Blogger is a free blogging platform that's designed for ease. Because it's owned by Google, users can link it to various other Google products, like photo-sharing site Picasa and social network Google+. Using the basic blog design options, you can get a new blog up and running in less than 10 minutes.
The simplicity of Blogger doesn't limit what more experienced users can accomplish with it, however. Delving deeper into the customization possibilities allows you to create a completely unique blog design while maintaining the ease of use that the Blogger backend (the control panel where you design the blog and make posts) provides.
Signing up for Blogger is easy. If you already have a Google account (i.e. a Gmail address), then you just have to go to blogger.com and activate Blogger on your account. If you don't have a Google account, you'll need to make one. From there, you can optionally link your Blogger blog to your Google+ account, or create a "limited profile" that will let you blog anonymously without being linked back to your identity via Google+. Other Google products that are integrated with Blogger, such as Picasa or Google AdSense, will automatically be linked to your Blogger blog. You may have to sign in and activate those services, and some of them may require separate sign-ups, but otherwise, they're fully integrated.
The default Blogger setting is for Google to host your blog for free. It will have a URL based on the name you choose for the blog with the following format: [name of your blog].blogspot.com. So if you created a blog called "I Love Puppies," the web address would be ilovepuppies.blogspot.com. For a small registration fee ($10 per year), you can register your own domain so that your blog will appear at www.[name of your blog].com – and Google will still host your blog for free. Google makes this process quite simple. You can also use another host for your Blogger blog; this process is a bit more complicated, but Google offers step-by-step instructions.
Now let's talk about how to add posts and pages to your blog.
How to Add and Remove Blogger Posts and Pages
Adding new posts to Blogger is very simple. In the Blogger admin panel, there's an orange button in the upper left labeled "New Post." Hit that button and it brings you to a form where you can enter your post.
There's a space at the top where you can enter a title for the post. This title will appear at the top of the post and on the blog's front page. The main post entry window is basically a word processor. You enter your text and format it with a variety of buttons, making words bold, italic, different colors, adding links, bullet lists and so on. You can insert a jump break as well – everything above the break will appear on the front page, while the rest of the post will only show up if someone goes to that specific post.
If you'd rather format your post directly using HTML, that option is also available. You can even switch back and forth between the HTML and WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You get) editors.
Adding pages to a Blogger blog is similar to adding a post. From the admin panel, find the "Pages" link on the left side. That will open up a list of the current pages, and a button labeled "Add New Page." You can create and format the new page much like a post. The key difference is the tab bar at the top of your blog. If you go to the front page of your blog, you'll see a bar which has, depending on your settings and the design of the blog, a link called "Home." New pages will show up in that bar. This allows you to add an "About" page, an FAQ, or a series of category pages. You can also change the behavior of this bar and how pages appear in it via the "Show pages as" dialog.
Removing posts and pages is easy. There's a "delete" option available for every post and page in the admin panel.
You probably want to add more than text to your blog posts. In the next section, we'll see how Blogger handles photos.
How to Edit Photos on Blogger
The New Post toolbar includes a button that inserts an image into the post. There are a number of ways to prepare and retrieve an image. You can adjust and resize the image in a standalone image editor like Photoshop or Gimp. You can upload a photo from your computer or other device, or you can point to an image that's already on the web.
Since Blogger is integrated with Picasa, you can actually handle all your images through your Picasa account. The Insert Image dialog lets you pull an image to the blog directly from one of your Picasa folders. Conversely, if you upload an image from your computer to your blog, it will be automatically placed in a Picasa folder. Picasa also has its own built-in image editing function, which will let you crop, resize and do other edits to an image before you post it to Blogger. Note that if you edit an image with Picasa after it's been posted to your blog, the old version of the image on the blog will not show the edits. You'd have to manually remove the old version and insert the edited version.
Once you've inserted the image into your Blogger post, there are a few options available that let you control the alignment of the image. It can be centered or placed on either side (with text alongside it), and you can adjust the size.
Looking to create a more unique look for your blog? Take a peek at the next section.
How to Install Custom Blogger Templates
There are several ways to customize a blog on Blogger, and most of them are pretty simple.
To begin, head to the admin page and click the "Template" link on the left side. Hit the customize button. This takes you to the template designer page. You can choose from a variety of templates built into Blogger, and you can choose lots of different backgrounds to change how the template looks. You can even upload your own background image and header image.
The template designer has simple controls for adjusting the width of different elements of your blog and shift around the layout of blog elements, and the advanced tab lets you change the colors of every last element of the blog. All the changes you make can be viewed as you make them, before you finalize them and make them active on the blog itself.
One of the most powerful ways to customize a blog at Blogger is to upload a custom blog template. Information on a blog's design is stored in an xml file. This allows you to back up your blog design by saving the xml file to your computer.
But there's a more exciting way to use xml files with Blogger. There are tons of free custom blog templates designed to use with Blogger scattered around the web. When you download one of these templates, you'll get an xml file (usually contained in a zip or rar file). To install one, go to the Template tab of the admin panel. In the upper right you'll find a button called "Backup/Restore." Hit that button.
Where it says, "Upload a template from a file on your hard drive," hit Browse and find the xml file wherever you saved it on your computer. Then hit "Upload" and you're done. It only takes seconds.
I've been running my own site for years using Wordpress and my own host, but had never tried Blogger. While it isn't quite as flexible or powerful as Wordpress, especially when you consider the thousands of plugins available for Wordpress, I was pretty impressed by Blogger. Incredibly easy to set up and get running, but plenty of depth if you're willing to dig in and customize it.
- Blogger.com. "Layout." (July 24, 2012)http://support.google.com/blogger/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=43708
- Blogger.com. "Pages." (July 25, 2012)http://support.google.com/blogger/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=41378
- Blogger.com. "Posts." (July 25, 2012)http://support.google.com/blogger/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=41454&topic=1708421&ctx=topic
- Blogger.com. "Settings." (July 24, 2012)http://support.google.com/blogger/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=42662
- Blogger.com. "Template." (July 26, 2012)http://www.blogger.com/template-editor.g?blogID=4010125631613458355