Inside My Blogging Toolbox

Knowing that I had recently upgraded my blog, one of my readers wrote to ask, “You wrote a post a year ago or so, providing an overview of your then-current blogging tools. Has anything changed in the last year? What tools are you using now?” Rather than replying to him individually, I thought I would post my answer here.

Tools in a Toolbox - Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/inhauscreative, Image #3815729

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/inhauscreative

The biggest change is that I have converted from TypePad to WordPress. I faithfully used TypePad for a number of years. It served me well. But several friends had converted to WordPress and encouraged me to consider it. I researched it over the Christmas holidays and then started searching for someone to help me with the conversion. I eventually stumbled upon John Saddington, who is both a web designer and programmer. He proved to be a God-send.

So here are my current blogging tools:

  1. WordPress—This blogging platform comes in two forms: hosted and self-hosted. “Hosted” means that you sign up for an account on WordPress.com and they host your blog. If you are just starting out, this is the way to go. It is free and easy to use. At this level, I think WordPress and TypePad are comparable.

    “Self-hosted” means that you sign up for a hosting service and then install WordPress on your own server. This is what I have done. At John’s recommendation, I am using MediaTemple for hosting. I started with the Grid-Service option, but my traffic grew so quickly, that I had to upgrade to their Dedicated-Virtual option.

    I like WordPress because it is open source and easily extensible. It has a vast army of programmers who write themes and plugins for the platform. There is something for everyone. If you want to customize and tweak your blog, so that you get it just the way you envision, WordPress is the way to go. I’m sure you can do almost the same thing in TypePad, but I found it increasingly difficult to get it the way I wanted.

    Here are the the plugins that I am currently using:

  2. ecto—I have used ecto as my offline blogging for several years. It worked flawlessly with TypePad, and I’m happy to report that it works flawlessly with WordPress, too. (I have only tried it with the self-hosted version.)

    ecto is bascially a word processor for blogging. It allows me to blog offline. When you are done, you can publish the post to your blog site with one click. In fact, you can even schedule the post to appear on your blog at a certain time. (This is what I usually do. I write on the weekends and then schedule the post to appear through the week.)

    One of my favorite things about this tool is that I can edit in WYSIWYG mode or HTML code. It gives me a lot of control. My only complaint is that it STILL doesn’t have a smart quotes feature. As a result, I have to enter true open and close quote marks manually. I was hoping that this would be added to version 3.0 when it was released, but, alas, it is still absent.

  3. iStockPhoto—I get asked all the time, “Where do you get the photos that you use in your blog.” Ninety-five percent of them from iStockPhoto. The service is very easy to use. I simply go to the site and search for words related to my topic. Usually, this yields hundreds of photos to choose from. I pay about $1.50 per image and can download them on the spot. (The price is based on the plan you choose.) I generally use the smallest photo size available, which is roughly 425 pixels wide.

    I occasionally get images from Flickr, but you have to be careful that you use pictures that have a creative commons license. You can’t just post any old photo on your blog; usually the rights to the photo are controlled by someone else. This is why I like using iStockPhoto, because the images are royalty-free.

    Once I get the image I want, I use ecto’s Media Manager to upload it to my blog and insert it into my blog post. It allows me to resize the photo, tag it, and even create a thumbnail with a link to the full-size image if I want. This is especially helpful if I include a diagram like I did here. Click on the image to enlarge it.

One final note: I am finding that Twitter is an incredible resource for driving blog traffic. I always tweet any new posts I have written. However, I don’t just say something like, “I just uploaded a new blog post. Check it out!” That’s not specific enough to drive any blog traffic. Instead, I try to be specific and write the tweet like a headline. For example, “Do you feel overwhelmed by email? I just posted ‘Yes, You can Stay On Top of Email!’ Here’s how: http://tr.im/iGHp.”

