Got something to talk about? Find the right home and best add-ons for your blog with PC Advisor.

These days, you can find a blog for just about anything. Looking for affordable art prints? Weheartprints.com has them. Interested in Craftsman, Mission, and Prairie furniture? Check out Hewn & Hammered.

In fact, according to the blog-tracking service Technorati, there are some 70 million active weblogs. And for good reason: blogs are a fun and easy way to communicate.

They can even be profitable. Some blogging services (such as Blogger and TypePad) include tools that automatically publish advertisements, based on the topics you write about on your site, and send you the cash via PayPal.

No matter what your reasons for blogging, there are plenty of tools that can help you get started and keep readers tuned in. But not all blogging services are the same. We'll give you the inside scoop on five great online services that appeal to different types of bloggers, as well as 13 add-ons that let you customise your blog with music, games, headlines, and more.

Visit Broadband Advisor for the latest news and reviews about the internet and internet tools, and to use PC Advisor's independent broadband speed checker

  1. PC Advisor guide to blogging
  2. For the personal blog
  3. For the business blog
  4. For the community blog
  5. For the mobile blog
  6. Private blogging
  7. A domain of your own
  8. Widget wonderland
  9. Finding widgets
  10. Music widgets
  11. Keep it fresh

Got something to talk about? Find the right home and best add-ons for your blog with PC Advisor.

A blog for everyone

Some bloggers just can't stop themselves, and have blogs all over the web. If you're a multiple blog blogger, you'll probably use several platforms to run them all. That's because different blogging services have different strengths.

So it makes sense to choose the one that works best for the type of content you're creating. While some services offer pure ease of use, others are geared toward business blogs or social networks.

For the personal blog

If you want your blog to serve as a journal – that is, a place to share your thoughts and daily musings – keeping things simple is important. If blogging is a chore, you won't bother to do it.

A pioneer of push-button publishing, Google's Blogger is hard to beat for ease of use. Before Blogger, almost all blogs required that users write their own code. While that's no longer the case, Blogger remains the gold standard for simplicity.

Getting started is a cinch. If you already have a Gmail address or a Google account, you're ready to go. If not, you'll need to sign up on Blogger's home page. Once you have an account, you can give your blog a title and choose a URL on Blogspot, Blogger's free hosting service (you can also move the blog to your own domain).

Under the Settings tab are numerous options for customising your blog; for instance, you can choose how many posts appear on the main page, and set default rules for who can comment (anyone, registered users, or just authors of the blog). The Template tab lets you tweak your blog's colours and fonts, select a new design, or enter your own code.

You can also find ready-made templates at sites such as BlogSkins.com. Just be sure to include Blogger's proprietary posting tags in your template; otherwise, your site won't publish correctly.

For the proper formatting, click here. To use the service's what you see is what you get (wysiwyg) tools for formatting text and adding links, you'll need Safari 3 or a third-party browser such as Firefox.

Another good option is Automattic's WordPress. It's easy to use but powerful and quite tweakable. WordPress offers a much wider selection of templates than Blogger.

You can choose from templates with one or two colours and clean lines, or you can opt for one of the bolder designs that look like something straight out of a modern-art museum.

WordPress also offers some basic protection from comment spam with Akismet, a service that filters out junk before it bothers you. If something does slip through the cracks, you can banish it from your site by clicking on Comments and marking it as spam. And for $10 (£4.90) a year, you can even publish your WordPress blog to your own domain.

Visit Broadband Advisor for the latest news and reviews about the internet and internet tools, and to use PC Advisor's independent broadband speed checker

  1. PC Advisor guide to blogging
  2. For the personal blog
  3. For the business blog
  4. For the community blog
  5. For the mobile blog
  6. Private blogging
  7. A domain of your own
  8. Widget wonderland
  9. Finding widgets
  10. Music widgets
  11. Keep it fresh

Got something to talk about? Find the right home and best add-ons for your blog with PC Advisor.

A blog for everyone

For the business blog

If you're looking to push the boundaries of what you can do with a blog – especially if you want to use the blog as a part of your business – check out Six Apart's TypePad.

