Warning: this post will likely only be relevant to you if you are a blogger or are thinking about starting a blog.
I’ve been blogging on and off for almost three years. Periodically, I am asked about how to start a blog. I have posted on that topic previously, so I won’t repeat myself here.
However, I also get asked about the specific tools I use. Since I started blogging, I have used several. But for the last six month or so months, I have settled into a grove with the following four:
- TypePad — This is the blogging service that I use. It is the service I started with three years ago. I have never changed. From time to time, I have looked at others, but I have not found anything else that does such a good job combining ease-of-use with customizability. There’s virtually nothing I can’t do. Initially, I used one of the predefined themes. But, after a while, I created my own. I really like the flexibility and the way the service has grown with me.
- ecto — This is my blogging client. And, yes, the product is spelled in all lowercase letters. It is bascially a word processor for blogging. It allows me to blog offline. (To blog with TypePad, you have to be online.) For example, I am writing this post on the airplane. When I land and connect to the Internet, I will “publish” this post with one click. ecto also interfaces seamlessly with TypePad and a whole bunch of other services. 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 doesn’t have a “smart quotes” feature. As a result, I have to enter true open and close quote marks manually. I am hoping this will be added to version 3.0 when it is released.
- iStockPhoto — I get the photos I use in my posts from this single service. It’s a snap 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 $1.00 per image and can download them on the spot. I generally use the smallest photo size available, which is roughly 440 pixels wide. I also use this service for my Keynote (or occasionally PowerPoint) presentations. However, I have to use a bigger size photo, so the resolution is sufficient. As more and more images are added, this service just increases in its value to me. I have never found a reason to go any where else.
- ImageWell — I always have to resize my images. To conform to the design of my blog, I need an image that is exactly 360 pixels wide. In the past, I used to load Adobe Photoshop to scale the image to the size I needed. This was overkill. It was like chartering a Boeing 747 to fly to a city a hundred miles a way. What I needed was something small and fast. It really only needed to do one thing well: scale my images to a predetermined size. Enter ImageWell. I first read about it (I think) on Guy Kawasaki’s blog. It was perfect. It loads fast, scales the image to the proper size, sends the image to the appropriate folder, then gets out of the way.
Occasionally, I use other tools as well. I have used OmniGraffle to create diagrams and OmniOutliner to outline more complex posts before I begin writing. But ninety-five percent of the time, I get by on just these four tools.