As you may have read in Kevin’s recent post, Blogger is in the process of adding some major new features to the system. Currently available to those logging in through Blogger in Draft, the most prolific features include:
- A comment form beneath blog posts
- An import/export feature (which can also be used as a backup system)
- Star ratings, which readers can use to rate your posts
- A brand new post editor, with much greater functionality
In this post, I’ll go over these major updates in more detail, to explain how they can be of benefit to Blogger users. And as some of these features depend on template code, I’ll also explain how you can add this functionality to your Blogger powered blog.
A comment form beneath blog posts
This is probably the most requested feature for Blogger, and beats the hell out of the previous hosted page Blogger used for readers to add comments to our posts!
To add a comment form beneath your posts, you will need to activate this through your Blogger comment settings.
Scroll down to the part which says “Comment form placement” and choose the option which says “Embedded below post”.
If you are using a default template (or switch over to a default template) this will automatically make the comment form appear below your posts (on post pages) like this:
However, if you are using a customized (or third party) template, your template’s HTML code will not yet include the code required to make the embedded comment form appear.
This is the easiest way to add comment form functionality to a non-standard template:
- Go to Layout>Edit HTML (while logged in through Blogger in Draft!).
- Check the “Expand widget templates” box
- Search for this line of code:
<b:include data='post' name='comments'/>
- Right after this line, paste the following line of code:
<b:include data='post' name='comment-form'/>
- Then save your template.
Now when you view the comments section on a post page, you should see the new comment form appear in place (thanks to Is for the quick tip!)
At present, it is not possible to subscribe to follow-up comments by email when using this feature on your blog. However, Blogger is in the process of adding this function to the comment form, and I would expect this to be added before this new comment form is rolled out of beta mode.
The Import/Export feature
While other blogging systems have included this feature for some time, Blogger have only just enabled us to import posts from another blog, or backup our entire posts and comments to export to another blog.
This feature (again only available through Blogger in Draft) can be accessed through the Settings>Basic page of your blog’s dashboard:
Choosing the “Export” option allows you to make a complete backup of all your Blogger posts and comments, which you can save to your computer as an XML file.
This is a highly useful method of backing up all your posts as a safety precaution (just in case your blog becomes inaccessible for some reason).
To import posts from another blog, you can use the Import function. This requires you to upload an XML file of your posts and comments from another Blogger blog or blogging system (eg: WordPress).
You can also use this to restore a back-up version of your existing blog posts and comments, or to merge two blogs into one.
Blogger in Draft released a full explanation of this new feature which covers some caveats you should be aware of.
Star ratings for posts
This feature adds a star ratings widget beneath your posts, enabling readers to rate the quality of your articles.
While not a feature which will be useful for all Blogger users, this may be handy for general feedback about the quality of your writing.
To add this feature to your Blogger blog, go to Layout>Gadgets in your Blogger in Draft dashboard, and click on the “Edit” link for your blog posts widget.
You will then see the “Star ratings” option available to add to your blog:
If you use a standard template, you can simply tick this box to allow the star ratings beneath your posts. However, if you use a non-standard template (or have customized your template) your blog’s template code will not already include the code required.
To add star rating functionality to a non-standard blog template, you will need to add the following code to your template:
<div expr:g:background-color='data:backgroundColor' expr:g:text-color='data:textColor' expr:g:url='data:post.absoluteUrl' g:height='42' g:type='RatingPanel' g:width='180'/>
The best place to add this code is just below this line (if present in your template):
<div class=’post-footer-line post-footer-line-2′>
Or anywhere in the “post-footer” section of your blog.
Although the Blogger team have not yet hinted about this, I suspect the star-ratings feature could easily become the basis for a popular posts widget integrated into the Blogger system.
A brand new post editor
For me, the new post editor came as quite a shock! Being used to editing all my posts in HTML mode (I use a great deal of code in my posts), I was surprised to see there were no longer any buttons visible in this mode. Not even to add a hyperlink or image!
However, the “compose” mode for editing blog posts has lots of great new features, and after using this for a while, I found it more natural and easy to use than manually typing the code for my posts.
Here is a preview of the new, improved post editor for Blogger:
When you choose to upload an image or create a hyperlink, you will see a “lightbox” style pop-up which includes far more functionality than the previous post editor.
Furthermore, when you toggle the “Post options” near the bottom of the post editor, you have access to more functions for the particular post you are working on:
For those who prefer to type the HTML code for their posts, I would advise you to choose the option for “Show HTML literally”.
If instead, you prefer to use a regular composer for your posts, choose to “Interpret typed HTML” instead.
This is also useful for those who use code examples in their posts, as you will no longer need to escape the HTML code in order to make it display.
What do you think of Blogger’s new features?
Personally, I’m very happy with the improvements Blogger has added to this free blogging platform. The embedded comment form in particular is a much-requested addition to the service, and while the new post editor may take some getting used to, I’m sure it will serve as a much better means of creating our blog posts.
Have you tested out these new features for yourself yet? If so, what do you think about the improvements so far?