This service is more flexible than Blogger and WordPress, and it gives your blog room to grow. In fact, several professional media outlets, including MSNBC, Time, and Wired, rely on it for their weblogs. TypePad is not for people looking for a free trip through the blogosphere, though: plans start at $4.95 (£2.49) a month for the basic level, which gets you one blog for a single blogger, and run to $29.95 (£14.86) a month for a plan with multiple authors, unlimited blogs, and lots of bandwidth and storage space.

One feature that makes TypePad ideal for businesses is that it lets you set up static pages – for example, a home page or a bio page – with designs that match your blog's theme. Meanwhile, you get incredible control over your blog's layout; for instance, you can set the number of columns, specify whether your sidebar is on the left or right, and more. For multimedia-heavy blogs, TypePad offers a selection of mixed-media layouts that prominently display photos or videos.

TypePad's protection against comment spam goes beyond the capabilities of Blogger and WordPress. For instance, you can restrict comments to authenticated users, or require that people type in a code, which ensures that a human being and not a computer program is doing the commenting. You can also ban commenters and report spammers to TypePad to help weed those users out.

But one of TypePad's biggest draws is its tech support. When we've had problems that we couldn't find an answer to in the knowledge base – rare occurrences – we've always been able to get an actual living, breathing person to give us a hand.

Visit Broadband Advisor for the latest news and reviews about the internet and internet tools, and to use PC Advisor's independent broadband speed checker

  1. PC Advisor guide to blogging
  2. For the personal blog
  3. For the business blog
  4. For the community blog
  5. For the mobile blog
  6. Private blogging
  7. A domain of your own
  8. Widget wonderland
  9. Finding widgets
  10. Music widgets
  11. Keep it fresh

Got something to talk about? Find the right home and best add-ons for your blog with PC Advisor.

For the community blog

Vox is another blogging service from Six Apart, but it focuses on multimedia and social-networking features. It's a great service if you want to keep in touch with a like-minded community, or if you simply want to correspond with a group of friends.

When you set up a blog on Vox, you have your pick of hundreds of designs. Many themes complement specific interests, such as cycling, music, and travel. Some focus on cities (such as Las Vegas, New York, and Kiev), while others are associated with seasons and holidays. There are several layout options, but unlike with Blogger and TypePad, you can't completely overhaul the design and layout. Also, Vox doesn't allow you to publish to your own server; you're stuck with the yoursitename.vox.com naming scheme.

When you create a new post, you'll see buttons for inserting photos, audio, books, and videos. If you click on Videos, for example, Vox will let you upload a new video from your Mac or embed one from iFilm or YouTube. There's also an Amazon.com tab that lets you search for a film and insert its poster art along with a link to the DVD.

As for images, you can upload your own, search for a stock image at iStockphoto.com, or have Vox pull pictures from Flickr or Photobucket. Vox embeds these items in your post, allowing you to specify their size and alignment.

Of course, there may be times when you don't want the entire world to see one of your photos or videos – say, when it's a snapshot of you at a party, and you appear less than sober in it. This is where Vox's community tools come in handy. You can assign people as contacts (or 'Neighbors' in Vox's parlance), friends, family, or all of the above.

Then you can designate posts as accessible only for friends, family, or neighbors. Also, since Vox's front page gives you a view of your neighbourhood – posts and media uploads from all your contacts – Vox is an easy way to keep tabs on friends or other users with whom you share interests.

Visit Broadband Advisor for the latest news and reviews about the internet and internet tools, and to use PC Advisor's independent broadband speed checker

  1. PC Advisor guide to blogging
  2. For the personal blog
  3. For the business blog
  4. For the community blog
  5. For the mobile blog
  6. Private blogging
  7. A domain of your own
  8. Widget wonderland
  9. Finding widgets
  10. Music widgets
  11. Keep it fresh

Got something to talk about? Find the right home and best add-ons for your blog with PC Advisor.

