Easy Like Blogging
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Everyone talks about blogs as if they're something truly different from other kinds of Web pages. In fact, blogs are nothing more than content Web pages published with tools that make publishing super easy.
Once you set up a blog, you simply open a page, type in your text, maybe add a picture or video, then click a button. The blogging software does the rest of the work.
Thanks to a free new service called Texty, just about any page can be that easy to publish.
Texty is an online What-You-See-Is-What-You-Get (WYSIWYG) editor for HTML content, but with a difference. It enables you to make changes to your content -- any changes, really -- from a central page on Texty.com, and those changes show up instantly on the target page.
It's great for putting the same message or content on any number of pages. When you change it on the One Texty post, it changes everywhere. For example, you can drop your Texty code for your biographical information on three blog "bio pages," your work page, and on your family page. When you make a change to the bio on Texty, it's automatically and instantly changed on all five pages.
Like blog entries, Texty items can allow reader comments and RSS subscriptions. Just click the options you want on the individual Texty page.
In fact, it's a great way to complement a blog. It makes it as easy to update "static" pages on your blog (the about page, etc.) so in the future you don't have to move FTP files around every time you want to tweak something.
If you're not comfortable with editing HTML content and managing files that have to be uploaded via FTP, then Texty is a no-brainer. But even if you are an HTML wizard, Texty is a lot faster than doing things the old-fashioned way.
The editor itself is really simple to use. It offers enough formatting control for most people, without overwhelming you with options. It even has a Windows-style right-click context menu feature for Cut, Copy and Paste. You can add pictures and tables, highlight text, choose alignment, bullet or number lists, choose fonts and do all the normal, standard things you might want to do with text-centric content.
Another benefit is that you can use Texty to update Web sites that are not posted online. For example, you could distribute HTML pages that co-workers or family members keep on their PCs, and don't post on any public Web site. When they open the pages, however, they see the Texty content (along with any changes you've made). Of course, they need an active connection to the Internet to see Texty content.
It's also a great way to "design by committee." You can get five people on a conference call, and edit on the fly. "How does this look?" "Should we make the text larger?" "What if we did this?" Texty pushes out changes instantly. It's also an easy way to collaborate on a document. Just put the content up and invite input using the "Comments" feature.
And here's another great use for Texty. You can give other people limited access to a specific content area, without giving them the username and password keys to the whole site. Just set up a Texty account for them, drop in the code, and they can modify that one item to their heart's content without access or affecting anything else on the site.
Texty is in beta, but I didn't have any problems with it.
And if you're trying to promote your content, Texty isn't useful -- Google and the other search engines can't easily find and index the text. (On the other hand, if you want content protected from search engine spiders, Texty is an easy way to do it.)
And you have to trust that Texty won't go out of business and take your content with it -- remember, all the content is in the hands of Texty.
Still, Texty is very handy for dropping easily updatable snippets of content all over your Web pages. It's as easy as blogging.
If you like the idea of Texty, you might also try these two variations -- one is for actual blog posting, and one is for WYSIWYG HTML page creation.
This works in a similar fashion as Texty -- a WYSIWYG editor on a Web site that posts to your personal page. The difference is that WriteToMyBlog actually does a blog post on your existing blog. It's like posting as you normally do, but with much greater control over colors, format, etc., and much, much greater ease of use.
HotEditor is like Texty. It's a WYSIWYG text editor. The difference is that it gives you the code, which you have to manually copy and paste into your HTML page, then upload manually. HotEditor isn't as easy for posting as Texty, but the search engines can find and index the content, and you don't have to trust any startup. HotEditor could go out of business tomorrow, and the page you created with it today isn't affected.
In addition to writing for Datamation, where this column first appeared, Mike Elgan is a technology writer and former editor of Windows Magazine. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or his blog: http://therawfeed.com.