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Blogger

Building a Web site can be an arduous task, but maintaining that site can be downright Sisyphean. From preserving design consistency across the pages of your site to structuring content into logical, easy-to-use archives, regular maintainance can often take up more time than creating and publishing new material. A wide variety of expensive, professional content-management tools address the site-maintenance issue, but the most effective tool of all may also be the most inexpensive and accessible. The Web-based application Blogger ( www.blogger.com ) offers Web site creators of all levels a handful of useful functions for creating and maintaining a site.

Blogger allows you to set up your Web site account so that you can make quick updates to your site simply by typing the new content into a text field at Blogger.com. The basic premise is simple: you submit an HTML document with a chunk of special Blogger scripting as the template for your site. You can either enter your own HTML or use one of the preformatted templates. Next, specify the file path on the server where your Web site is hosted. (If you don't already have a site, you can host yours free on Blogger's own servers.) Then, enter your new material into the text field and click on the appropriate buttons to preview and post, or instantly upload. If you want to include an image in your posting, you can enter the appropriate HTML, but you'll have to upload the image file into your account separately.

Blogger uses your template and your user information to create and upload the most recently updated Web pages. You can use it to post updated bits of information to a single page or create entirely new pages. By default, Blogger includes scripting that stamps each of your postings with your user name, as well as the date and time. You can even set up multiple users in your account so that others can post to your page.

Users also have the option to let Blogger automatically generate and maintain their archives. The procedure is almost identical to that of updating your site: you paste an HTML template into Blogger, specify the file path, and click a button. Blogger will maintain archived content -- although you may have to adjust the formatting to accommodate the visual design of your page.

Like most Web-based actions, any chore performed on Blogger will take a screen or two to complete, and the speed with which you accomplish anything on Blogger depends heavily on both the speed of your Internet connection and the user load that Blogger's servers are handling. But the screens are well-designed and easy to move through, and nearly every input field offers a clear explanation within a click of the mouse. Furthermore, the Web site hosts an extensive library of how-to articles for users who want to learn how to do more than post a very basic Web site. Blogger.com is also home to a thriving community of devoted users who are usually happy to offer advice on the ins and outs of the application.

The most significant features of Blogger, however, are its portability and its price. Because the application is accessible from any computer with Internet access, users can quickly update a site from anywhere. In addition, users can take advantage of this flexible, powerful site creation and management tool for a mere $10 a year.

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