Blog management seems to go spiraling out of control once you reach a certain number of blogs. That’s when you know it’s time to put a system firmly in place. While re-evaluating my own system and reigning in my portfolio, I discovered three blogging power tools: Firefox, Gmail (with Thunderbird), and Windows Live Writer.
Forget the coolness factor of Firefox, this recommendation is about one particular Mozilla feature called Profiles. Setting up multiple Firefox profiles can create a sterile and optimized environment for each of the blogs you maintain; this is especially good when it comes to marketing the blog.
This is possible because each profile:
- Maintains its own set of cookies
- Maintains its own set of login details in the password manager
- Has its own bookmarks
- Has its own set of activated add-ons
- Has its own homepage(s) upon start up
In particular, it’s the cookies that really matter because the separate cookie management allows you to have separate MyBlogLog, Blog Catalog, Twitter, Flickr, StumbleUpon and other web 2.0 service accounts which follow you around the net.
Get your Firefox profiles set up
Open the Firefox profile manager. If you’re in Firefox right now, print out this page and close it, then from Run console, type the following: . Please note that if you’ve installed Firefox in a different location, the run command will differ for you.
Firefox will open up its profile manager console:
The first time it opens, it will only have the default profile you’ve been using, but by clicking on the Create Profile button, you can create a new profile for each of your blog projects. And before you click on Start Firefox, make sure to remove the checkmark next to Don’t ask at startup. Doing this will force the profile manager to open each time you launch Firefox.
When in a particular profile, you’ll suddenly develop tunnel vision and focus only on the tasks required for that blog project. Just make sure to keep your profile of the moment straight and avoid aimless net surfing–set up a general catch all profile for playing around.
Special Note: To keep each of your Firefox windows straight, install the Titlebar Tweaks add-on for each one of your profiles, then take the time to customize their display to include the profile name.
2. Gmail (with Thunderbird)
Gmail is great for a few reasons: great spam filtering, a boatload of storage, and free POP support. That means you will worry less about random spam making it to your inbox, your account is not likely to go over quota anytime soon, and you don’t need to log into Gmail each time you wish to check and respond to your e-mail.
Set up your Gmail account
To get started, sign up for a general catchall email account. I recommend one for each particular blog project (and you can have more than one blog within a particular project). After the account is established, the first thing you’ll want to do is click on the Settings link in the upper right corner and then Forwarding and POP/IMAP. From there, enable POP download and set it to archive Gmail’s copy.
I won’t go over setting up the POP mail in Thunderbird because Google has already provided excellent instructions.
Next, you need to add each e-mail address, found under Accounts, you intend to use with your Gmail account. Basically, you’ll be setting up an email address for each of your blogs which will be forwarded to Gmail.
When you’ve finished adding your e-mail addresses (and verifying them), make sure to select Reply from the same address the message was sent to before saving your changes.
Now, you don’t need to use Thunderbird, but one thing I really dislike about Gmail is its lack of folder support. It uses labels to organize mail, but I find it distracting to see all the mail jumbled in the inbox, even if they do have a specific label attached. I only like seeing mail from certain accounts when I’m ready for it, not when I immediately sign in.
If you decide you’d like to use Thunderbird, then you’ll need to make good use of its Identities. After adding your Gmail account (see instructions linked above), click on Edit=>Properties to bring up the account manager. In the right section of the account manager, there will be a button called Manage Identities where you’ll be able to set up an identity for each of the email addresses being forwarded to Gmail.
Each of these entities acts like a separate e-mail manager; whenever you receive mail addressed to that specific account, when you reply, it will automatically use that email address as the return sender. You can even set up different reply-to addresses on a case by case basis.
The only downside is that Gmail handles outgoing email a little differently. If you’d like some insurance on the mail being sent according to your preferences in Thunderbird, you should set up a noreply address on one of your servers and use it as the outgoing mail server in Thunderbird as opposed to Gmail’s.
3. Windows Live Writer
After giving Windows Live Writer another chance, I was impressed by how much the software had improved. Now I can safely say it’s a blogging power tool. It’s not entirely perfect, but it can help productivity when you have multiple blogs to maintain.
First, take a half hour to add each blog to your Windows Live Writer installation and configure each one. Then, download and install one very important plugin: Dynamic Template and become familiar with how to use it. (Joe Cheng has some excellent videos explaining how to set up new templates.)
Dynamic Template allows you to specify bits of code that you use repeatedly and it can be highly customized. Until I was pointed in the direction of this plugin, many of the features I missed (and needed) from w.blogger and other desktop blogging clients was non-existent.
For instance, I like to insert content from Amazon every once in a while. The current Amazon plugins available left a lot to be desired. Rather than fight with these plugins or search for others, I created an Amazon link template. I set it up to ask for two pieces of information–Title and ASIN–and then it adds the link, complete with my affiliate ID, to whichever bit of text I’ve highlighted.
Dynamic Template can certainly come in handy when you have a lot of redundant text or code as with product reviews. Create a new template with your desired review format, then use it whenever you start a new blog entry.
Now, go forth and blog like a champion.