Looking for tested image / photo software? The best ones are free!

Photo / image viewers have editing capabilities too

Every year, we see a few new photo viewer rising on the horizon. The new ones and the new versions of the established photo viewers go much beyond just photo viewing: they allow you to view graphics/ photos, but also edit, put special effects, convert files, create slide shows and albums, screen capture, print and so on. Some also have video viewing capabilities. In addition, a number of online photo viewers and editors are available on the net. 

ITB had a close look at some of the most popular image viewers. Most of these are good enough for minor enhancing / editing of photographs and other types of images before putting them on a blog. Before you read our views on these programs, please bear in mind that these software are not meant for professional photo editing

Use or not use blogging hacks?

by Indian Top Blogs

Before we come to the brasstacks...

This post applies to self-hosted blogs and free blogs on blogging platforms that allow html editing [e.g. Blogger] and not blogs on platforms that do not allow html editing [e.g. wordpress.com].

In an earlier post, we have discussed in detail the considerations for adding widgets on a blog. We won’t repeat them here. Since widgets also are pieces of code, some considerations would overlap and some of the discussion in the present post would apply to widgets too.

ITB will, now and then, bring some excellent and tested hacks to the notice of its visitors.

Hack… Did I hear it right?

How world leaders use social media?

A recent study gives interesting insight into how world leaders use social media.

As of 2013, 3 out of 4 top world leaders are on Twitter. All American and European governments have an official Twitter account and in Asia, one-fourth governments are yet to use Twitter.

President Obama is the most followed leader (over 33.5 million followers) in the middle of 2013. While the Turkish President is among the most followed 5 world leaders, Indian Prime Minister – political head of the second most populous nation – figures nowhere near the top.

Dear bloggers, Google sends good news for you!

Google will soon start suggesting ‘in-depth articles’ in its search results, pointing to website articles and blog posts that analyse a subject in depth. This is great news for serious bloggers who produce quality articles: Google gives them a special recognition for their hard work.

Google says, 10% of people’s daily information needs fit this category. Si, it is targeting this felt need.

Google also says, for in-depth articles it will mostly depend on logarithmic signals [that is, you won’t have to do anything except writing in depth content], but certain technical tweaking will help.

Google has already has many initiatives in the recent past to screen out poor quality stuff from its search results, but black-hat SEO experts - like all other crooks - find ways to bluff it. This new feature on Google search does not attack them but indirectly lessens their importance a bit.

In itself, this feature will likely pick up only very authoritative sources such as the Guardian, Wikipedia and major educational and government sites. But, we feel, it will Google will take it forward and reward in-depth articles from common bloggers and other content creators too. The wait is worth it, isn’t it? 

Independent domain name and good website host are needed for any website's growth. That includes migration of existing blog...

This post is part of a series on web hosting and domain names. We keep updating these posts. This posts tries to practically show how website owners (especially bloggers on free platforms) can benefit from professional website hosting. The term 'website' includes all types of sites including blogs.

Should I have an independent identity or place my blog on a separate web host or both?

We’ll settle the hosting issue first. Blogger and Wordpress – also supported by third-party themes, plugins and widgets - provide enough design and hosting functionalities on blogs hosted on their servers. So, we will advise you to keep hosting your blog on their servers, unless you want to do one or more of these on your blog:

    • maintain the blog on a long term and build a brand around it;
    • promote yourself as a budding or established celebrity or expert;
    • sell products or services through it;
    • give it a very customized look and want to keep changing it;
    • add a lot of matter that will consume many gigabytes of web space;
    • add content that conflicts with present web host's terms and conditions;
    • convert the blog into a big site with functionalities beyond those offered by the free-hosting site;
    • make this blog a part of a main website for your business / NGO.

Let’s now talk domain name. We’d propose that you shift to your independent domain as soon as possible. You will need to pay a few dollars a year but that small expenditure will pay you back manifold, especially if you want to run the blog for a long time. It will literally pay you back if you decide to monetize the blog. Why not?

But why 'as soon as possible'?

It is because your existing blog's all goodwill etc that you earn over years may be lost if you delay. In many cases, the Google PageRank sinks after a migration. The chances of an independent blog getting approved for AdSense also increase. Search engines also give more importance to independent websites / blogs.

