Tuesday, August 15, 2006

New Blogger Beta

Blogger Buzz has announced that there will finally be an update to Blogger. Features have long been lagging behind other systems; hopefully this will remedy the deficiencies.

Here are the announced enhancements.

New feeds will be available for blog comments whether aggregated or individual. Atom feeds have been updated to the 1.0 standard plus support has been added for RSS 2.0.

An updated Dashboard allows you to edit and view each blog directly.

Changes to article are updated immediately. No more waiting for the silly spinny animation! This is because all pages are now generated dynamically on viewing.

Additional templates have been provided for those getting started.

Accounts will be integrated with Google accounts, meaning that we will have one less password to remember. (Also meaning that Google will convert a number of Blogger users into full service users.)

One can create private blogs and limit readers by email address. Unfortunately this feature is only fully-featured if these addresses correspond to a registered user. Otherwise they will get a temporary guest account.

Drag and drop page design facilities segment templates into different elements. This will make it easier to create a custom style and even add JavaScript, feeds from other sites, and other enhancements. This looks very nice!

However, this new Blogger Layouts system is incompatible with existing templates. An upgrade function has been provided, but it remains to be seen how this handles templates that are as extensively modified as, say, the blog you are reading at this moment.

In a feature everyone will love, posts can now be labeled with a list of tags. Summaries of these can then easily be listed in your blog template, sorted by number of posts or alphabetically. Note however that this only works in the new Blogger Layouts mode.

A certain number of existing Blogger users are being invited to try out the system. If you are not one of these, you can access the new beta by signing up for a new account.

Bloggers using FTP publishing, a Plus upgrade, team blogging, or mobile devices will not be able to upgrade -- yet. Furthermore, the new system is in English only and requires IE or FireFox.

What about other features that we'd like to see?

I am frustrated at the lack of control over uploading images. It is impossible to change how the image will be represented, and I rarely want the default "small image with a mouse click to larger" style. There is support only for JPG so other formats get converted and reduced in quality. Furthermore, the image upload features often don't work, though I suspect this has been fixed.

Having a separate page for comments, and furthermore one which does not comply with a custom look'n'feel, has always been a weakness.

Let's hope the roll-out is quick, the feature robust, and that future upgrades will not be so long in coming.

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