How Tumblr Works

How to Use Tumblr

Using Tumblr is as easy as using e-mail -- which is how a Tumblr account is created. Simply sign up with an e-mail address and a password, choose a user name, and start blogging. (The user name does not have to be the same as the blog's title, by the way.) On the user's blog entry page (accessible via the Dashboard, which we'll talk more about in a second), Tumblr guides the blogging process with icons for text, photo, quotes, links, chat, audio or video. Click on the correct one, enter in the materials, and then click "post" at the end (or, queue it, or set it to run on a specific date).

But Tumblr is a social network, too. Tumblr users connect by subscribing to other Tumblr blogs. This way, anytime an author updates with a new article, picture, video or shared item, it shows up in the Dashboards of his or her subscribers. The Dashboard is Tumblr's main interface. Similar to a Facebook news feed, it plainly displays, in reverse chronological order (most recent at the top), all activity by the user and the blogs he or she follows. (Tip: scroll through posts easily by pressing the "J" key while in the Dashboard.)

From the Dashboard, users may give "notes" to the posts they enjoy most. They can do this in several ways:

  • clicking the arrow button on a post "reblogs" it on their own site
  • clicking the heart icon registers a "like"
  • a speech balloon (if enabled) leaves a text comment
  • clicking the camera button to leave a photo reply (if the author has allowed for that)

On the Dashboard, each post has a little box with a number in it -- that's a tally of how many total notes have been given. Clicking on that number unfurls below the post, which shows which users have noted the post, and how. (Visiting the sites of people who liked the same thing that you did is a great way to find new Tumblr blogs to follow.) A sidebar demonstrates how many posts the user has liked, as well as blogs he or she follows and suggestions as to other blogs the user might like. (For a small fee, Tumblr will feature your blog, either on the sidebar, or by pegging it to the top of subscribers' dashboards for a certain period of time.)

The blog's got content. But how should it look? Read on to learn about customization.