Friday, 23 March 2007

New Blogger (Beta): template tweaks after migrating






I've got a heavily customised "classic Blogger" template with old Blogger template tags, so I only took the plunge last week to migrate to the now feature complete fancy new Blogger, formerly known as Blogger Beta (initial overview and thoughts on new Blogger).

Here are some thoughts and tips from my experience with the changeover, which was more painless than I'd expected - probably because most of the issues have been ironed out by now.

I haven't at this point taken the further step of upgrading my template to the new, more graphical, drag 'n drop widgets / layout form. That would involve even more tweaks to make sure stuff still works afterwards. I'm too much of a scaredy cat to tackle that yet, though I've been experimenting with bits of new Blogger on and off for a while, but I may blog it separately when I do.

1. Template stays as template, not layout

As most Blogger users will know, "layouts" are the new "templates", although you can edit the HTML direct.

Because my old "Blogger Classic" type template was so non-standard, when my blog got migrated over all that happened on that front was that my existing template code simply got copied over wholesale. In my Dashboard, the link to it still says "Template" (whereas it says "Layout" for fully new Blogger blogs).

Instead of Page Elements, Fonts and Colors, Edit HTML and Pick New Template sub-tabs, I now have Edit HTML, Pick New, Customize Design and AdSense sub-tabs.

"Customize Design" is what will upgrade my template to the whizzy new widgety Layouts, but there's sensibly a big red warning that I'd lose many of my existing customisations (UPDATE: the Blogger help does say they'll backup your current template first and will keep the backup indefinitely so you can revert to it if all hell breaks loose after you upgrade. That's a relief!). I'm not quite ready to do that yet, until I've worked out how to incorporate the equivalents into a New Blogger-style template, so I won't be clicking the "Upgrade your template" button for a while.

Clearly Blogger have made sure that the old-style template tags still work in New Blogger, although who knows for how much longer - I imagine they'd like us all to move over to Layouts style as soon as possible.

By the way if anyone wonders why I don't use Labels fully yet, that's because Blogger seems to have imposed a "200-character per post" limit for labels, and as I use lots of variations of spellings, singular/plural etc for my tags, labels won't work for me - so I'm sticking with still using tags, for now.

2. Things to fix after the switchover

I didn't choose to convert my template to layouts form so it should have been a straight copy over of my existing template, on switching to New Blogger.

Still, a few things went wrong and I had to tweak my new Blogger template to fix them. These are the adjustments I had to make to my template after the switch to get it all to work again:

Non-Western European characters

I have Chinese, Japanese and Korean characters in my template, so that visitors who speak those languages can still read my blog by clicking to get the post or page translated via Google Language Tools (template code for that translation here; others have since produced better and easier widgets to do the same thing on New Blogger).

The characters got messed up on the switch, so I had to copy/paste them into the new Blogger template from the backup I had on my computer.

Old Blogger template tags replacements - www to www2

When customising my Old Blogger template I'd deleted some standard Blogger template tags and also I'd inserted manually a number of links to the Blogger website - notably for:
Those hardcoded links broke in New Blogger.

The fix was to change "www.blogger.com" to "www2.blogger.com" wherever they occurrred in my new template - both in the edit posts etc links themselves, and also in links to various Blogger CSS files in the head section of the template.

Other www references involving blogger.com should of course be changed to www2 elsewhere too e.g. if you have a bookmarklet or favelet in your browser for creating a new post.

Conditional tags fix

Another fix I had to figure out in relation to conditional tags has to do with a change that Blogger must have made previously (not quite sure when), but which didn't seem to matter in Old Blogger blogs.

In Old Blogger blogs, once upon a time, to make something on your blog invisible to everyone but you when logged in, you had to enclose it in a span whose opening tag was <span class="item-control admin-XXXXXXX pid-YYYYYYY"> (where XXXXXXX and YYYYYYY were unique to your blog).

It's now <span class="item-control blog-admin pid-YYYYYYY"> (you still need the YYYYYYY), but the old way still worked on my Old Blogger blog.

However on changing to New Blogger, if you're using that span tag in your template, you'll have to change all instances of "admin-XXXXXXX" to "blog-admin" for the invisible thing to become visible to you again.

Editing comments?

Unfortunately, doing those tweaks still won't let you edit comments in New Blogger. You could do it in Old Blogger due to a trick which Kirk discovered and I'd previously blogged. But Blogger seem to have closed that loophole. My New Blogger comments wishlist includes the ability to edit comments, but I doubt they'll introduce it. If anyone figures out how to edit comments in New Blogger, let me know!

