Online tools for more productive blogging

If you're a blogger, becoming more productive is always a concern. That's why we've compiled a listing of services that will help you be a more efficient blogger.

Don Reisinger
CNET contributor Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.
Don Reisinger
5 min read

Since I spend so much of my time writing on the Web, I've come across some tools that have helped me become more efficient. Of course, there are lots of resources available to bloggers, so I should note that I don't expect this roundup to be the "be-all, end-all" of blogger helpers.

Everyone has at least a couple tools they find extremely helpful. Share your favorites in the comments below. And if you're a Firefox user, consider trying out these 15 add-ons, designed specifically for bloggers.

Get more productive

After the Deadline If you want to make sure that your blog post is properly edited, using After the Deadline might be your best bet. The app, which can also be downloaded as a WordPress plug-in, analyzes your blog posts to ensure that your spelling and grammar are correct.

I first came across After the Deadline when it was acquired by Automattic. Since then, I've been quite impressed by the service. It's almost invariably accurate and useful. After the Deadline is available as a WordPress plug-in so it automatically analyzes your posts, but the site also provides a "demonstration module" for those who don't use WordPress.

After the Deadline
After the Deadline is for anyone looking to improve their writing. Screenshot by Don Reisinger/CNET

Copyscape If you're concerned that there are sites on the Web stealing your content, Copyscape is worth checking out. The service allows you to input a URL into the search field. Once you do so, it finds sites that may be copying your pages for their own gain. From there, it provides a links to those sites, so you can see what exactly is being copied.

If you're concerned that your content is being used for purposes you don't approve of, Copyscape is a site worth checking out.

Find out if someone is copying your site with Copyscape. Screenshot by Don Reisinger/CNET

FlauntR If you're looking to do a little more than modify images quickly, FlauntR is one of the best services in this roundup to do just that.

When you first get to FlauntR, I think you'll be impressed by its design. But once you start using the service, you'll find that its focus on beauty has limited its ability to make you efficient. It takes too long to add images to the service, which can be uploaded from your PC or transferred from Facebook, Bebo, Flickr, and other photo sites.

Where FlauntR shines is in all the options you have to edit the photos. Everything from inputting picture frames to adding effects is possible. You can also do the basics, such as crop and adjust the image's color. Although it's nice to have so many of those options, FlauntR is useful for those bloggers who want to do something special with images. There are more efficient photo-editing options in this roundup.

FlauntR has a nice but somewhat-difficult design. Screenshot by Don Reisinger/CNET

Flock Flock is a browser designed specifically for those trying to combine their online social presence with their Web browsing.

Flock is a great way to stay up-to-date on all that's happening in your social life. The browser allows you to update your Facebook status, send out a tweet, receive notification of new e-mails, and more. It's a nice, full-featured browser. But its blog editor is best.

By bringing up the blog editor, you can quickly write a post in any tab you have open. You can then upload that post to your content management system. The browser supports WordPress, Blogger, and TypePad, among others.

I don't often use Flock, since many of its features are available as Firefox add-ons, but when I do, I'm generally impressed. The browsing experience is also pretty good. If you're looking for something to help you manage your content syndication to social sites, while at the same time increasing your productivity, Flock might be worth trying out.

Flock is the browser for social fanatics. Screenshot by Don Reisinger/CNET

Google Reader Although there are several RSS feeds that work well, I'm partial to Google Reader. The service is updated constantly, it's easy to find content, and thanks to a simple design, it's extremely easy to sift through updates to your favorite resources.

When using Google Reader, adding a site's RSS feed to your listing is quick and easy. You can either click an RSS feed on the site or input its URL into Google Reader. Once complete, the service lists all the updates to your listings. As you scroll through them, they're updated as read. Like other Google services, you can place stars next to items you care about, share content with others, and more. You can also change the feed's settings to modify it to your desires. All in all, Google Reader is feature-packed. It's my favorite RSS reader.

Google Reader
Google Reader helps you find stories to write about. Screenshot by Don Reisinger/CNET

Picnik If you're looking to quickly edit a photo for placement on your blog, Picnik is one of the best ways to go about it. The service allows you to either upload images or take images from Flickr, Photobucket, Facebook, and other services to edit them and get them ready for publishing.

Once you get to Picnik (you don't even need to sign up for the site to use it), you'll be treated to one of the most user-friendly site designs in this roundup. You have the option of uploading an image from your computer or adding a photo from several services. In either case, you can have the Webware 100 winner "autofix" the image or perform the work yourself. You can change its color, crop the image, change exposure, and much more. Picnik isn't as powerful as a service like Adobe Systems' Photohop, but it's certainly a fine alternative for those who want to quickly modify an image for a blog.

Picnik helps you edit photos to get them ready for publishing. Screenshot by Don Reisinger/CNET

ScribeFire ScribeFire is a Firefox extension designed specifically for bloggers who don't want to waste time switching back between tabs to reference content and write about it.

ScribeFire is a highly useful tool. When you click on the add-on in your status bar, a blog editor pops up, allowing you to write from within any open tab. When you're ready to complete your edit and publish to your blog, you need only to click the "publish" button, and you're all set. In seconds, ScribeFire will input your post into your blog's CMS and publish it. ScribeFire won't work with every blogging platform, but it integrates well with several platforms, including WordPress and Movable Type. I've used it on WordPress with great success.

ScribeFire is a blog editor on any page in Firefox. Screenshot by Don Reisinger/CNET

Skitch If you're a Mac user, Skitch is an app you should consider trying out. Instead of forcing you to upload an image that you download to your desktop, Skitch makes it a little easier for you by taking a screen capture. It also gives you the option of copying and pasting an image into the service.

Once you download Skitch, you'll find that it's an extremely useful app. When you add an image to the service, you can simply drag a corner of the software's border to resize the image. You can also add text, edit the image, and more. It's not as powerful as a service like Picnik, but if you're a Mac user who wants to quickly get screen captures or resize images, I've yet to use a better tool. (Download it here)

Skitch lets you capture an image on the Web. Skitch

My top 3

1. Picnik: Offering the best photo-editing tool on the Web, Picnik is a must-see.

2. ScribeFire: Blogging is much easier with the help of ScribeFire. Definitely try it out.

3. Google Reader: If you're looking to see what your resources are writing about, Google Reader is the service to try.