That does not mean, you be impatient with the present blog. No. Keep blogging and learning why, how and when you should migrate. Migrate when your thoughts on the subject have matured.

Change the domain name: your blog’s first baby-step towards standing on its own feet

You have two options here. First, to purchase domain name from a registrar and then ‘map’ the new domain to your existing blog. Second, to purchase domain name through Wordpress / Google or other domain name providers. In both these cases, all your data will be safe and a viewer can visit your blog through both the URLs: xyz.blogpsot.com [existing one] and xyz.com [the new one]. If you do not renew the independent domain name, the old URL will still take you to your blog!

[If you have a website and want to make your .wordpress or .blogspot blog as part of that website, you can do that with nearly the same steps as given below, but we'll skip that.] 

On Wordpress: 

---A. To register through Wordpress itself:
  1. Login. Go to STORE. Select DOMAINS.
  2. Under ADD A DOMAIN, give the new domain name  in the box. Click on ADD DOMAIN TO BLOG. Decide whether you want to keep your personal information private and click on REGISTER DOMAIN. Follow the payment procedure.
  3. For the mapping to take place, go again to STORE>DOMAINS. Click on the radio button PRIMARY next to the two domain names listed there. The primary domain name will be the one shown on the address bar of the visitor’s browser.
  4. If you register a domain name with them, you need to pay $18 for one year [as of October 2015].
---B. To map to a domain registered with another registrar:
  1. It starts with going to your admin panel on the new registrar’s site. This particular step is slightly technical and Wordpress has given very detailed and clear instructions about it. Instead of copy-pasting that all here, let’s take you to the link: domain mapping on Wordpress.
  2. After you have done that, come to Worpress site, login, go to MY SITES>CONFIGURE>DOMAINS and follow the simple instructions. You need to pay $13 to map the domain.
On Blogger:

---A. To register through Blogger itself:
  1. Blogger provides this service through  ‘Google Apps’.  For that, go to http://www.google.com/apps/business
  2. Click GET STARTED. 
  3. Enter your information through new windows that appear.
  4. Go to BUY A NEW DOMAIN NOW. It will take you through signup and payment process. The current charge is $10.
---B. To map to a domain registered with another registrar:
  1. It starts with going to your admin panel on your registrar’s site. This particular step is technical as in the case of Wordpress, and detailed instructions are there about it on the Blogger site: How do I use custom domain name on my blogs?
  2. After you have done that, go to Blogger and login. 
  3. Go to SETTINGS. 
  4. In the BASIC settings, go to PUBLISHING section. 
  5. Next to BLOG ADDRESS, click on +SETUP A 3RD PARTY URL..., put the full new domain address, SAVE and it is done.
Wordpress.com itself acts as a web host and offers many packages. Its premium and business bundles offer hassle-free domain registration and hosting. But it is a costly affair, starting $99 per year.

Comparing the options

There are various permutations and combinations about domain registration and hosting, which are of slightly more technical nature, and allow us to skip them. 
Yet, let’s sort out some points of confusion.

What a free blog’s name looks like?
Can I change its name to xyz.com right from Wordpress/ Blogger?
Yes. You need to pay for that.
Or you get this domain from a registrar and pay annual charges. Then map the new blog to the old one as given in the next point.
No. You need to get this domain from a registrar and pay annual charges. Then map the new blog to the old one as given in the next point.
After step 2, will the blog assets of  xyz.[wordpress/blogspot].com migrate to xyz.com, and will my data, links etc work in xyz.com?
The blog will still be hosted on their servers.
The blog will still be hosted on their servers.
You mean, my blog xyz.[wordpress/blogspot].com is still on their servers?
Yes. Wordpress servers
Yes. Blogger servers
Will these servers continue to host xyz.com if I just change the blog’s name from   xyz.[wordpress/blogspot].com to xyz.com?
Yes, the ‘paid upgrade’ for which Wordpress charges you $18 includes hosting for one year.

Yes, and free of charge as of now, for ever.

Am I bound by Wordpress / Blogger terms and conditions if I carry out the above changes?
If I registered the domain xyz.com from a registrar, will Wordpress / Blogger charge me for mapping it with xyz.[wordpress/blogspot].com? 
Yes. The current charge is $13 per year.
No. It is free.

Can you recommend some registrars / hosts?