For the mobile blog

To get the ultimate in simplicity, turn to Tumblr, a publishing service designed for tumblelogs. A tumblelog is a type of blog designed for quick hits – short posts, pictures, web links, and videos – rather than long-form text entries. This makes it ideal for posting from a mobile phone.

Enter your email address, a password, and a desired web address (you can later change it to your domain if you want), and you're ready to publish.

When it comes to posting, you'll see buttons for different types of entries, including text, photos, quotes, links, chat transcripts, and videos. Tumblr also imports feeds from various sources, such as Flickr, YouTube, Digg, Del.icio.us, Twitter, Vox, Blogger, and LiveJournal.

In most cases, you can select whether to import content as full entries or as links that go back to the original post. You can also import an RSS feed, and Tumblr will publish it to your blog.

Want to blog from your phone? Tumblr can post entries sent via email – great for quickly uploading camera-phone pictures and short Twitter-style observations. Just send a message to the unique email address that Tumblr assigns you, and your photo or text will show up in a post, with the subject line repurposed as a caption.

Although this isn't a unique feature – most of the aforementioned services let you post from the road – Tumblr does it better than most, and the tumblelog format is perfect for all those short entries you'll be tapping out on your iPhone.

Visit Broadband Advisor for the latest news and reviews about the internet and internet tools, and to use PC Advisor's independent broadband speed checker

  1. PC Advisor guide to blogging
  2. For the personal blog
  3. For the business blog
  4. For the community blog
  5. For the mobile blog
  6. Private blogging
  7. A domain of your own
  8. Widget wonderland
  9. Finding widgets
  10. Music widgets
  11. Keep it fresh

Got something to talk about? Find the right home and best add-ons for your blog with PC Advisor.

Keep it private

With most blogging platforms, you can choose whether the service publicises your work. But a simple Google search for your name or company can easily turn up your blog, potentially exposing it to the eyes of coworkers and future employers.

If you want to blog about sensitive issues – for example, your job, a relationship, or an illness – you may want to set up a blog that only friends or family can read.

Community-oriented services such as Vox and LiveJournal let you restrict posts to viewing by authorised people. If you go with a service that doesn't provide this option, make it a policy from the get-go to not mention your company or the full names of people.

Visit Broadband Advisor for the latest news and reviews about the internet and internet tools, and to use PC Advisor's independent broadband speed checker

  1. PC Advisor guide to blogging
  2. For the personal blog
  3. For the business blog
  4. For the community blog
  5. For the mobile blog
  6. Private blogging
  7. A domain of your own
  8. Widget wonderland
  9. Finding widgets
  10. Music widgets
  11. Keep it fresh

Got something to talk about? Find the right home and best add-ons for your blog with PC Advisor.

A domain of your own

If you're hoping to make money with your blog, having your own web address is a must. Blogging on your own domain, however, takes a little bit more setup. You typically do it in one of two ways: by publishing to your own server via FTP, or by domain mapping.

Google's Blogger and desktop blogging programs such as iWeb and Rapidweaver support publishing to your domain via FTP. Just make sure you have enough server space to do this. WordPress, TypePad, and Tumblr, on the other hand, all use domain mapping (Blogger offers this as an option, too). This means your custom URL is pointed toward, or mapped to, your blog.

In other words, when people type in your domain, they end up at your hosted blog. In most cases, you can do this with the registrar you purchased your domain from.

Each service and registrar does things a bit differently, but no matter which one you use, it's often a good idea to set up a sub-domain or folder to publish your blog to, such as blog.yoursitename.com or yoursitename.com/blog (rather than your top-level domain, yoursitename.com). This allows you to publish material other than your blog on the same domain.

For more details, check out each site's domain-mapping frequently asked questions pages.

Visit Broadband Advisor for the latest news and reviews about the internet and internet tools, and to use PC Advisor's independent broadband speed checker

  1. PC Advisor guide to blogging
  2. For the personal blog
  3. For the business blog
  4. For the community blog
  5. For the mobile blog
  6. Private blogging
  7. A domain of your own
  8. Widget wonderland
  9. Finding widgets
  10. Music widgets
  11. Keep it fresh

Got something to talk about? Find the right home and best add-ons for your blog with PC Advisor.

