Blogging Tool

Our Top Ten….

1) Wordpress - the powerful and flexible blogging software that drives this site. Others swear by Movable Type and Textpattern. There are also on-line tools such as Blogger and the very speedy but teeny Blogomonster and MT’s Typepad. To unleash the full power of Wordpress you still have to get a bit techie. A hyperactive team of volunteers is constantly improving it, so it’s bound to get easier and better with each edition.

2) Filezilla You’ve got Wordpress, now you have to upload it onto your site. You need an ‘FTP’ programme. There are lots of ‘free’ ones out there, but most turn out to have limitations or are for a trial period only. Filezilla really is free and does everything you need.

3) The Web Developer Toolbar – a collection of tools in one nifty extension to the Firefox browser. To modify the design of your blog yourself, you have to tinker with a little CSS code.  The Toolbar lets you alter the CSS – say the colours of the text – and preview your changes while you look at them on the web. Then you save your CSS style sheet and upload it using Filezilla. You can even preview how  changes to somebody else’s site would look. You can verify your code to check that it’s kosher and do much more. It’s indispensable.

4) ColorZilla Colours on the web (that’s the British spelling by the way) are coded. For simple ones you can get away with writing "red" or "black" in CSS. For particular shades you have to write a number like #809FFF. You can’t possibly remember all those codes for all those colours. You need ColorZilla. It’s a little extension that sits in the bottom left corner of Firefox. You see a colour on the web that takes your fancy, you just pick up the tool with your mouse and sample its code.

5) Omea Reader. Now that you are writing a blog, you have to read loads of other blogs in your ‘blogosphere’ so that you can dish out praise and condemnation to your fellow bloggers. You need an RSS feed reader so that you can skip from one blog to the next quickly. To get an idea of what this is about,have a look at our on-line Bloglines page. You might start using Bloglines (which is great), but if you want an even nicer tool on your desktop, try Omea. It’s like a feed reader and web browser all in one. It’s elegant, pretty and a joy to use (There is a paid-for version, but I prefer the free one – less cluttered).

6) Zempt. You might find that the interface of Wordpress for writing posts is a bit constricting. Zempt allows you to write posts on your desktop in a nice environment that’s familiar to anyone who has ever used Word (surely everyone?). It’s made for Movable Type, but you can use it with Wordpress. If you use it with Wordpress, this clue for the settings will come in handy:[directory]/xmlrpc.php. (Update: Also try W.bloggar which is easier to configure with WordPress).

7) The Gimp. Blogs aren’t just about words. You need a few pics too. The Gimp is a powerful picture editor – so powerful that it’s upset the commercial guys who are trying to ban it. I don’t know much about it. I’m afraid that I use an expensive picture editor called Fireworks. I also like Google’s free image archiver and quick picture fixer, Picasa. It does quite a lot and it’s dead easy to use.

8) Audacity . Podcasting is all the rage. You can turn your blog into an internet audio station. Great, but you need to learn yet more skills (Sigh !). Audio needs to be edited like pictures or words. You have to cut out the moment when you dropped your mic.  Audacity is a jolly good effort. It’s not quite as attractive as a commercial sound editor like SoundForge, but it’s pretty damn near.

9) Skype, The hype is about Google’s ‘talk over the internet’ service but Skype has the original formula. You can use it to call other Skype users for free (Yippee!) in good quality audio. You can call ordinary telephone numbers for the usual sort of charge. The BBC spends millions on this sort of thing. Record your calls using Audacity.  (update: hotrecorder is easier for capturing Skype calls -  free, but $14 for pro version to export files to Wav).

10) Pupu Player . Now you want to broadcast your podcast. If people have to download your big audio file, they might get fed up of waiting, and not everyone is into listening to MP3s on an iPod yet. You better offer them a quick player. Get Pupu. Anyone with Flash installed on their browser can hear your podcast real fast.

11) Flickr. Well I promised ten tools, but as it’s freebie time, here’s a surprise bonus. Let’s not forget Flickr, Yahoo!’s fab picture blogging service. You can post your pictures onto your Flickr page, or even use it to email them to your own blog. Some users are moaning now that’s fallen into the hands of the evil Yahoo! empire, but I like Yahoo! just as much as Google. They do wonderful things for free too.

Good luck with all this. If it sounds a bit much for you, try the tools one at a time. Or better still, get a blog consultant. For free snippets of advice, drop us a line or post a comment. We’ll try to help if we can. Or if you have any thoughts or a favourite free tool of your own, please use the comment box below.