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Now Playing 2.3 Plugin for Windows Live Writer

Posted in Music | Now Playing at Sunday, 11 March 2007 02:27 W. Europe Standard Time

Time to release a major update for my Now Playing Plugin for Windows Live Writer. Over the last weeks some minor bugs surfaced, these have been fixed with the current release.

The %if syntax

One thing that has been bugging me was that metadata placeholders were included into the resulting markup regardless of the actual content. Imagine you have the Amazon plugin enabled and the %AmazonAlbumUrl% placeholder somewhere in your markup template:

<a href="%AmazonAlbumUrl%">%Album%</a>

Later, while you're writing a new blog post you're listening to a mixtape that's not listed on Amazon. Because the Amazon plugin cannot find information about your mixtape, Now Playing will leave the placeholder as-is, resulting in bad markup taking your visitors into HTTP Hell™ filled with lots of peculiar errors messages (I've already seen this happening).

<a href="%AmazonAlbumUrl%">My Mixtape</a>

The new %if statement helps eliminating this shortcoming: Wrap any content that is linked to the availability of a particular placeholder in an %if statement and Now Playing will create perfectly valid markup. The syntax is pretty easy:

%if(%placeholder%<content to insert if the placeholder holds a value>)

The example above, restructured to

%if(%AmazonAlbumUrl%<a href="%AmazonAlbumUrl%">)My Mixtape%if(%AmazonAlbumUrl%</a>)


  • My Mixtape
    if the Amazon plugin could not find the album's URL or
  • <a href="…">My Mixtape</a>
    if the Amazon plugin was able to obtain a link to the album's page on Amazon.

Of course you can nest if statements to create dynamic templates. I work now with the following template:

<p class="nowPlaying">
    Now Playing [<a title="Find out about Now Playing" href="" rel="previewlink">?</a>]:
    %if(%MusicMapArtistUrl%<a href="%MusicMapArtistUrl%" title="Display relations of %Artist% to other artists">)%Artist%%if(%MusicMapArtistUrl%</a>) &ndash;
    %if(%Album%%if(%AmazonAlbumUrl%<a href="%AmazonAlbumUrl%" title="Display Amazon page of the %Album% album">)%Album%%if(%AmazonAlbumUrl%</a>) &ndash; )

See the %if(%Album%%if(%AmazonAlbumUrl%… nested if statements in line 4? I use this to get rid of the whole album part if I'm listening to a song from my mixed playlist where the music has no album tag.

Now Playing's markup preview currently handles all placeholders as if they're holding values, so you may have to try a little the get your template working as you wish. In case you're having problems with the syntax, please leave a comment and I'll try to explain. 

Other features, fixed bugs and changes

Other little things I've fixed:

  • An important notice about the Windows Media Player Plugin: You need to install the Blogging Plug-In for WMP in order to query the track information. Windows Vista users, please download this plugin which provides the same functionality on Vista (where the Blogging Plug-In refuses to install).
  • The Amazon plugins allows you to set the search index (Amazon US, UK, Germany, France, Canada, Japan) you want use.
  • Amazon has introduced a new access identifier I wasn't aware of. You can now use your Amazon Access Key ID with Now Playing. The possibility to use an Amazon Subscription ID is provided for backward compatibility.
  • The iTunes plugin allows you to set if you want to start the iTunes application if it's not running. (iTunes has always been launched before.)
  • Fixed a minor plugin loading bug and added detailed error messages.
  • Code cleanup.


Now Playing [?]: Wir sind HeldenVon hier an blind – Wütend genug

Now Playing 2.2 Plugin for Windows Live Writer

Posted in Music | Now Playing at Tuesday, 27 February 2007 22:00 W. Europe Standard Time

Yet another post about Now Playing. Some day ago I finished version 2.2 that has one major new feature: Component update capabilities. Since it will eventually become a hassle keeping track of plugin updates, I've implemented a simple updater module that will search the plugin author's web site for new versions.

Now Playing Update Tab

No personal information will be submitted, not even the version you're currently running. The updater simply downloads an XML file conveying information about the latest version. You may try it on your own by downloading the Now Playing API update file.

This time it has taken just a couple of days to get the new version accepted by the Windows Live Gallery team.

New features in Now Playing 2.2

  • Implemented auto-update capabilities for Now Playing core components and plugins.
  • Added sample plugins with lots of comments to jump-start plugin developers.
  • Re-architected internals, plugins reference now NowPlaying.Api.dll (instead of NowPlaying.Core.dll). You need to recompile your own plugins against this assembly.
  • Fixed an inconsistency about plugin properties.
  • Added more unit tests.


Now Playing has been updated since this article has been published. DownloadDownload the updated version.

Now Playing [?]: SupergrassRoad to Rouen – Kick in the teeth

Now Playing 2.1 Plugin for Windows Live Writer

Posted in Music | Now Playing at Friday, 23 February 2007 01:17 W. Europe Standard Time

It has taken some time but yesterday Now Playing 2.0 has been published on the Windows Live Gallery. I even received an e-mail from the Live Gallery team apologizing for the delay.

