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You know that book you have in you? The one you keep telling yourself you’re going to write someday, when you have time? It might be a travelog about your RV travels. It might be a novel based on your family’s experience. It might be your life story. Whatever the nature of your book, the way to get started is to … get started.
During this pandemic with orders to #StayHome, you might just have the time to do it. Writing a whole book is daunting, and it’s a problem that you don’t get any feedback until it’s done. If you use a blog to do your writing, you don’t have to worry about the whole book, you can get started one blog post at a time. If you make the blog public, you can get other people to read it and leave you comments. If you don’t want anyone to read it until you’re ready, just make the blog private to you.
3 Steps to create a blog – for free
I hear you saying, “That sounds great, but I have no clue how to make a blog.” There are many ways, but I believe in easy and free, at least to start. Blogger.com is my goto website for making a blog, easy and free. All you need is a Google account.
- Go to Blogger.com and sign in with your Google account. If this is the first time you’ve ever done this, you will be asked what name you want to be shown as the author of your blog.
- Click “New Blog” button at the upper right. Note: if you have already created other blogs, you’ll need to click the down arrow next an existing blog name.
- Fill out the form for your blog. You’ll need a Title for your blog/book, a web address (if you accept the .blogspot.com ending, it is free), and a theme – I recommend the Simple theme. You can always change it later.
Once you’ve done those 3 things, just click the orange button, “Create blog!” And, you’re done, that’s all there is to making the blog. Now you have to start writing. At this point you should see an orange button at the top that reads, “New Post.” If you don’t see that, look for an orange + button at the bottom. One of those buttons is how you start writing.
Next your will see the post editor. Think of it like a blank piece of paper in a typewriter. You need to give the post a title, then you can just write to your heart’s content. When you’re done, click the orange button called “Publish” and you now have a blog with one post.
That’s all you need to get started writing. For lots more about how to use Blogger, see Episode 123 How do I make a Blog?
More instructional articles about Blogger
Geeks on Tour tutorial video #473. If your photos are in Google Photos, using the same account as the Google account you use for Blogger, then it is a very simple matter to add any of those photos to your blog. This video shows you how to add your photos from Google Photos to your blog.
|Viewing my Blog on a Computer||Viewing my Blog on a Phone|
I use Blogger for my personal, travel blog. I’ve been using it since 2003, long before smartphones came on the scene. In the screenshots above you can see how my Blog looks when viewed on a computer vs on a phone. This is one of the many things I like about Blogger.com – it handles formatting for different devices automatically. I did nothing to make this happen. Just because I use Blogger, and a standard Blogger template, a small screen view is created for me with the following characteristics:
- It has shrunk the top banner photo to fit
- Collapsed each post to just one photo and the opening paragraph with an arrow to view more
- Changed the horizontal menu to a vertical drop-down list (just tap where it reads Personal Blog and you’ll see Our Maps, Our Photos, etc.)
- Eliminated the sidebar
Wait … “eliminated the sidebar?” What if I need something that is on that sidebar? I use the archives a lot to find past posts. How can I see that on my phone?
Here’s the fix:
- Chrome browser: tap the 3-dot menu at the top right, then select “Request Desktop Site”
- Safari browser: touch and hold (longpress) the refresh arrow at top right, then select “Request Desktop Site”
That’s it. You should now be seeing the blog just as it appears on a computer. It will be tiny, but you can use two fingers on the screen and spread them to zoom in on whatever you want to see.
I really like the daily maps that Google makes of my whereabouts. It’s called my Timeline and it’s all done automatically as long as I have location services turned on. A few days ago, we took a cruise around Manhattan, and I think the timeline map will add a lot to my story. Don’t you agree?
Any map (or anything at all!) that you can see on your phone, or on your computer, can be captured as an image. Then it can be used in your Blog, just like any other picture.
