options to edit the filename, alternative text, (and we all know how important the alt attribute is), the caption and the description. The caption already contains the attribution for the image, and you can leave this be or add to it. Don’t remove it though. The description is there so that in regard to the WordPress media editor, you have descriptions you can see for each image that gets uploaded.

The plugin will upload the image you choose to your own media library, so you’re not stuck if the image gets deleted. Its screens are also much easier to deal with than the standard WordPress media editor.

Hopefully, by installing this plugin, you’ll find it easier to add images to your content. They’re a great way to enrich your site, and they can make or break the content you’ve put all that hard work into. So next time you’re writing, or next time you pan to write, install Flicker — Pick a Picture and add some free images.

WordPress post revisions can be useful when you’re writing content. It’s what allows WordPress to auto-save drafts while you’re in the post editor so you don’t lose your work should something go wrong, like when your browser crashes. Every time you press “save draft,” a new one is created.

But over time, WordPress post revisions can add some serious overhead to your database, which can

  • Make your site slow and unresponsive
  • Take up needed space in your database
  • Decrease your search engine rankings


Why does the time it takes my site to load matter?

The time it takes your site to load matters because visitors will decide to stick around for your awesome content based on how long it takes to get to their screens. Visitors like times around three seconds. So, for that matter, do search engines. So if your site loads slower than that, you’re losing readers.

[tweet “If your site takes longer than three seconds to load, you’re leaving money on the table.”]

While WordPress post revisions aren’t the only thing that can slow down your site, they are a contributing factor. they’re also one of the easiest aspects of site performance to manage.

Have questions about WordPress site performance? click here to get answers.

Why does the size of my database matter?

The size of your WordPress database matters because it effects your site’s performance, and it also effects the amount of work your web host’s server has to do to casche resources, no matter what casching method you use. Also, if you’re on a smaller hosting plan, you are often limited significantly by the database size your web host will allow. Finally, the size of your database can also effect how hard it is to move your site from one web host to another, and switching hosts is something that happens throughout the lifetime of every website. On most web hosts, especially if you’re using PHPMyAdmin instead of the command line, the database size is limited to 8MB. That means if your database is bigger than that, you’re not moving it over. PHPMyAdmin does offer the option of breaking up imports into smaller pieces, but even it doesn’t recommend this. And web hosts don’t often increase the size limit, even for a short time.

Once again, while WordPress post revisions aren’t the only thing that contributes to the size of your database, they are a factor.

[tweet “When it comes to your database, size really does matter.”]

As I said above, search engines and visitors like sites that load in three seconds or less. So if you make sure your site loads within that time, you’ll keep both your visitors and the search engines happy, which is a win-win. Site performance isn’t the only thing that makes people and search engines happy, but as with everything else I’ve mentioned so far, it’s a factor. You can write the best content in the world, but if site speed is slow, your efforts are wasted.

OK, you’ve convinced me. How do I manage my WordPress post revisions?

Now that we’ve gotten all of the “whys” out of the way, I’m going to show you what WordPress post revisions are, how you can prevent them from being saved if you want, and how to remove them so that your database contains less clutter.

How do WordPress post revisions work?

WordPress creates a post revision in one of two ways. It creates one when the post auto-saves, and this happens once for each post for each user. It also creates a post revision every time you press “save draft.” WordPress lets you compare post revisions so you can track changes to a post, which is great for editors, and you can restore a revision if you need to undo a change and you don’t want to spend time manually doing it. This is useful if you’re deleting paragraphs of text. By default, WordPress keeps all post revisions. You have to give it instructions by way of wp-config if you want to either turn the feature off completely, or limit post revisions.

If you’re using to host your site, they’re taking care of things for you, which includes keeping your database free from clutter. If you’re using managed WordPress hosting, post revisions are also managed for you. But if you’re self-hosting, either on your own VPS or on a shared hosting account, you’ll have to manage them on your own.

I want to limit the number of post revisions WordPress keeps. How do I do this?

You can limit the number of WordPress post revisions by adding the following snippet to your wp-config file.

define( 'WP_POST_REVISIONS', 3 );

The number after the comma in the above example tells WordPress how many post revisions to keep. You can set this to whatever you want, but remember to keep it at the low end.

What about disabling post revisions altogether?

You can also use something similar to the above example to disable WordPress post revisions completely. To do this, you’ll need to change the example in the following way.

define( 'WP_POST_REVISIONS', false );

Removing the number and replacing it with “false” will tell WordPress not to save post revisions. Once you’ve added one of these constants to your wp-config file, you can now deal with the WordPress post revisions that are already in your database.

How do I get rid of WordPress post revisions that are already saved?

Even though you’ve added one of the above constants to your wp-config file, your database still contains any post revisions that were created as you’ve added content. In WordPress, each revision is a copy of the entire post, with the content that’s there when the revision is saved. So the next step is to remove the ones that are already in your database. By doing this, you’ll make your database smaller and easier to optimize. You can remove WordPress post revisions by running an SQL query, but if you’re not comfortable doing that, a simpler way to do it is with a plugin.

The Optimize Database after Deleting Revisions plugin will allow you to remove the WordPress post revisions you don’t need, and it will also let you keep them for a specific post should you decide to do that. It also optimizes your database after the revisions have been deleted, thus saving space in your database.

If you’re using this plugin to get rid of all revisions, and you know you’re not going to keep any, be sure to deactivate and delete it once you’re done using it so you don’t have unnecessary code hanging around your WordPress installation.

Managing WordPress post revisions is an easy way to make sure your website does not become slow or unresponsive, and if you’re on a small hosting plan, it’s also a great way to make sure you don’t reach your database size limits before you planned to. It’s also an excellent way to keep both your visitors and the search engines happy. If you have questions about anything in this tutorial, click here to get one-on-one support and I’ll be happy to walk you through any part of it.

This lightning talk was given at WordCamp San Francisco last year. I’m sharing it because I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who’s a raging perfectionist, and I also know that I’ve had some ideas or even just things to say that I’ve left unexecuted or unsaid because I didn’t think they were good enough, and we all need a reminder not to let that happen. The takeaway from this talk is to not let the perfect be the enemy of the good. We all tend to be the most critical of ourselves, and if we let whatever we’re working on or want to work on not make it to the light of day because it’s not perfect, then we’re missing opportunities to help ourselves and more importantly, to help others.

Just pressing publish, (writing something and getting it out there, shipping a personal or client project, or just reaching out to someone we’ve never talked to before), doesn’t mean we won’t fail. But it also means if we don’t publish, we won’t succeed either. So don’t let “it’s not good enough” determine whether something you’ve created gets out there.