We'll just give links to some well-known names, but won't be able to give specific  recommendations. Go to their websites, compare packages, do a bit of research on the web and you will not go wrong. 

GoDaddy * Bigrock * eNom * Bluehost * MadDog * Google apps * HostGator * network solutions * register.com * Yahoo! small business     

Finally, we advise you to register a domain for your blog if you are serious about blogging. Choose domain name carefully. Before deciding whether you upgrade through Wordpress or Blogger OR go to a different domain registrar, look at their packages. 

A MUST caution: Please save the entire website or blog to your computer before any big experimentation.

All the best!
PS: xyz.com and xyz.[wordpress/blogspot].com have been used as examples to illustrate certain points and do not refer to a particular website with this name.

All posts in this series:
First post: domain names
Second post: web hosting 
Third post: Selecting blog host and domain registrar; and upgrading a free blog (present one)

A good website host can do wonders to your blog!

How website domain names and hosts work
In a previous post, we discussed website domain names. OK, all websites need to have a domain name [web address] so that people can find them. But where does the domain sit and how a visitor gets to browse it? What are the ways to make it secure and big and prominent? That takes us to website hosting (or simply web hosting), which is the topic of this post.

This series of posts are regularly updated. In these posts, we use the term 'website' to include all types of sites including blogs.

Who hosts my blog xyz.blogspot.com?

Google Inc., the owner of the Blogger platform, has placed your blog ‘xyz.blogspot.com’ on their servers. Similarly, xyz.wordpress.com is hosted on Wordpress servers.

Google does not charge anything from me. If I create a blog xyz.com and ask Google to host it, will it host it free?

There are web hosting companies [e.g. Bluehost.com] that will host your blog / website but charge you for that.

How is web hosting relevant for me when I am not charged for my blog and I am happy with it?

Well, if you maintain a purely personal / hobby blog on Wordpress, Blogger or such other blogging platform, you really need not bother about hosting it elsewhere. We hope that Blogger, Wordpress, LiveJournal, Tumblr etc will keep giving free web-hosting services for a long time. Old bloggers, however, have had a bitter experience of an excellent free web-hosting platform, GeoCities, going down.

But if you have a business blog or you estimate that your growing web resources will one day need a lot of space and bandwidth, you will not like to be constrained by the limitations of Wordpress/ Blogger. If you want to add functionalities such as collaboration and payments on the blog, you will need background applications and database behind the website, and Wordpress / Blogger won't allow that. If you have a business website but also want to have a blog to support it, you will like the blog to be on the website’s host rather than on Wordpress/ Blogger.

When you host a blog on Wordpress/ Blogger servers, you are bound by their terms and conditions on various aspects including commercialization.

How much is the charge for hosting a website?

That depends on the type of facilities you ask from the host. They often have packages to suit different requirements. The charges start from about $4-5 per month on main web hosts. [There are some free website hosts but we won’t recommend a .wordpress or .blogspot blog to shift to them.]

You gave example of a particular company for domain name registration and web hosting. Does it do both jobs?

Yes, we talked about one. There are many such companies that offer both domain name registration and web hosting as independent services and also bundle them into combo packages that are often attractive. They also have their own tools for creation of websites. We'll talk about them a little more in another post.

Can I have an absolutely independent place for my website? Will it be less expensive than going for a web host?

Hosting a website needs a server that runs 24 hours on all days and is always connected to high-speed internet. It also needs a lot of configuration, software installation, maintenance and so on. Can you afford that? We can't.

You mentioned about migrating a .wordpress or .blogspot blog to  an independent domain. Where will the website / blog be hosted after that and what will be the charges?

In this series, we have been stating it again and again for the benefit of new bloggers and those wanting their own website that having an independent domain name and independent hosting are not the same thing. The first one deals solely with the website's name/ address and the other solely with its placement on the web. (Please see the picture on top of this post again if you keep mixing up the two.)

How will hosting on a new server impact my website / blog's performance?

That depends upon the quality of infrastructure and services offered by the host. Some servers can be fast and some slow. Some packages assure you a fast server. A website's looks, overall SEO, speed, scope for expansion, security etc depend a lot on the tools and services offered by the host. 
Do proper research before selecting the web-host. Changing host [and/or domain registrar] later on might be cumbersome.