Fixing and tweaking blog feeds

This isn't a template thing, it's a New Blogger thing. Two points:
  • new Blogger feeds by default sort posts by date last updated, not date published, i.e. they will show old posts at the top if you've recently edited them, not just recently-published posts. UPDATE: now Blogger feeds default to sorting by date published, but you can still get a feed that outputs posts last updated, see below.
  • new Blogger allows you to offer readers comment feeds for the whole blog, as well as per-post comment feeds.
Feed - change sorting - by date updated to by date published
UPDATE: I've left the text below for historical reasons, but since late June 2007 Blogger feeds have reverted to being sorted by most recently published new posts. If you want to get the "most recently edited" feed, you still can - just use this URL:
http://YOURBLOG.blogspot.com/feeds/posts/default?orderby=updated
or
http://YOURCUSTOMDOMAINNAME.com/feeds/posts/default?orderby=updated
or
http://www.blogger.com/feeds/YOURBLOGID/posts/default?orderby=updated

Because new Blogger feeds by default deliberately show most recently updated (including edited) posts at the top, if you've changed an old post and republished it, it'll suddenly pop up at the top of your new Blogger feed list (which makes me wonder if it's possible to use this feature deliberately to get old posts' tag picked up by services such as Technorati which base their indexing on feeds, but that's for another day and another test...).

Most people who subscribe to feeds aren't used to that kind of sorting, and many find it confusing or just don't want it. If you wondered why your feed display changed after your move to New Blogger or have had complaints from your readers that your feeds had gone funny, well as they say it's not a problem, it's a feature. Luckily, as Kirk spotted from a post by Pirate Pete, it's now possible to change feeds back to the way they were on old Blogger. (It would be most helpful if Blogger changed things so that the more usual way of sorting feeds becomes the default, but gave people the ability to sort by last updated if they wanted to.)

How can you update your feed URL? As Kirk points out, all you need to do is change the URL of the feed you offer to your readers to this format:
http://YOURBLOG.blogspot.com/feeds/posts/default?orderby=published
or if you publish by FTP (probably too if you have a custom domain),
http://www.blogger.com/feeds/YOURBLOGID/posts/default?orderby=published
(of course first changing YOURBLOG.blogspot.com to your own blog's URL or YOURBLOGID to your own blog's ID number - which you can find by viewing the source of your blog's webpage, it'll be blogID=somenumber near the top of the page, just search for it)

Same with the feed URL you give to Feedburner to burn (I offer several Feedburner feeds so for each of them I had to go to "Edit Feed Details" then tweak URL in the "Original Feed" box for each of them, see the bit highlighted blue in the example below, which is the key bit):

Comments feeds
Feeds are available on New Blogger (but not old Blogger blogs) for:
  • all comments made on any posts, old or new, on your blog
  • all comments made on a particular post.
If like me you have a classic template after the switch and you haven't risked the Customise Design tab yet, you can still give your readers the ability to subscribe for your comment feed or per-post comment feed.

There's Blogger help on how to offer the new types of feeds on your classic template blog after you switch, but I didn't find it easy to follow at first, so here's my take on it.

First, decide if you want to let people subscribe to your blog feed, comments feed or both. Go to your Dashboard Settings - Site feed sub-tab, switch to Advanced mode, and you can set each of those feeds to Full, Short or None.

To produce links to subscribe to your blog feed, comments feed or both (if you've set something to None then of course there won't be a subscription link), go to your template and in the location where you want the links to appear, e.g. your sidebar, copy and paste this code:
<p id="blogfeeds"><$BlogFeedsVertical$></p>
(you can change Vertical to Horizontal if you want the links to appear e.g. at the bottom of posts, again positioning the code appropriately).

Now my blog is set to output a full blog comment feed, but that code didn't produce the comment feed link, only the main blog feed link. It's broken for others too though oddly it's not in the official known issues list that I can see.

So the first lesson is, don't bother using the <$BlogFeedsVertical$> tag if you want to offer a comment feed. Best use the URL of your comment feed direct in your blog template (or burn that URL on Feedburner then use the burned feed), as I've done in my sidebar.

