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First Impressions of Blogger Beta: A Review

After my initial excitement has passed I decided to create a test account to peek under the hood and take the new Blogger Beta for a spin.

Blogger has promised to make the migration optional for now, but within a few months everyone will be forced to switch over to the new platform. I haven’t had much time to play with it yet but here are my first impressions.

Let’s begin by telling you what I do like:

What I like about Blogger Beta (with reservations):

Blogger Beta Labels Feature

  • The revamped Post Editor has new features such as removing formatting from a selected area, changing the text color, alignment and full justification, numbered and bulleted lists.
  • The new Labels feature is a nice addon but very basic, a-la- del.icio.us style. You can take a look at my test account to see what it looks like in action.
  • I don’t see any way of getting it to work with social bookmarks unless you edit the HTML manually. It uses a basic tag, so it remains to be seen how well technorati picks it up given all of the horror stories that you hear out there with other blog platforms. But theoretically the rel=’tag’ should work, and remember folks we are charting new territory here so patience is the keyword.
  • Newsfeeds for comments made on all posts of your blog, as well as for comments on each individual post. You will have to switch to “Advanced Mode” to see it, but strangely I don’t see an RSS option (or Atom for that matter).
  • Blogger Beta Newsfeeds

  • The new Drag and Drop Template Editor looks promising. But sadly I still don’t see an easy method for adding another sidebar which is probably the most difficult part in editing a template.
  • Blogger Beta Page Elements Editor

  • A color generator for a quick and easy way to change your template fonts and colours
  • Blogger Beta Fonts and Colors Editor

  • The Dashboard has been simplified with links for quicker access to your posts, setting and layout.
  • Blogger Beta Dashboard

  • You will no longer have to republish your blog to see your changes (aka instant publishing).
  • Blog Permissions for making you blog more private.
  • Blogger Beta Permissions

    What I think they can improve on:

    The “Pick New Template” viewer is way too small and cumbersome to work with. I was also disappointed with the lack of templates with more than just one sidebar. The picture they provided is either misleading, or I just haven’t been able to find it yet in their teensy-weensy viewer.

    The so-called new templates they claim to have added seem to offer only more color schemes for the old templates than anything else. No doubt they have been modified for the new layout features that will be needed to work with labels.

    My Impressions:

    I’m not blown away by a long shot. The new editing features will probably appeal more to newbies. I doubt if I will bother with it because third party software such as w.bloggar already has these capabilities and more.

    Probably the most important new feature is Labels. But it is too basic for my liking and needs improvements before I will be won over, although admittedly it is handy for use as a category list in the sidebar. I think I will stick with what I am using for now.

    The other most important new feature is the Newsfeeds for Comments. But the question remains, are these changes compelling enough to win over power bloggers?

    Personally I don’t think Blogger Beta is strong enough to make experienced bloggers want to move over from other blog platforms or to stop looking elsewhere with envy. There are still a lot more advanced features that I would like to see, such as trackback, PHP support and domain mapping.

    Neither does it warrant any great hurry to make the switch over for existing Blogger users from the old Blogger platform. Except of course inexperienced bloggers that do not use third party software and need the new editing features.

    Then again, perhaps Blogger is content to stay in the inexperienced blog user market. Perhaps these enhancements are only intended to grab back a little of the pie that MySpace or MSN Spaces have taken, and to make Blogger as easy to use as their marketing schpeel would have us believe. If that’s the case, I still think their dashboard editing features and template WYSIWYG need some improvements.

    But it is encouraging to see that Google hasn’t forgotten about Blogger. Indeed, for their sake I hope they make good on their promise to roll out even more new features sooner than later, or they will continue to lose market share from bloggers that are looking for a better blogging solution.

    This was just a quick cursory look and I may have missed some things so be sure check back here again, for like Google Beta this will continue to be a work in progress.

    Blogger Beta UPDATE!