To take a screenshot on a cellphone:
- View the screen you want to capture
- Phones with a physical home button: press and hold power button and home button at the same time, then let go
- Phones without a physical home button: press and hold power button and down volume button at same time, then let go
- You should hear a click and see a blink on your screen to indicate it has been captured
- Now go look in your photos/gallery app and you will see the screenshot along with your photos
If you’re using Google Photos on Android, be sure the Screenshot folder is checked in Menu, Device Folders
- See this demonstrated as our tip of the week on our weekly show #81 about Location Services Here’s the part on
How to take a screenshot
To take a screenshot – of part of the screen – on a computer
- View the screen that includes a part you want to capture
- Windows: launch the Snipping Tool app (Start, Snipping, Enter)
click New, then drag a rectangle around the portion of the screen you want to capture
click File, Save As to save your picture in the My Pictures folder (or wherever you want)
- Mac: Command-Shift-4 – you should see a crosshairs on the screen
Use the crosshair to drag a rectangle around the part you want to capture
When you let go, you’ll hear a click and the image file, a .png, will be saved on your desktop
F Instructions above use techniques built in to the computer’s operating system. To get more functionality with your screen captures, we recommend Snagit.
Use Screenshot in a Blog Post
You can now use the captured image like any other photo. For example, if you use Blogger, you can insert the camera screenshot
- Click the Insert image button
- If you’re using Google Photos: choose “From my phone,” Select the desired screenshot, Add Selected
- If you’re not using Google Photos, the image will need to be on your computer, then choose Upload to get it, select it and Add Selected
Example: here’s a blog post of mine using a computer screen capture of Google Maps in Satellite view. Click on the image below to go to the Blog post and see the whole thing, including 2 maps.
It’s important to understand a little bit about how the web works as it affects our personal websites and blogs. Although you see text, pictures, videos, and links all on the same page – behind the scenes, all the pieces can be ‘hosted’ on different servers. Everything on the web is ethereal, one pulled plug or broken server and things can disappear. Images are especially vulnerable. Thru the years, I’ve made blogs and web pages with different systems that have come and gone. Sometimes the text stays, but the images disappear. It’s a fact of web-life. That’s why we make so many backups!
Keep that in mind the next time you look at your blog. How do you have that backed up? If you love your blog, get a printable copy! You don’t want to see red X’s where the pictures should be!
Here’s how I do it. I use Blog2Print.com and get a .pdf file of each year of my blog. All you have to do is give the address of your blog (Blogger, WordPress or other) and list the range of dates you want. There are a couple of options to specify, like photo size and page breaks. That’s it. Click Order, enter your credit card, and you’ll get your .pdf books emailed to you.
I also like them to print a hard cover, 4 color book, but that can cost up to $100 depending on how much content I have in the year. The .pdf file of the same book is a flat $8.95. So I get a .pdf of every year and I get the hardbound books whenever I can. When I see my blog pages in a printable format, complete with text and pictures, I can breathe easy. My life’s story is safe. Now, even if the entire Internet should crash and burn (I do worry about these things), I could show you the .pdf file instead. For example, here is 2006’s blog book
Do it now, before August 1
Realize that a printed book can’t show any videos, or slideshows. For that reason, I always post some regular photos on blog posts where I have videos or slideshows. I’ve been using Blogger for my blog and Picasa Web Albums, now Google Photos as the host for all my pictures. Picasa Web Albums is retiring on August 1. I’m confident (95% ?) that the pictures will still show in my blog. But …. it still seems like a pretty good time to make that backup, don’t ya think?
We’re writing this article to commemorate the 100th issue of our Geeks on Tour Newsletter! The first issue, back in July of 2007 included an article on Adding Video to your Blog. This article today is an updated version of that same topic.
Blogger and Google Photos
We use Blogger to make our Blog, and adding video is quite easy. If you took the video with your smartphone or tablet, and you use Google Photos to upload that video to your Google account, it’s as simple as 1-2-3:
- clicking the Insert Video button on the toolbar:
- Choose “From Your Phone” (this doesn’t mean directly from your phone! It assumes you have your phone’s photos and videos backed up to your Google Photos)
- Click the video you want and click Select
Blogger and Youtube
Every method of displaying video is subject to some quirks and problems. Since Youtube is the biggest provider of video worldwide, we find it has the least problems. Therefore we recommend uploading your videos to your Youtube account and using that for your blog. What’s that? You say you don’t have a Youtube account? If you have a Google account (a email@example.com address), then you have a Youtube account! If you really don’t, then it’s easy and free to get a Google account. Just go to Accounts.Google.com and click “Create Account.”
