July 13, 2018

Best blogging tools in 2018: Bloggers' queries answered

In the last three posts, we introduced reputed and tested free software/ tools relating to writing and language, image editing and video editing. In the present one, we answer some questions asked by bloggers (on Quora etc) that pertain to tasks that can be easily done with available free software but many bloggers do not know about. 

Can you suggest a screen capture software that does the job better than the one available on Windows computers?


Computers have an inbuilt sniping tool, and most keyboards have a 'print screen' key. However, if you want a feature rich screen capture software, don't pay for it as Greenshot is an equally good free alternative.

For video screen capture tools, please visit the previous post on video tools.

What are the best websites from which I can download free and license-free photos?


There are many such sites. Even normal photo sharing sites such as Flickr have a number of such photos. The following sites deal exclusively or predominantly in license-free photos: Pixabay, SnappyGoat, Freeimages.

How can I share a Word document or a slide with others through my free blog? There is no way I can upload it directly. 


Free blogging platforms such as Blogger, Tumblr and Wordpress do not have a provision for hosting such documents. What can be done is to host the document on the web through a file-storage and sharing site (e.g. Dropbox, Google Drive, iCloud, OneDrive) and give a hyperlink to that document from the blog. Slideshare is a good option to host presentations/ slides on the web.

Google Drive has an outstanding set of office tools, G suite, that allows you to create all types of documents, data sets and presentations and share them with others.

Is Quora a better blogging platform than Wordpress and Blogger for an information related blog, because many people come there in search of information? 


Though Quora offers blogging, it is NOT primarily a blogging platform. If you want your blog to be seen by people asking questions on Quora, include hyperlinks to your blog in your replies.

Is UC News a good blogging platform?


We have seen advertisements and promos of UC News. Unless you have a special reason to go with their platform, we'd recommend sticking with the standard ones such as Wordpress and Blogger.

I want an emailer that would send emails to addresses automatically. Is there some free service?


MailChimp is a good emailer/ email management tool if you want a free one. It will serve you well if you do not have to send thousands of emails a day. It has a number of customization features even in the free plan. 

My camera's photos are too heavy, running into MBs. What software should I use to make them light without cutting out anything?


Camera photos are often huge because they store a significant amount of pixel attributes and extra data. It is not advised to upload them directly on the website.

Our post on picture editing ( second in this series) has details on image-editing tools. However, if your interest is in just optimizing photos for the web or simple edits, popular image viewers such as IrfanView can save your photos for the web in much smaller sizes without perceptible loss in quality.

Optimizilla is a free online image optimizer for the web. However, you need to upload your original photos to the website, which you might sometimes not like to do. 

Is there a software for safekeeping my blog so that it does not get deleted by mistake or through cyber-attack?


You must regularly back up your blog. If the blog is on Wordpress or Blogger, there are in-built options on these platforms to export the blog and also back up. Wordpress also has free plugins for this work, but you can install plugins only on self-hosted blogs created with Wordpress or a premium plan. 

If your blog is self-hosted (i.e. hosted on a server for which you pay), the host will give you an option for backing up the blog. 

In all cases, make it a habit to store the content on your computer at regular intervals even if it means copying each post and saving it individually.

How do I put AdSense advertisements on my blog? Do I need an app or a code and knowledge of coding for that?


It is damn simple, and we have discussed it in the linked posts. However, know that you cannot put advertisements on your blog on Wordpress.com (free plan), LiveJournal, Medium and many other free blogging platforms. 

Best software is sometimes available free! Enjoy it.

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We have, over time, listed a number of free software / tolls useful for bloggers and others. You can browse them all in one place here: Posts of best free software category.

Other posts in the present series:

July 6, 2018

Best blogging tools in 2018: Professional audio and video tools, completely free!

In the previous two posts, I gave an update on the best free writing and language tools and picture tools available at present on the web. The present post talks about some tested, reliable and acclaimed multi-media tools.

One caveat: All the tools listed here are top class and beat their paid counterparts. However, all need a bit of familiarization. Bloggers who are not required to have highly polished products with sophisticated effects may find these difficult. However, there are tutorials available on the web on all these tools.

