Blogging used to be the province of the technically inclined but it's getting a lot easier. There are three popular blogging services that almost anyone can use.
Blogger.com and AOL Hometown are both free. You don't have to be an AOL member to use AOL Hometown.
Another alternative is TypePad.com, which costs $4.95 a month. TypePad offers some advanced services and unlike its fee-free competitors, TypePad does not run any advertisements on the blogs of its customers.
Blogger.com, which is owned by Google, is the leading blogging site. It just underwent a relaunch to make it easier to use.
The rest of this article is a tutorial on how to set up a blog using the new Blogger.com. Give it a try. You have nothing to lose but your time. How much time depends on how obsessed you become with blogging.
- Point your web browser to www.blogger.com.
- Click on the orange arrow that says "Create your blog now"
Enter a user name and password, along with the name of your blog and your email address. Write down your user name and password.
- Click "Continue."
- Enter a title for your blog such as "My Blog" and a blog address. The address will be part of the web address for your blog. For example, if you type "mynametest" your blog address would be mynametest.blogspot.com. That's the address you'll give to anyone who wants to visit your blog.
- You're now asked to choose a template, which will determine the basic look and feel of your blog. Whatever you select, you can easily change it later without losing any content.
That's it. Once you click "Continue," the service will create your blog. You're ready to start posting.
Click "Start Posting" and you're taken to a screen where you enter the title and text of your first post. You can delete it or change it later, so don't worry about what you type. You might start with a title like "My First Posting" and type in any text such as "This is my first posting and I'm simply testing the blog."
Notice the five icons above the box where you type the message. The B is for bold and the I for italics. If you want to place text in bold or italics, highlight the text and click on the B or the I.
If you do that you'll notice some strange codes appear on the screen. Unlike some web tools, blogger is not a "what you see is what you get" editor. Instead, it places codes called Hyper Text Markup Language (HTML) in your text.
Don't worry. To see how your text will look, just click "Preview" in the area above where you're typing. When you're done admiring your work, click "Hide Preview" and you can continue to enter text or make corrections. When you're done, click "Publish Post."
Blogger will then post your message and, when it's done, you can click on "View Blog" to see how the blog actually looks. When you do that, you're taken to the very page that visitors will see. Make a note of the URL in the status bar. That's the web address you'll give to other people who you want to view your blog.
You may also notice an advertisement at the top of your blog. That's how Google can afford to give away this free service. They're selling ads based on the work you're doing.
OK, so you've gotten started. Now let's add another post. Go to blogger.com or, if you're looking at your sample page, click on the blogger logo. If you're not automatically signed in, you can do so by entering your user name and password.
You should now see the Dashboard with your blog's name on it. Click on the blog's name and you will go to a screen where you can create a new post or edit, view or delete any existing posts. This is probably a good time to practice creating a few new posts and then going back and editing or deleting them. Any time you make a change, click on "Publish Post" to publish the changes to the site.
There are several other things you can do from the Dashboard. Clicking on "Settings" lets you change your blog's title or description. The formatting tab lets you change such things as how dates and times are displayed. The "Comments" tab lets you control whether or not visitors can leave comments.
There are other features that you can explore or you can click the Help button for instructions, including "Blogger basics."
Experiment. It won't cost you anything and it may turn out to be a lot of fun. Once you have a blog worth sharing, let your friends and family know.
A syndicated technology columnist for nearly two decades, Larry Magid serves as on air Technology Analyst for CBS Radio News. His technology reports can be heard several times a week on the CBS Radio Network. Magid is the author of several books including "The Little PC Book."
By Larry Magid