    Related links: blog bloke, instabloke, blog, weblog, blogging, blog tools, blogtech, webtech, web 2.0, blog resources, internet, computers and internet, technology, tech, software, google, blogger

    Written August 15th, 2006 by | 12 Comments | Filed under: Blog Tips, Blogging Tips , , , ,

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    There are 12 Comments so far to “First Impressions of Blogger Beta: A Review”

    1. Yup, these new features are the need of the hour to keep Blogger in good business. Nothing fancier than that.

      //It could use another menu for saved labels so that you don’t have to keep keying in the same information over and over, and over… again.//

      There’s a “show all” link to show the previous labels which you can click to add the label. Check

      Labelling posts.

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    2. Heh, thanks for the heads up Venkataramani but you were too quick on the draw. I was still editing this post when I noticed that myself. ;-) Cheers!

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    3. An excellent review and thanks for the effort Bloke.

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    4. Questions for he-who-has-beta: ;-)

      Can you revert back to your old template (saved to a file), if you try out one of the new templates or layout editor? Or does it lock you in to preset choices?

      Can you change font family/sizes, as well as element colors?

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    5. Hi Marc. First let me say I do not advocate that anyone should make the switchover as it is still in beta. Google warns us that once you make the switch to Blogger Beta there’s no going back and has recommended that we create a test blog first.

      Having said, according to Blogger if you migrate your blog, your template will be preserved as-is in what Blogger calls “Classic” mode. It will be dynamically served, but you won’t get the drag-and-drop customization or labels.

      By default new blogs have Layouts, but you can switch to Classic mode if you want (there’s a button on the Edit HTML subtab page). You can also upgrade from Classic to Layouts, but as the Layouts template language is completely different you will probably lose your customizations.

      They claim to make a “best effort” to save straightforward changes (eg. sidebar lists for the most part) but your mileage will vary the further you have deviated from the stock templates.

      There’s a “View Classic Template” button on the Edit page to make it easier to copy over anything that the upgrade may have missed.

      There is also a “Revert to Classic Template” option but the raw template HTML editing functionality is not yet available.

      So given those limitations I don’t recommend switching your existing blog at this time until more functionality has been added.

      In the end it might just be easier starting over from scratch. Thanks a lot Blogger, considering that I just finished doing an overhaul of my template. If they’re going to make me work that hard I might as well just move over to Wordpress now. Or, hopefully Blogger will have refined the switching over process by the time we are all forced to the new platform.

      Yo, Blogger — are you listening? Ain’t blogging fun ;-)

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    6. Instead of just demonstrating features like other have, you really get under the hood and give us the insider poop on what is really going on. Thanks for such a great resource Bloke!

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    7. I agree with just about all your thoughts on the new Blogger Beta but I do think it is a MASSIVE improvement.

      On the whole issue with Technorati if you “claim your blogger blog” at Technorati it seems to help as our little play blogger blog http://www.africanhousesnake.blogspot.com has had no problems being picked up or having its links counted to other blogs.

      For power blogers it is still lacking and we won’t be moving our blogs from their wordpress platforms but the new blogger is more then enough for most low tech users that just want a nice blog and a lot easier for that level of user to work with.

      We will probally set up a few just for the link popularity,

      Jack Spirko

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    8. I agree to the point that I wouldn’t call it massive. I would say however that it is a significant upgrade, but disappointing given the direction Blogger seems to be headed. Like you indicated, for me Wordpress is looking better every day.

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    9. Many thanks for your visit Mr BlogBloke, which reminded me to follow up on the issue to see if there was any change in the situation with regard to the missing FTP settings. I was pleased to find this answer that says certain types of blogs will not be able to switch to the new BETA at the moment, among them, “A blog publishing via FTP to a non-BlogSpot server”, but that they “be adding support for these blogs as soon as possible.” So the news is not as bad as I feared. And agreed, for the price, one cannot complain either way. :)

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    10. Thanks Pamela. I’m glad that you appreciate my tongue-in-cheek sense of humor. Not everyone does.

      And many thanks for clarifying the FTP issue.

      BTW, please don’t be so formal with the Mr. stuff. Sir Bloke is fine. ;-)

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    11. There is just one major issue:

      The layouts.

      They are full of HTML/CSS quirks, too many nested elements, no useful comments in the widget sections.

      But above all, the layouts simply are graphically lame, basic, cheap…
      It takes 10 minutes to code a black page with an header and 2 columns, come on..

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    12. Even its beta version, it’s great!!! :)

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