Widget wonderland

Anyone can slap pictures and text on a web page and call it a blog. It's much harder to make a blog that stands out from the pack and gets people reading it regularly. One way to do so is by dressing up your site with widgets.

Widgets are essentially tiny programs that add functionality, transforming your blog into something useful and unique. For instance, a widget can display your photos, an RSS feed from another site, a list of songs you've listened to lately, or even a map that shows the places you've visited.

Installing widgets

Adding widgets to your blog is gener-ally painless. In fact, some services supply their own, making installation an easy, automated process. One such service is WordPress, which offers a calendar widget, a widget for displaying your blog stats, a Flickr widget, and more. To install one, select the Presentation link, click on Widgets, and then drag and drop the one you want onto your blog.

TypePad has an even wider selection, offering everything from a Google calendar widget to a widget that displays a daily cocktail. Click on the Design tab and then search the Widget Gallery. When you select one you like, TypePad automatically adds it to the sidebar of your blog.

Even if you're not using one of these services, you can add widgets to your site. Some widgets include an automatic installation option for popular blogging services, which takes the brainwork out of incorporating them. Otherwise, you'll need to copy the widget's code (there's typically a button that selects the right code for you) and paste it into your blog's template.

We recommend placing widgets in your blog's sidebar, which makes them available on all pages (unless you've set up your blog to publish individual pages with different templates or sets of rules).

Blogger lets you add widgets to either the sidebar or the bottom of your page. Click on the Template tab, and then go to Page Elements. Click on Add A Page Element, choose the HTML/JavaScript option, and paste in the code. In TypePad, you can add external widgets to your sidebar as TypeLists. Go to the TypeLists tab and create a new Notes TypeList. Paste the code for your widget into the Note field.

WordPress makes things a little more challenging. Because the service blocks a number of commonly used HTML tags, many third-party widgets won't display properly (especially ones with dynamic images and scripts).

Still, if you want to give it a whirl, go to the Presentation tab and click on Widgets. Drag the Text widget to your sidebar, click on the configure icon, and paste the code into the sidebar's body. WordPress.org offers an installable version of its software that will let you install other widgets of your choosing-, as long as you have your own web host and are confident about doing some site administration. If you're using Vox or Tumblr, you're out of luck. Neither service provides a way to place widgets in the sidebar.

Visit Broadband Advisor for the latest news and reviews about the internet and internet tools, and to use PC Advisor's independent broadband speed checker

  1. PC Advisor guide to blogging
  2. For the personal blog
  3. For the business blog
  4. For the community blog
  5. For the mobile blog
  6. Private blogging
  7. A domain of your own
  8. Widget wonderland
  9. Finding widgets
  10. Music widgets
  11. Keep it fresh

Got something to talk about? Find the right home and best add-ons for your blog with PC Advisor.

Finding widgets

So now that you know how to install widgets, it's time to deck out your blog. Widgets are available from individual developers and from online collection sites such as Widgetbox. Not sure where to begin? Here are some ideas.

General interest: A number of all-purpose widgets can take your blog to the next level. With Widgetbox's New York Times widget, for instance, your blog can be your newsroom, updating visitors not only about what's going on with you but also about the world at large. To add the local forecast, check out the teeny-tiny WeatherLet widget.

Perhaps you'd like to add a calendar with iCal data so visitors will be able to search for upcoming events. With the YourMinis Calendar widget, you simply enter the web address of your published iCal calendar – above the widget, click on Edit Me and then on Edit, and enter the URL where people can subscribe to your published iCal calendar – and then copy and paste the code to your blog.

Or if you're an avid runner and use the iPod Nike+ Sport Kit to track workouts, the Nike Plus widget is a great way to boast about your mileage total, challenges, and goals.