A note to my non-English readers: If you want to take a look at the Live Writer gallery, set your browser language to English unless you want to see a generic error message telling you that your request could not be served at this time. Because Live Writer is currently available in English only, Microsoft believes nobody uses it here and thus has no interest in browsing the plugin gallery.

The first review about Now Playing is really, um, sobering. No support for crapiTunes, resulting in a lousy 1-star rating. There could definitely be done something about that!

So I installed iTunes in a Virtual PC (this thing will never touch my main machine!) and downloaded the iTunes Windows COM SDK. Implementing a media player plugin supporting iTunes was actually as simple as creating a runtime callable wrapper for the iTunes COM object and writing a single class with three lines of code doing the work (the rest is error handling and two simple getter properties).

During my submission of Now Playing to the Windows Live Gallery I was urged to create a setup program as well. I'll keep the zipped DLLs here in case you want to work around the hassle of a MSI-based setup.

New features in Now Playing 2.1

The new features in version 2.1 include:

  • Support for iTunes
  • Now Playing now opens the configuration dialog if the selected media player could not be found when inserting the content. This happens usually the first time you start Windows Live Writer and insert content without configuring Now Playing first.
  • Some interface text changes
  • Minor internal changes

Let me know if there's anything else that could be included and/or changed.


Now Playing has been updated since this article has been published. DownloadDownload the updated version.

Now Playing [?]: Wax TailorTales of the forgotten melodies – Ungodly fruit

Now Playing 2.0 Plugin for Windows Live Writer

Posted in Music | Now Playing at Wednesday, 31 January 2007 21:08 W. Europe Standard Time

I'm using Windows Live Writer (WLW) to post on my blog. So far it's been a very good experience, even though the WLW is currently in beta. Having said that I like the music I'm listening to as a "post signature" I wrote a WinForms application for this very purpose back in the day. Now that I use WLW, a plugin may be a better approach. For anyone who's looking for a specific WLW plugin, is great site to visit. Unfortunately there's not a single plugin listed in the Moods & Music category that I liked and that has the features I desire.

So I went and wrote my own plugin. Of course it should incorporate all the features Now Playing 1.0 had. And because I was missing some features from the plugins I was trying from, it should be extensible so that you can extend it to your liking. Yes, that's like plugins for a plugin.

Introducing Now Playing 2.0

As said above, I've completely rewritten Now Playing 1.0, so please consider this release beta-ish. Now Playing is installed by copying the files in the zip (see below) to the %ProgramFiles%\Windows Live Writer\Plugins directory. The zip already contains plugins to support

because this is what I like to use. As far as I can tell Now Playing 2.0 this is the first WLW plugin that supports Winamp by directly querying the artist, album and title and not using the GetWindowText() APIs. The files NowPlaying.Core.dll and NowPlaying.WLW.dll are necessary and should not be deleted.

The Now Playing plugin looks for other plugins in the Plugins directory and automatically loads them. After starting WLW, you'll see Now Playing as a new plugin in the Tools\Preferences dialog. Click on the Options button to see the following dialog.

NowPlaying Plugins Tab

On the plugins tab you see that there are basically two types of plugins. Media player plugins are used to obtain basic track information (artists, album and title) from a specific media player. Track information processors (for that lack of a better term) then work with this information and extend its metadata. For example, the Amazon plugin adds the link to the album page. Before you use the Amazon plugin, be sure to check the options and enter your Amazon Web Services Subscription ID.

The metadata provided by all plugins can then be used on the markup tab:

NowPlaying Markup Tab

On the markup tab, combine all available metadata placeholders in a custom template to your liking. Be aware that the number of metadata attributes will change as track information processor plugins are enabled or disabled. As you can see in my template above, HTML is also allowed. After all plugins have been working on the track information, the processed template content will be added to the post inside Windows Live Writer.

The diagnostics tab shows all plugin load errors and will mainly be used by developers of new plugins. In case you experience any problems with Now Playing, please send me the detail information you see there.

Extending Now Playing

As emphasized above, you are invited to extend Now Playing with more plugins. I can think of discogs, and other services that may be of interest. Anyone who likes to extend Now Playing, please go with the source repository (see below) and peek inside my plugins. I'll post a specific entry on extending Now Playing if I get some feedback.


Please let me know if you (dis)like Now Playing and how I can improve it. And now, download and try for yourself.

Now Playing has been updated since this article has been published. DownloadDownload the updated version.

Now Playing: Goo Goo DollsA Boy Named Goo – Long way down

Happy Birthday

Posted in NonTech | Music at Monday, 26 June 2006 19:43 W. Europe Daylight Time

Happy birthday, Gunman G-Man Gee Gunnar!

Now playing: Chris Botti - A Thousand Kisses Deep - She comes from somewhere

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