In the next post, I am going to share experiences of two YouTubers who are doing excellent job without much learning and sophistication. Yet, I feel that quality matters. And the tools look intimidating only till you are familiar with them. You read a bit (in case you do not know anything about video work), play with these tools and keep becoming more and more of an expert. After a few days of experimenting and learning online, you find them easy and the time spent on learning would amaze you that you can be so productive later.

Lightworks

Lightworks is a professional-grade video editor that can be used for all types of editing and effects on a wide range of videos. However, it has a steep learning curve if you are very new to video editing, and consumes big resources on the computer. However, there are a number of tutorials available on the site to guide you.

video-blogging
Lightworks pane: professional video editing
Shotcut

Shotcut is even better than Lightworks in some ways. It is simpler and instant. Unlike most video editors it does not require a project to be created and one can work straight on the video. Its range of video formats is also wider.


video-blogs
Shotcut: a short cut to prof video editing
Audacity

Nothing beats this software tool when it comes to recording and editing audio. Rich in filters and options on different aspects of audio editing and enhancement, Audacity is a must have for audio bloggers and podcasters, and also for those recording audio for tutorials etc.

OBS Studio 

This is a very sophisticated suite for video and audio capturing from the computer, video streaming and mixing on the go. Being opensource and free, there is no limit on the number of sources and length of streaming or recording.


Links to the earlier posts in this series:
1. Best free writing, language tools
2. Best free picture tools


July 1, 2018

Best blogging tools in 2018: Picture enhancement tools

Continuing from the previous post in this series on free, tested and verified tools for bloggers as of mid-2018, we have the following recommendations in the area of image editing and enhancement:

Professional photo editors


There are free professional editors such as Photoshop and CorelDraw, which are immensely feature-rich but very expensive. In most cases, even professionals do not know all their  features and do not need to use them. 

Luckily, the wonderful open-source community has been supporting three almost equally good FREE professional image editing software:

1. Gimp is a highly professional raster image editing software just like Photoshop. It has numerous editing options, brushes and effects. The latest version (2.10) is superb.

2. Inkscape is a free vector image editor and is a CorelDraw alternative. One can create beautiful vector graphics using this software.

Quick and easy image editors


Most bloggers do not need to use sophisticated image editing software because their needs are limited to creating infographics or simple images, putting text over images to display quotes or slogans, and minor editing and improvement of photos. For such jobs, the following are fantastic free tools available, which are free and easy. However, most of them have free and premium versions, so the free versions have some limitations.

Infographics are images in which data is depicted through shapes, graphs and process indicators. These make it easy to appreciate lots of data, a long history etc. and are popular on blogs and social networking sites.

If you are a blogger or are active on social media working in a visually appealing niche (e.g. travel, arts, fashion, cooking) but do not need high-end photo editing, go for the simple ones listed below. They sometimes give much better output in a short time than the professional ones and their results are fine enough for the web media. For example, making an infographic or overlaying text on a photo is very time-consuming on the top photo editors but it is damn easy on the ones given below.


1. Paint.net is slightly less sophisticated than Gimp, but easier to use and has some ready-to-use effects, brushes and tools good enough for most image editing work.

2. Krita is a near-professional grade painting software for making artwork and paintings. Like Gimp and Inkscape, it is opensource and completely free.

3. Fotor free version is a good image editing and design tool available online and offline (only for Windows). The Fotor site also has a number of tutorials on image editing.


4. Canva is an online quick image making and editing tool, and can make images suiting different social media accounts and blogs. Its free version has a number of photo backgrounds and presets and one can use one's own photographs and also edit the default fonts and colors. It is not limited to blog images but can be used for making presentations, design brochures, make infographics,  etc.

5. Visme is a free online infographic and presentation maker and has numerous themes available. You can use wizards to customize a theme to create wonderful infographics in minutes. It can also be used to make ebooks, flowcharts etc.

6. Piktochart excels in making infographics in a very large range of formats.  

To be fair to others not listed here, let me add that there are many other free online and offline tools for image-related jobs. In fact, many picture viewers have a library of effects and minor image editing capabilities. 

The previous post in this series was on best free writing tools.

Disclaimer: TopBlogs does not have any commercial or other arrangement with the software, tools and websites recommended here.