Tools I use to blog
This is a blog post basically to start a discussion with the readers of this blog to get ideas and suggestions for better blogging. This post will simply mention and link to the tools I use frequently/occassionally to create a blog post, according to the stages of a proper post creation.
This stage is where I juggle all ‘whatsonmymindrightnow’ ideas in my brain until one idea remains back (well yeah I’m not a juggler, but it makes things easy). I recollect and think over the details about the topic and for this I occassionally use mind-mapping tools. It lets me be more sure that I’ve really dug deep into what I know and also let me arrange my points logically.
Tools I Use
- Brain/Heart : – A blog without brain and heart behind its creation has strong competition from the blogbots to prove themselves. Brains can come up with the most amazing of ideas, but if your heart ain’t into it, you won’t like your own post. It won’t be unique, in a way that only the heart can feel.
- FreeMind : – Although I swear by this tool, for some of my favorite posts, I end up using it quite less, which I do feel quite bad about. I mean its like giving the brain a gym to work itself out and squeeze out every last details about the topic you wanna write about from it. Although mind-maps help in retention, I use it to compose blog article layouts in 2 stages : –
- Think. Pop out an Idea. Throw it at FreeMind. Think…
- Re-branch and re-arrange the ideas pile into sections and subsections. It becomes the mould into which your writing fills in.
- External Sources :- Friends, Feeds, Feuds, etc….figured out I guess.
The first raw version of the article. Its just the writing ability that needs to be put to the fullest use at this stage. The more you concentrate on the writing than how it would look on your blog at this stage. Remember “Content Is King…Design, his Accessories”. The tools that I feel most suited to this stage are the ones that let you focus on writing alone, as much as possible.
Tools I Use
- JDarkRoom – The 2nd Java application that I swear by (and currently using it) to have that ‘leave me the fuck alone’ mode of no-distraction writing. There’s just something so much more pleasing to the eyes and mind about writing with bright letters on a black screen. I do happen to keep my messengers on silent mode and my AIMP 2 going on (although sometimes I need that shut off as well). I just don’t like .NET too much so I didn’t try out DarkRoom. but generally I’m quite satisfied with the way the mind feels free to think more openly with a JDarkRoom environment. I don’t mind that I can’t do any sort of formatting here, but this is not at all meant for that purpose, and should never ever be.
I have a workaround for lack of formatting tools when I do want to mark out headings, lists, links, etc. I use a pseudo wiki markup (some of the conventions are my own). It helps in a way that if you follow it regularly you can make sure that you add emphasis on right parts of the article using the desired formatting, but even without rich text, people would definitely make some sense out of your article.
- Cell Phone – This is when I’m moblogging from wordpress mobile, which has one post compose box and I’ve no idea if that is the wysiwyg view or the source edit view…yet to check that out. It is not that easy to compose posts on the cell phone but its the best way to update your blog on the move and since you’re updating stuff as you experience or as it happens, you definitely can keep the posts short and give your fingers their much needed rest.
This is the stage where you clean up your draft and make it bloggable. This is where I convert the wiki markup to HTML coz I never like wysiwyg editors trying their hands at writing code for my article. I tend to keep the tags to a minimum. A good tool in this stage as per me, is the one which helps me speed up the task of searching and replacing wiki markups with actual html stuff
Tools I Use
- Notepad++ :- The super-derivative of SciTE. The 2 reasons I choose to use it are : –
- Awesome “Find and Replace” : – Its find and replace feature is one feature that I credit all coding speedups to. (no not just changing the author name throughout). As long as I stick to my self-made conventions, I can turn the draft into final formatted version in very little time.
- Syntax highlighting :- I mean that’s what Notepad++ forte is, right? Syntax highlighting up HTML tags helps me ensure, my tags are proper.
This stage also often includes searching the web to add external reference links and other required links to further information. It also includes obtaining media sources like images or uploading your own images/illustrations to some image hosting service. I have no specific services to recommend here, coz not one service fully knows the web. You gotta try out a bit of this and a bit of that.
Preview And Upload
This is the final stage before the blog post gets exposed out to you (and i remember I forgot to upload the image i linked to). This is where I check with the design view or basically browser output to see that the post is formatted and HTML’ed up as desired. If your tool screws up your source with its own smart tags n all the moment, you turn to design view to preview it, its time to kick its butt straight into the trash. This I confess is one of the not-really-settled-down-at choices as far as the wordpress platform goes. Until LJ lasted as my favorite platform, I didn’t even bother with anything else but Semagic, which is just perfect tool for LJ.
Tools I Use
- Zoundry Raven :- After a little bit of searching around, this looked like the wordpress blogging tool that had the maximum no. of features to take full advantage of the wordpress platform. Its self-proclaimed beta software, and its a full-blown blog authoring software, although I use it to primarily to test out my formatted post, since as you’ve read above, my workflow already advances through other small but useful tools, which help complete a large part of the process of creating a blog post. One thing that sucked in the use of Zoundry in the composition of my previous post, is that despite Zoundry Raven showing the images (linked from my picasaweb album) correctly in the preview, the final post on the blog just had blank <img> tags. Luckily I checked soon enough and corrected the error. Zoundry is the likely culprit, but I dunno why’d I be blaming the wordpress platform, coz as you can see that it does allow images from remote site.
- WordPress.com Editor :- Default on-site blog post editor. Since it does have the preview feature, I just paste in the final html code from Notepad++ into the compose textarea and click on the Preview button. Works well, but you need a connection. Might help you get an idea how the post looks on your template, but I’m often not much into that.
I seriously need suggestions on this section though, biasing though towards desktop software, but honestly, most of my work gets done by Notepad++/JDarkRoom combo.
I know my process and tools are not guaranteed perfect. My blog post is after all my responsibility, so I do still make a check even after uploading. Not a good thing, but make it fast. Its like the 5-second rule for dropped delicacies (on the ground), but just a little more. Don’t take longer than the blog crawlers, certainly.
Although I did detail out most number of tools that I use, here are some further tips :-
- Don’t overload your workflow with tools, neither use jack-of-all-trades tool. zoundry is one good example of that.
- Don’t think of blogging as this long-winded process as described above. Blog posts can be published direct from Brain/Heart to WordPress.com blog post editor window workflow, its when you want to capture the volatile excitement or extreme urgency and details can wait until a next post. Posts composed on the mobile site are definitely of this type.
- Recheck and recheck again. Its not just the missing links that you should worry about but also any typos or misrepresentation of facts, which might lead to unnecessary flamewar comments.
- My blogging method focusses more on getting the most out of my writing ability. To think well and come out with well-sructured informative posts. You’d hate me (like you do any less now) if you were to use my tips to maintain a blog that you hope to monetize.
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