Visit Broadband Advisor for the latest news and reviews about the internet and internet tools, and to use PC Advisor's independent broadband speed checker

  1. PC Advisor guide to blogging
  2. For the personal blog
  3. For the business blog
  4. For the community blog
  5. For the mobile blog
  6. Private blogging
  7. A domain of your own
  8. Widget wonderland
  9. Finding widgets
  10. Music widgets
  11. Keep it fresh

Got something to talk about? Find the right home and best add-ons for your blog with PC Advisor.

Music widgets: Want to show the world how good (or bad) your taste in music is?

Apple's My iTunes widgets broadcast your latest purchases, music or videos you've reviewed, or your favourite iTunes artists. To grab these widgets, visit your iTunes Store account settings and click on Enable My iTunes.

Widgets also exist for fans of internet radio. Last.fm for example, lets you create a miniature radio station that plays your preferred types of tunes right on your blog.

Web tie-ins: If you're keeping a blog, chances are you're also maintaining personal data on other sites, whether it's a page on Facebook or photos on Flickr. So why not incorporate the highlights into your blog?

The Twitter widget displays your latest tweets so you can inform visitors about what you're doing right now without having to create a new post. Or you can add a widget from Upcoming that keeps visitors up-to-date on which concerts, games, and conventions you're going to be at in the coming weeks.

If you want visitors to find you on your social-networking site of choice, drop in a widget that ties back to your profile. For LinkedIn, a variety of buttons connect back to your profess-ional profile. If you use Facebook, you can add a widget that links to your profile and even includes some basic updates you make on the 'book. To find out how to add widgets to a social-networking page, see 'Accessorise your social space'.

For photos, the static Flickr badge displays a selection of recent pictures (up to 10), while the Flash badge adds motion, rotating different photos from your entire stream or from a specific set or group.

Widgets for fun: Of course, widgets don't need to be informational at all. They can just be entertaining distractions that encourage visitors to hang around on your site. For instance, the Meebo widget lets users chat live on the web, and if you aren't around, visitors are able to leave a message. Or for pure nostalgia, a Pac-Man widget gives visitors a crack at popping pills and chomping ghosts across your blog.

Visit Broadband Advisor for the latest news and reviews about the internet and internet tools, and to use PC Advisor's independent broadband speed checker

  1. PC Advisor guide to blogging
  2. For the personal blog
  3. For the business blog
  4. For the community blog
  5. For the mobile blog
  6. Private blogging
  7. A domain of your own
  8. Widget wonderland
  9. Finding widgets
  10. Music widgets
  11. Keep it fresh

Got something to talk about? Find the right home and best add-ons for your blog with PC Advisor.

Keep it fresh

The best way to discover widgets is to surf, sample, and see what works. At the end of the day, a blog's goal is to offer content that makes people want to come back again and again, whether it's your mum or an interested reader halfway around the world.

Accessorise your social space

If you're one of the 50 million people with a MySpace page, or one of the growing number of Facebook users, you've got a world of widgets to choose from. How-ever, installing them isn't as cut-and-dried as it is on your own blog, since MySpace and Facebook offer less leeway in terms of how you can manipulate your page. MySpace actually blocks some widgets, so you need to make sure that the ones you want to add will work.

One way around this is to use Widgetbox, which automatically installs widgets on both sites. When you find a widget you like, look for the MySpace or Facebook icon. If it's there, you can add that widget to your page with just a few clicks.

For Facebook users, there's an even easier way. Facebook now lets you add miniature programs to your profile page, such as a map of cities you've visited or a program that establishes a personal training regimen based on your fitness goals. You can see a huge (and growing) list of widgets by clicking on the Applications link near the top left side of
any Facebook page, or by going to www.facebook.com/apps.

Visit Broadband Advisor for the latest news and reviews about the internet and internet tools, and to use PC Advisor's independent broadband speed checker

  1. PC Advisor guide to blogging
  2. For the personal blog
  3. For the business blog
  4. For the community blog
  5. For the mobile blog
  6. Private blogging
  7. A domain of your own
  8. Widget wonderland
  9. Finding widgets
  10. Music widgets
  11. Keep it fresh