Radio UserLand 8.0.5
To get started with Radio UserLand, just download and install the slim 3MB software package. A wizard walks you through the simple installation--a preview of Radio's overall ease of use. You can host your site at Radio UserLand or on your own servers; if you host with Radio, you'll receive a lamely generic URL: http://radio.weblogs.com/number. Once you're ready to edit your blog, double-click the taskbar icon, and your browser opens to an offline version of your site where you can create the blog, edit entries, or change templates without risk of server crashes. The next time you connect, Radio automatically uploads the files for you. If you're online, you can publish posts immediately.
We love Radio's straightforward interface. To update your blog, you type in the main form area at the top of the interface. Underneath, you'll see previous posts with Edit and Delete buttons. To the right, there's a calendar where you can choose an earlier post to edit and a Home link that leads to your blog if you're online. Unfortunately, Radio UserLand doesn't let you search for previous posts, as Blogger does.
Radio's interface offers some expert touches, such as menu commands and buttons for all sorts of text formatting, including headings, fonts, font sizes, color, alignment, and lists. That means you don't have to know any HTML tags yourself--Radio inserts them for you as you type. (Blogger, by contrast, offers buttons only for bold, italic, and anchor tags.) Better yet, Radio displays your text in WYSIWYG view so that you don't have to see the tags; you can see and edit the HTML by clicking Source. Radio UserLand lacks a spelling-checker, though--a glaring omission.
Remote control; lame designs
Radio makes it a snap to update your blog in other ways, too. For example, you can e-mail your blog entry to post it. Cool! Plus, Radio offers a Web-based form, so you don't have to be at your own computer to update your blog. And, in our tests, we never received error messages while posting--a feat even Blogger can't claim. As far as your blog's appearance, Radio offers 10 templates, or themes, that you can change anytime. Unfortunately, they lack the creative panache of Blogger's 38 different designs. But if you're comfortable with HTML, you can create your own templates.
Speaking of customization, we love Radio's news aggregator, which collects news blurbs from around the Web and automatically inserts them into your blog. In addition, Radio lets you distribute entries using categories, such as Last Week's Posts, My Hobbies, or My Business. You simply designate the category for a new entry, and Radio will automatically publish new posts anywhere you like. And if you edit a previous post, Radio updates the distributed entries. Slick.
Radio UserLand supports user comments, unlike Blogger, so that your readers can discuss your posts--or flame you. But the comments aren't on by default: you'll have to enable them under Preferences > Comments, then follow the directions to tweak one of your templates. This is annoying, but it's not too difficult. If you get stuck along the way, Radio's tech-support system includes discussion boards, a mailing list, and e-mail support.
Radio's $39.95 price tag includes up to 10MB hosted storage, compared to Blogger Pro's 100MB, and free software updates for a year. Radio can't beat Blogger Pro's spell-check and future-posting features, but it's a friendly runner-up for news junkies.