Upload to Youtube: go to YouTube.com and make sure you are logged in with the account you want to use for your videos (it should be the same as you use for your photos.) Click the Upload button in the upper right corner of the screen. Now you’ll have two choices
Insert into Blog: Here also you have two choices, the super simple way is to use the Import from “My Youtube Videos.” The other way is to view the video in Youtube, click the Share button and then Embed – here you have some options if you click on “Show More” right below the video preview.
This shows you some HTML code, copy that code and paste it into the HTML view of your Blog. That’s it! When you publish your Blog, you will see your video.
Here are some tutorial videos that go into more detail. You must be a Geeks on Tour premium member to view them.
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Geeks on Tour teaches that Every Traveler Needs a Blog! We teach how to use Google’s Blogger program to write your blog because we think it is by far the easiest, and most reliable system out there. We’ve been keeping our travel blog on Blogger since 2003 and we are still very happy with it. Its main competitor is WordPress. We use WordPress for our entire business website (what you’re looking at right now) and it is a wonderful system, but way more complex than is necessary for a personal travel blog.
Blogger is Online
Blogger.com is entirely web-based, you don’t need any software on your computer in order to use it, just browse to Blogger.com, log in to your Google account and start blogging. Hey! You don’t even need a computer! We were teaching our Technology for Travelers seminar at an RV park last week (Thousand Trails, Peace River) and we spend, at most, 15 minutes on teaching Blogger. After showing this video: Create a Blog in 3 Steps with Blogger #036 *FREE we asked the audience, “How many of you think you can make a blog now?” Everyone in the room raised their hand, and we heard one voice from the back saying, “I just did!” Using her smartphone, and watching the video, she created a brand new blog while she was sitting in the class! … and that happens often.
Live Writer can be used Offline
What you do need for Blogger is an Internet connection. Lots of people, especially travelers, tell us they want to write a blog post when they are offline and upload it later. The native Blogger.com has no facility for that, but there is a free software from Microsoft, called Live Writer that can. Rather, there was a free program from Microsoft. That program is now obsolete, at least for using it with Blogger blogs. Microsoft decided is was not a priority and they discontinued support and upgrades. So, when Blogger.com changed the way logins work, the Live Writer program no longer works to upload to Blogger. Oh No! Some people depended on Live Writer to the point where they really did not want to use Blogger.com’s native facility for writing their blogs.
Luckily there are some dedicated, volunteer, programmers out there willing to take over the project and Open Live Writer (OLW) was born. It was released on December 9, 2015. You can go to the link to download it. Please notice that Open Live Writer is a project by volunteer programmers, you know what volunteer means right? They’re gluttons for punishment! There have been many problems since it was first released, but it seems to be clearing up. I used the new OLW and consistently got errors trying to publish to my Blogger blog. Today, I uninstalled OLW from my computer, re-downloaded the installation file from http://openlivewriter.org/, installed that and everything is working just great.
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Blogger.com is Good
Open Live Writer is Windows software, so if you have a Mac, it won’t work. There are alternatives (ScribeFire, MarsEdit, Article on Desktop Blog Editors for Mac) but I haven’t used any of them and cannot recommend. Blogger.com can be used directly from any computer, phone or tablet, and Google is updating it all the time. Blogger.com works really well with pictures in Google Photos. I can take a picture with my phone, open Blogger.com on my computer and add the picture to my blog that I just took by using the “Add Image … from Phone” option. SO quick and easy.
Use them Both!
Bottom line: there is no reason why you can’t use them both. I use Blogger.com when I want to use my Google Photos that are online and not on my computer, I use Open Live Writer when I want to work offline, or I need one of the special features like making tables.
The Way We Learn
For the last year or so, I had been using the native Blogger.com for making my blog posts, so I was blissfully unaware of the problems with Live Writer. Thank you to Sharon DelRosario and her blog, Gypsy and the Mariner, for alerting us to the Open Live Writer launch, and to Rick Doyle for – all sorts of Tech news and advice, but specifically for getting Sharon’s blog back up and running with Open Live Writer!
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