Blogging is the act of putting your thoughts online for other people to read. That act itself is not difficult, however in order to blog effectively, we rely on many different tools.
In my recent book, The Ultimate Blogging Resource List, I listed hundreds and hundreds of different resources for bloggers. The truth is, I do not use half the resources listed in the book. When it comes to essential blogging tools that I simply cannot operate without, there is only a handful of applications and services that I use every single day.
Today I would like to share with you the 10 blogging tools I cannot do without. These resources are not necessarily the best; they are simply the ones I have become accustomed to using for certain tasks. I have therefore listed alternatives for each service so that you have a larger selection of resources to choose from. I hope you enjoy the list :)
11 Must-Have Blogging Tools and Resources
1. NetVibes – Free
Use: For Staying Up To Date With the Latest News & Views
It is important for bloggers to stay up to date with the latest news and events surrounding the topic they write about. Social media services such as Twitter and Facebook have changed the way that people get information, however, I do not believe it is a practical way to stay informed as they report new articles instantly. Therefore, it is easy for important news articles to get lost in the mix.
Newsreaders are a much better way to read content from dozens of websites. I have used it for years to check the latest articles on important news-breaking websites. The upcoming closure of Google Reader on July 1 2013 has seen many more people turn to NetVibes to stay up to date with content websites.
Worthy Alternatives: Feedly, NewsBlur, FeedDemon
2. Google Docs – Free
Use: For Taking Notes
Taking notes is an essential part of blogging. Ideas can come to you at any time of the day, which is one of the reasons why I always carry a traditional notepad and pen with me at all times. When I get online, I then transfer the notes to Google Docs.
There are dozens of great note-taking applications available online. I just love the simplicity of Google Docs; A blank document is all I need. I occasionally use spreadsheets to track the performance of stats etc too.
It is essential that notes are synced on the cloud as I sometimes work on different computers. Google Docs allows me to access notes from any computer or device and I can upload offline files from Word too.
Worthy Alternatives: Evernote, Remember The Milk, Simplenote, Trello
3. FileZilla – Free
Use: For Uploading, Deleting & Modifying Blog Files
I use FileZilla to upload all core fires, banner images, themes, plugins, and more. Sure, you can manage your blog using a file manager, however the process is slow and clunky.
FileZilla is available on Mac, Windows and Linux. It's incredibly easy to use. I have a 27″ iMac at home however I tend to use Windows laptops on the road. The export and import options on FileZilla make it easy for me to ensure that all my website profiles can be transferred to any device I am using.
Worthy Alternatives: FireFTP, CrossFTP, SmartFTP (Windows)
4. TextPad – Free
Use: For Modifying Template Files
Worthy Alternatives: TextWrangler (Mac), Notepad++ (Windows), Kate (Linux)
5. WordPress – Free
Use: My Blogging Platform
When I first started blogging in 2006 I tried several popular blogging platforms. WordPress stood against the competition due to the number of themes and plugins it had available to it. The platform has gone from strength to strength since then and has developed far beyond a blogging platform. In fact, WordPress powers 34% of Internet websites.
I use WordPress to create all my content websites. Due to the number of plugins available for it, there is nothing that the script cannot do.
Worthy Alternatives: Wix, Typepad, Drupal, Joomla
6. VaultPress – $39 Per Year
Use: For Backing Up My Blogs
It is important to perform regular backups of your blogs. VaultPress makes this process simple by backing up your blog or website every single hour. The service was developed by Automattic, the company who develops WordPress.
The service allows you to restore or download any backup from the past. You can choose to download themes, plugins, your database or your uploads, from any point since you started using the service. For example, should I want to, I can download a backup of my blog from two years ago and I can choose from any backup from that day. There are many good backup solutions out there but for me, VaultPress is above the competition for this very reason.
Worthy Alternatives: Backup Machine, BlogVault, CodeGuard, Interserver Swift Backup
7. Google Alerts – Free
Use: For Being Notified of Links To My Blog
Google Alerts allows you to get notifications about anything. I use it to get notified of any reviews of my books and any links to my blog. It can also be used for notifying you of important developments within a niche.
All you have to do is set the keyword you want to track and how often you need updates.
Out of all the services listed in this article, Google Alerts is the one that I do not rely on every day.
It is possibly the only service that I could technically do without; however every time I get an email update from Google Alerts, I am reminded about how useful the service is.
Worthy Alternatives: Mention, Social Searcher
8. DropBox – Free for 2GB of Storage
Use: For Backing Up All Important Files
I use DropBox to backup all important website files including files, themes, plugins, logos, notes, and more. All of my files are automatically synced across all my computers and I can access important files from any device.
DropBox offer 2GB of storage free though you have the option of earning more storage through referrals. I pay $99 per year for 100GB of storage as I backup all my photos and videos from travelling on the service.
Worthy Alternatives: Google Drive, SugarSync, SpiderOak, iDrive
9. Greenshot – Free
Use: For Taking Screenshots
Images are a big part of blogging. Blog posts without images look dull and get shared less often on social media websites. Therefore, I take screenshots every day for my blog posts.
Greenshot is a screenshot tool for Windows that allows me to take a screenshot of my entire desktop, or of a defined area, using shortcut keys.
There are a lot of benefits to using Greenshot.
The ability to take a screenshot of a defined area saves you a lot of time cropping images within your image editor. You can even configure the application to open your image editing application automatically after taking a screenshot. Alternatively, you can save the screenshot as an image to a predefined location.
Worthy Alternatives: Awesome Screenshot, TechSmith Snagit
10. Gimphoto – Free
Use: For Modifying Images for the Internet
For years I used Photoshop to edit images, however over the last few years, I moved towards free photo editing solutions. GIMP was the obvious choice but the transition to Gimphoto was easier as the menu interface was based on Photoshop's.
Gimpphoto is available for Windows and Linux. There is also a portable download option that allows you to install it on a USB flash drive. Photoshop is very expensive now and they are forcing everyone to pay using a monthly subscription. If you are looking for a good alternative to Photoshop, I highly recommend Gimpphoto. There is nothing it cannot do and it works in a very similar way to Photoshop.
Worthy Alternatives: Paint (Windows), Pixlr (Browser Based), Seashore (Mac)
11. Gmail – Free
Use: For Emailing, Networking & More
Gmail is the first application I open in my browser every single day. It is how I get updates about new comments on my new blogs and how I network with people on the internet. People always talk about how great Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin are for networking. I do appreciate the networking possibilities that these services offer however I believe email is still the best medium to do business.
I have used Gmail actively since I was offered a beta account many years ago. Most other email services now match the vast storage that Gmail offers however Gmail still excels in a number of area. In particular, its integration with other services. First part Google programs such as Google Chat, Calendar, Drive and Hangouts, are all integrated into the way Gmail works. There are a huge number of third party applications that integrate with it well, such as the note-taking service Remember The Milk.
Worthy Alternatives: Outlook, FastMail, ThunderBird, MailBird
You now know the resources that I rely on to blog successfully every day. I am sure that many of you are surprised that Twitter or Facebook was not on the list. I do use these services but I would not consider them essential to my blogging routine. If anything, they can be a distraction to me finishing my work.
What blogging tools can you not do without? Please let us know in the comment area.
Thanks for reading,