Question: What are your current blogging tools? What am I missing that I should consider? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
Want to launch your own blog or upgrade to self-hosted WordPress? Watch my free, twenty-minute screencast. I show you exactly how to do it. You don’t need any technical knowledge. Click here to get started.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are snarky, offensive, or off-topic. If in doubt, read My Comments Policy.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/matthewdbenson matthewdbenson

    This is great! Thanks! I have a question however (apologies in adance if this is explained somewhere on your blog …) – how do I do these short URLs?

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/matthewdbenson matthewdbenson

      Sorry – meant to say also, I tried Blogger once, but it didn't work out; started afresh with WordPress recently after seeing your video …

    • Charles Womack

      I use http://www.TinyURL.com, seems to work great.

      • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

        Yes, it is probably the most reliable of the URL shortners. I have also experimented with tr.im and is.gd. They both save you a few characters, which is important on services like Twitter.

  • http://thesmallbusinessguru.com/blogging/coach-training-course-blogging/ Melody Campbell

    I would add to you great list that you really need to have a great look to your blog. There are lots of wonderful free themes but…I have discovered that I really love Brian Gardners' Studiopress Themes.

    The main reason that I love this set of themes is because of the way it serves up the information on the home page with the ability to feature several categories with pictures and teaser text. It's really flexible and easy to customize.

  • http://www.linda-adams.com Linda Adams

    One of the nice features of WordPress that you didn't mention is that you can write a blog entry and schedule it for a future posting. So it's easy to do several entries at one setting and have them automatically come out over a week.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      Yes, I love that, too. Also, ecto can make of this to schedule delayed posts.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/patalexander patalexander

    Michael,

    Thanks so much for sharing these tools. Your information is always so helpful. I have just updated my website to a WordPress site and know I still have a lot to do to make it everything I want it to be. I'm looking forward to researching and implementing those tools I don't already use.

  • http://www.iconscience.co.uk Marieme Jamme

    Interesting and informative! Thank you for sharing it!

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  • http://jenjenproductions.com Jenn

    Thanks Michael! These posts are really helpful. I have my own blog and am just trying to figure how SEO and other tools can help. I'm on Twitter as well and I think it's a great idea to make the Tweets really count. Thanks again – you're the bomb!

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/human3rror human3rror

    :) Thanks!

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/human3rror human3rror

    The biggest "tool" in your "toolbox" that you forgot to mention is your "go get 'em attitude" to try new things and not be afraid of "breaking it"…!

    That goes a long way!

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, John!

  • http://Updatable.cc/blog Scott M.

    Our company blog runs on our own blog platform that’s built into our Content Management System. It’s the same one we implement for all of our clients. You can see it by clickng my name above.

    For other tools, we write in Evernote, then copy/paste into the blog. We get our imagery from Flickr normally, but we only search Creative Commons images. You can set search options by choosing the Advanced Search tool in Flickr.

    (I use Tumble for my personal blog since it’s super easy and clean looking. http://www.readscott.com)

  • http://www.maclakeonline.com Mac_Lake

    Hey Mike I am new to the blogging world, just started mine last week. I have found your posts on blogging extremely helpful. Keep teaching and I will try to keep learning.
    Mac

  • http://www.simpleaffiliatetraining.com Kristen

    Thanks for the mention of Ecto.. I think I tried that for a week or so after I saw someone else mention it and it just didn't "stick" with me.. I'll have to look it up and re-visit.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      The other one you might want to check is MarsEdit for the Mac. They are comparable. I have found ecto a little easier to customize for my needs.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/Beaconhillnw Jim

    i checked out ecto but looks like it's only available for Mac?

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      Yes, I think that is correct. However, you might want to look at BlogJet for Windows. That's what I used to use and loved it.

  • http://carryingdaily.blogspot.com Martin Richardson

    I use Blogger with my phone, I can send MMS messages with my own pictures and post instantly without having a computer. Since it's operated by Google, I use the dashboard and have quick access to adsense, gmail, and google reader(my dashboard shows your posts in real time along with my other subscriptions). I also use my MySpace a bit like how you use Twitter.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/Peter_P Peter_P

    It's posts like this that get you "noticed" in people's "five".