What's the URL of a New Blogger comment feed? There are two options, either will work:
http://YOURBLOG.blogspot.com/feeds/comments/default
or if you use FTP (probably too if you have a custom domain),
http://www2.blogger.com/feeds/YOURBLOGID/comments/default
Personally, I just burned a full comment feed on Feedburner and then used that as a quick & dirty temporary measure, adding this to my sidebar (and a variation on it to the bottom of each of my posts on the main page and item pages or post pages):
<a href="http://COMMENTSFEEDURL">Subscribe to comments feed</a>
For per post comment feeds, the Blogger code did work to make the text "Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]" appear in my blog, with the "Atom" being a link to the comment feed, so again for speed I just pasted that code into my template at the appropriate locations:
<p id="postfeeds"><$BlogItemFeedLinks$></p>
athough the code given by Blogger made the link appear in a new paragraph so I changed it to a span instead, just personal preference:
<span id="postfeeds"><$BlogItemFeedLinks<span id="postfeeds"><$BlogItemFeedLinks<span id="postfeeds"><$BlogItemFeedLinks<span id="postfeeds"><$BlogItemFeedLinks<span id="postfeeds"><$BlogItemFeedLinks<span id="postfeeds"><$BlogItemFeedLinks<span id="postfeeds"><$BlogItemFeedLinks<span id="postfeeds"><$BlogItemFeedLinks<span id="postfeeds"><$BlogItemFeedLinks<span id="postfeeds"><$BlogItemFeedLinks<span id="postfeeds"><$BlogItemFeedLinks<span id="postfeeds"><$BlogItemFeedLinks<span id="postfeeds"><$BlogItemFeedLinks<span id="postfeeds"><$BlogItemFeedLinks<span id="postfeeds"><$BlogItemFeedLinks<span id="postfeeds"><$BlogItemFeedLinks<span id="postfeeds"><$BlogItemFeedLinks<span id="postfeeds"><$BlogItemFeedLinks<span id="postfeeds"><$BlogItemFeedLinks<span id="postfeeds"><$BlogItemFeedLinks<span id="postfeeds"><$BlogItemFeedLinks<span id="postfeeds"><$BlogItemFeedLinks<span id="postfeeds"><$BlogItemFeedLinks<span id="postfeeds"><$BlogItemFeedLinks<span 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I could have tailored the wording if I didn't want "Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]" by using the code for the direct link to the per-post comments feed (which I won't give here) but I won't bother at this stage as I'll do that as and when I switch to layouts, it'll do for now.

(For those who want to customise per comment links, there's a helpful list of Blogger Beta feed URLs over at PurpleMoggy's. Personally I think it's best to change references to "beta" to "www2", even though "beta" currently still works.)

Update: reinstall Greasemonkey scripts?

Odd this. I just noticed that while my Technorati tagger userscript and large post editor script still work (both with a little tweaking), and the template editor enlarger for New Blogger is fine, the other Greasemonkey script I consider essential for Blogger, namely the "keep current time on draft posts" script (which had worked on test New Blogger blogs that I tried), seems to have stopped working.

However when I reinstalled that script, it was fine, the tickbox reappeared in my post editor (I didn't have to even uninstall the existing one and it still worked, though I'd recommend uninstalling it first to avoid confusion).

Future template upgrade...

As my blog still uses what they call a "classic" template, of course I don't get the benefit of the whizzy new layouts stuff. So I'll be getting all widgety with my migrated template as soon as I can, but not quite yet.

I'm still working through a long list of things to post about, comments to answer, etc so at the moment I haven't got the strength or energy to tackle all the changes needed to make my customisations work on New Blogger, even though someone else (ahem Kirk of course, sweet chap that he is, with the patience of a saint etc) is doing the really heavy lifting on that. Someday... but probably only the latest time that I can get away with it, just like my move to New Blogger itself!

7 comments:

Efendi said...

this is a great tips ! very very useful !

Improbulus said...

Thanks for the feedback efendi, glad you found it useful!

Michael said...

Improbulus,

I saw you have an inline comment box before. Can I see the code, I would very much like to try if it can be ported to the new blogger.

If it can't, well at least I tried. Thanks.

Improbulus said...

Hi Michael, my inline comments are all "old Blogger" because they just moved my template code across as is, including the old template tags. Did you want to see the "old" code still?

If you meant the widgets code, I won't be getting to that for a while. But it's definitely possible in New Blogger, in fact it's built into some of the New Blogger templates (see this example post), so why not just take a look at the code e.g. for the Minima?

jonz said...

Bugger, I just realised I can no longer edit my comments. Google brought me here! I'll check in the future, hopefully some bright spark will post the answer here.

Improbulus said...

Hi Jonz, that's right, it's a pity, but I suspect Blogger have closed that loophole for good.

I'll post if I hear of anyone figuring it out again, but if Kirk hasn't then I doubt there's a way...

micheal said...

thank you for sharing. Eventhough this is 2 years ago. I've just started.