PS: xyz.com and xyz.[wordpress/blogspot].com have been used as examples to illustrate certain points and do not refer to a particular website with this name.

All posts in this series:
First post: domain names
Second post: web hosting (present one)
Third post: Selecting blog host and domain registrar and upgrading a .wordpress or .blogspot blog to an independent identity

Give your website / blog an independent domain name

This post is part of a series on web hosting and related matters. We keep updating these posts. This posts deals exclusively with website domain names. The term 'website' includes all types of sites including blogs.

How to create a website? How do I maintain a self-hosted blog? How can I have a blog with a name independent of suffixes like .wordpress.com? Can I change my existing website? I am stuck with a blog on a free platform, what do I do? We keep encountering such questions. Hope, at the end of this series, you will have answers to all such questions.

What is a domain name?

The domain name is the name by which a website is known. It is the website's address on the vast network called the World Wide Web or the web. The domain name of ITB website is www.indiantopblogs.com.

As we all have unique addresses of our homes and offices, all websites have a unique domain name.

My blog is on Blogger and has domain name xyz.blogspot.com. Am I right?

xyz is a sub-domain. Your blog is part of a big domain blogspot.com. It is like a flat (that belongs to you) in a big residential tower (that is not owned by you).

I’ve got an address where people can visit my blog, and I’m happy with it. Why discuss this technical issue?

Having an independent identity [xyz.com instead of xyz.wordpress.com or xyz.blogspot.com] helps in many ways, most important being its reputation. You’ll agree that the address ‘XYZ Towers’ is much more impressive than ‘xyz, flat 23, Wordpress Tower’. It thus gets your website a better visibility on the web.

How do I get my own domain? Is the service free?

When you make a blog on Wordpress or Blogger platform, they give you the address free. There are many more sites that give you a free address [=sub-domain] under their domain. But if you want your own domain, you have to buy it from a domain name registrar.

How much is the charge? Is it one-time cost?

On the net, you will find many domain name registrars. Wordpress and Blogger help you register your domain and list many registrars [more on it in subsequent posts].

Registrars will charge differently for different types of domains. .com and .org are usually costlier than country-specific domains. You can get names for as little as $2 per year. Some registrars bundle it with other services and do the registration at even lower rates. 

The domain name has to be renewed at the end of the term (say, one year), otherwise it lapses and is available to others to buy / register it.

What if I forget to renew the domain name registration when due?

You should not allow that to happen. You must contact your registrar at the earliest opportunity so that he can check if the domain is still in his possession and he can give it back to you.

What domain name suits my website the best?

The domain name is very important for your website, and you must choose it with a lot of consideration.

  • You must see that the domain name best reflects the theme / main content / business of your website.
  • It should not be too long.
  • It should be easy to remember.
  • Don’t use long abbreviations that do not make sense to others, e.g. ‘htmfaip’ for ‘How to make friends and influence people’.

You should make a list of domain names suitable to your website and check their availability with a registrar [e.g. GoDaddy] to select the best available name. Please note that a domain name cannot have spaces and symbols.
How are the .com etc extensions relevant? How do I determine which extension I should go for?

.com is among the most popular extension. You can look for extensions like .org [for organizations: associations, NGOs], .biz [for business], .net [for net services], .info [for primary web resources], etc if you so like. You can also think of national extension relating to your location [e.g. Indians can go for .in]. But do not go for an extension only because you find it interesting or respectful; see that it is relevant for you. Many new extensions are being added to the list, e.g. .guru, .photography, .ninja

I already have a website with an independent domain name but I want to change it.

There are many ways to do that. One way is to register a new domain and import the older website into it. The other is to redirect traffic from the old domain to the new one. Since both these often lead to a loss of viewership and technical goof-ups, you can simply stick to the old domain and give to it more appropriate title, description and tags.

If you have a blog on Blogger or Wordpress (free blogging platforms), you can easily map the existing blog to the new domain name, as given in the last post in this series.

PS: xyz.com and xyz.[wordpress/blogspot].com have been used as examples to illustrate certain points and do not refer to a particular website with this name.

All posts in this series:
First post: domain names (present one)
Second post: web hosting
Third post: Selecting blog host and domain registrar and upgrading a .wordpress or .blogspot blog to an independent identity