    Great post Mike. Informative and accurate. Name me another CEO of a company the size of yours that would take the time to write a post like that! You're awesome and it honors God when you do it!

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/SynapticLight Phillip Gibb

    Thanks you for sharing all that.
    Ecto and the way you use twitter – practical and wise.

    The only thing that I could offer is that I use Photoshop for some of the graphics.
    I was using Coda to code extra html code needed in a post until the license expired, now I use TextEdit – hoping that Ecto will prove useful here.

    shot

    Phill

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      I use Photoshop quite a bit, too. I also use Text Wrangler for some stuff.

  • http://www.barrywhitlow.com Barry Whitlow

    Where do you suggest we go to register a domain name?

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      I use GoDaddy.com

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/Beaconhillnw Jim

    Awesome thanks for the info! I will look into that.Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry
    From: IntenseDebate Notifications

  • http://www.shessothere.com Sweetie

    Thank you again for allowing us to share in your experience, and streamlining the products we are attempting to produce with great assistance tools!

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/FaithEngineer FaithEngineer

    Great post! Thanks for sharing all the plugins you are using.

  • http://www.bestbuyishop.com/ nikon

    wow

    thank you for review best site.

    good job

    :)

  • heidi

    One increasing problem is spamming comments. Do you use Akismet, and does it work?

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/DerekDRobertson DerekDRobertson

    When I first started following you was right when you were down for the count. So I sat on the edge of my seat waiting to see this new blog even though I never saw the old one. My favorite part was the communication between you and @human3rror. Your dedication like @human3rror said earlier was a great influence to me as amateur to make mine the best I could. Thanks for your dedication and sharing your life.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/DerekDRobertson DerekDRobertson

    I also really like the new way you set up for the feeds. It's a very nice cleaner look.

  • http://terripatrick.wordpress.com/ terri patrick

    This is an awesome amount of information.
    Many told me about wordpress – so that's why I started my blog there and am happy so far though haven't seen what all it can do for me yet. Now I'm inspired – especially at the delayed posting feature. I didn't even think to look for that.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/ldemoss Luke DeMoss

    Thanks for the info Michael! It's always helpful to see what everybody is using and be able to compare the pros/cons. Thanks for what you do and for all you share on these big interwebs!

  • http://www.sharonball.com Sharon Ball

    I'm so glad you updated us on your current blogging toolbox. Thanks to your list of goodies, I'm about to download wordpress.com stats. :-)

  • http://www.vakil.org Arif

    I've been away from your blog for a while, but gosh it feels good to be back. Another Great post, thanks Michael. I've always been using wordpress but Ecto didn't work too well for me in it's earlier days, will give it another shot.

    By the way your next post can probably be on any updates on which RSS reader you've been using and the new feeds added? :-)

    By the way also curious any podcasts that you listen to regularly?

  • http://twitter.com/DaveSohnchen @DaveSohnchen

    This is great. Thanks for the list of plugins that use with WordPress. There are so many out there it's hard to know where to start.

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  • Pat Sanders

    I like your dropcap feature.
    like yourself, I upload a plugin for dropcap, but now everything has a dropcap. How did you adjust the code so that you and not WP would decide where and when to place a drop-cap.
    Great style, and great layout.

    • http://www.michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I use the Drop Caps plugin. It enables me to adjust where it appears on the settings page. It should only be applying it to the first paragraph. Thanks.

      • http://elconquistador.org Pat Sanders

        Thanks!
        I am new to HTML codes and the like, but I will give everything a good try. Thanks again for answering!

  • http://elconquistador.org Pat Sanders

    Oops, sorry for the typo’s.
    I am not very good at all of this.

  • http://brevis.me Robert Ewoldt

    Michael, I found this post… I’m always fascinated by the technical aspects of your site… have you ever used any program other than etco?  I’m a PC person, and can’t use etco. 

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  • Steve

    What do you use for hosting training videos?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      We use Wistia.