Who is ArcoJedi? A life-journeying Christian, ecstatic husband, proud father of four, web guru, all-around geek and Star Wars fanatic. Read these thoughts that he felt were worthwhile. Then wonder why he thought that way.

2007/01/12

Updated Template

Surprise! I updated my template. The colors are quite random (literally) and there is a lot of work and cleanup to do. Please let me know what you think of it. I'm a little miffed as most of the cleanup work that is necessary is not my fault, but a perfectionist's work is never done.

As I mentioned in a post late last year, New Blogger Version, all of my blogs have been upgraded to the latest version. There are some very noticable differences that I mentioned and there are some less noticable ones. First off, the template system has been revamped to make it easier for HTML beginners. This will be great for folks just starting out with Blogger, but there are bound to be a few trip-ups for more experienced folks (like me). I'm hoping to walk through them quickly without going overboard on the details.

When your site is upgraded your template will be scanned and altered very slightly to add some new features, like labels and automatic links to your RSS/Atom feeds. These feeds actually follow a slightly different format from the standard www.example.com/atom.xml and actually look more like www.example.com/feeds/posts/default which means they are being created more dynamically, I'd assume. The old URLs still work for now, so that's good.

When you go to update your template, the same options are available along with a new link labled "Customize Design". This takes you to a page with these instructions:

Give your blog a whole new look!

We've introduced a new tool for customizing the appearance of your blog. Before you can use this tool, you'll need to upgrade your template. By upgrading, you will lose many of the changes you previously made to your template. However, we will save a copy of your current template so that you can access it later.
Learn more about Blogger Layouts Customization.

Kind of ubiquitous and not very informative. The link from the page is not overly helpful, except that it explains the benefits to this change and the new features you can use to more quickly customize your template, but it doesn't explain the downsides.

The new system is not without it's advantages. For instance, you can click and drag elements of your template from one area to another, up or down and so on. These are treated by the system as 'widgets' and you can add many default/customizable ones along with one with your own HTML code if you wish. When you upgrade the software takes your current settings and customizations, including links you've added yourself and attempts to import them into the new widget system. In my case the links I have on this blog worked fine, but the archives appeared to be busted. I had to remove them and readd them, but that took only a few moments and to my benefit the new widget system provides a lot more options. The main point of all this is that you can edit individual pieces and menus very easily without digging through 3000 lines of code in the full template. You can still go and look at the HTML code of the template, but experienced users of blogger's template tags should beware as most of what you are familiar with has changed. See Blogger Help: Widget Tags for Layouts for a starter.

If you do go into the new template HTML and alter it manually, you may run into the fact that it checks your work for XML validness, meaning that code like the following in your <head /> section -

<meta name="description" content="<$BlogDescription$>" />

This is not going to work because there can't be any < or > characters in your content attributes. However, I've always used that code in my blogs as it makes updating that content easier from the blogger interface. In the new system, I'll need to update it manually.

One really big advantage to the new system is the font and color options. You can easily pick and choose your colors for each page header and element. Or like me, you can simply click a "scramble" link and the system will pick a random color set for you. Didn't I mention that these colors were random?

One last disadvantage is that even without this upgrade to the new template system, the update to blogger screwed up a lot of my XHTML validness that I was attempting to achieve in a lot of my blogs. The new templates made it a LOT worse. This may not matter to some, but it matters to those that want their blogs viewed and listed in the search engines.

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Lucas James Arconati

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