Bloggers saw major upgrades to Google’s Blogger service Thursday. The blog editor and content manager added webmaster tools, comment features, and blog backups.
There are some much-needed features with the latest release.
- The post editor has been improved for better What You See is What You Get (WYSIWYG) controls. Picture and table layout can now be done by clicking and dragging. The editor also claims better HTML support.
- Previews now pop-up in a DHTML window-in-window, making it easier to edit on the fly.
- Blogs can now safely back up its content to Atom-formatted XML files. Bloggers can use this file to exchange posts from one blog to another.
- Much-needed comment forms are now embeddable under the post. Ugly blue Blogger windows no longer pop-up when commenting, breaking visitors from the flow of your pages.
- Zero to five star reviews are now available for posts.
- The update introduced integration with Google Webmaster Tools, a way to provide sitemaps and track your site’s inclusion in Google listings.
Unfortunately, auto-save has been discontinued, although it will be returning in the future.
Portable backup data will allay some fears about letting Google host your blog.
Blogger allows you to host your own DNS, but will only allow you to host your blog on Google servers. The new backup feature compensates for the lack of complete control over your data. Allowing Google to host gives you one big positive: it’s free, and few companies know how to host as reliably as Google does. That said, it is still hard to imagine publishers allowing Blogger to host their entire sites.
In contrast, WordPress and Movable Type both allow you to host the CMS software on your web server independently.
It seemed for a while that content management systems WordPress, TypePad and MovableType were progressing along nicely while Blogger dropped its trendsetting lead to inch along one small feature at a time. Things have changed lately, Blogger has released some killer new features to show they have some life under its cold blue familiar exterior.
If you haven’t visited Blogger in a while it might be worth taking a look at some of their more recent features. The layout control is comprehensive, as are the comment controls and OpenID support.
The blogging system also supports embedding hundreds of Google Gadgets. Although the plug-ins aren’t as impressive in scale and function as the plug-ins available to competing CMS’, thanks to its giant head start in third-party development. Watch this space though — while Google’s Gadgets are competing with social networking sites, it continues to see support and interoperability through Blogger, Google Desktop, Google Docs, and even other non-Google Open Social partners like MySpace.