Blogging Tip #2 – Use tools you like and trust

Second on my list of tips was to make sure you are using the systems that suit how you work. What sort of things am I talking about?

How do you blog?

A blog is of course just a website, and you could write your blog by updating some HTML pages by hand. Some people probably do. But there are a wealth of systems out there that will help make your blogging experience easier, as well as making things more fun for your readers. There are some decisions to be made, though. Do you want to have your blog at a hosted service (like this one is) or have your own webspace, and domain name and install a system there? Do you want to pay for anything? Do you like editing your posts through a web page or would you like to have the peace of mind of an offline editor? I’ll go through these questions in more detail.

Systems, systems, systems

There are many blog engines out there, online services which act as content management systems, theoretically allowing you to concentrate on the content while the engine does all the hard work for you. Some of the more famous and popular ones are Blogger, WordPress, TypePad, Drupal, TextPattern and many more. I use WordPress, both at this site and on my personal blog. I genuinely think it is the best platform there is, in terms of features and ease of use. Most services offer a free version, whether only as a trial or forever so it’s worth playing around with them. Many also offer the ability to import the posts you have made in one system into another, so you can carry your experiments around with you.

For a beginner though, it is probably best recommending starting a blog at either Blogger, WordPress.com or Typepad to start with.

To host or not to host?

Well, it’s certainly a question. The difference is basically one of time and effort. For example, if you go down the hosted route, there is no installing of possibly complicated software, no web hosting costs, no domain name renewals and so on. But if you did host your own blog, you would get the chance to customise your blog engine’s installation, using plug-ins and other third party extensions, you could completely redesign your site’s look or use one of thousands of available templates. You could also implement an advertising programme to try and earn some money back on your investment. Using a hosted service also often means you can’t have your own snappy URL, and it might be the case that your chosen address for your blog is no longer available, which can be very annoying!

It is probably fair to say that the best option for the beginner is to try out a hosted service, as mentioned above, like Blogger, WordPress.com or TypePad. Then, when your blogging really takes off you can consider having a domain of your own and can start to experiment with your chosen blog engine.

On or offline?

All the main blog engines come with an editor built in. These are webpages you visit to either enter new posts or to edit existing ones. It means that you can do it wherever you are and you don’t have to bother installing new software.

But sometime that just isn’t enough. There are a whole heap of blog editors out there – effectively stripped-down, blog-enabled word processors, which sit on your machine like any other application and which allow you to type at your leisure – maybe at a laptop without an always-on internet connection. It means you can save posts and mull over them before you send them to your blog. And you can generally do that by just hitting a button. No copying-and-pasting required. They can also do other cool stuff, like uploading images for you, or adding tags to your posts, or presenting you with a preview of what your post will look like online.

I use offline editors for almost all my blogging – the almost being when I am away from my desktop PC at home. To be perfectly honest, I do not know why I prefer doing it this way, I just feel more comfortable with it and I believe that others do too. Maybe it’s the case that, despite flat rate always-on broadband connections, typing into a browser still makes me feel rushed.

The editors I have come across so far are as follows: BlogJet, Qumana, Zoundry, Live Writer and w.Bloggar. All bar BlogJet are currently free. There are others: RocketPost sounds great but doesn’t work; and Ecto has been buggy recently.

Summing up

Don’t rush into a choice of blog engines. Try out a hosted service first before splashing any cash. Do try using an offline blog editor if you find it helps you post more coherently!

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