Writing your blog should be a fun way to stretch your mind and stay connected to trends, friends, and the greater world, not another computer task that takes far too long to get done. But that's exactly what it can feel like if it takes you more time to find your post ideas, tweak your markup, and make everything look right than to actually get your thoughts down. Being somewhat experienced at this blogging thing, your Lifehacker editors have pinpointed a few tools and tricks that make our posts go faster and smoother. After the jump, we round up 10 of them.
10. Skip the copy/paste with AutoCopy
Many bloggers quote passages from other web pages, and referencing those snippets of language usually requires a Control/Command+C, then Control/Command+V once you're at the exact right place in your markup. Not so with AutoCopy, a free Firefox extension that automatically adds whatever text you've highlighted in your browser to the clipboard, then pastes it when you middle-click anywhere in Firefox. If you're not using a quick-blog tool like Tumblr, it might be the closest equivalent to the kind of speed-of-thought blogging that keeps writing from turning into a chore. (Original post)
9. Copy links and their titles with CoLT
When it comes time to post a relevant link at the end of most Lifehacker posts, the uninitiated (read: me, a few months ago) have to first copy the URL of the link, paste it in the right spot, then head back, copy the title of the linked page (being careful not to click!), then paste it inside the link tags. Those who have discovered the magic of the Copy Link Text Firefox extension, on the other hand, have magic right-click options that make grabbing the URL, the text, or both parts of a link dead simple. Give your right-click a rest and get back to adding context. (Original post)
8. Make reusable templates for posts and images
A lot of posts are, at least structurally, very similar, with a certain-size picture up top, a certain formatting for IM pastes or photo dumps, or similar repetitions. To save your time for real editing, try using Wired's guide to automating Photoshop actions. For hand-coding HTML, it pays to create templates out of your common formats (tables, unordered lists, picture posts) and plug them into a text-substitution app (see below for links and ideas). If you're tinkering with your site's design or layout, why re-invent the wheel? Grab a free template for Blogger, WordPress, or one of 40 general CSS templates for use on any site,. Need more? Check out Gina's roundup of seven different free HTML templates.
7. Live-blog from your phone with Jott
Free voicemail-to-text service Jott can help you nail down post material while you're on the go with a phone call, but you can also use the service directly with a number of blogging platforms, including Blogger, Typepad, LiveJournal, Tumblr, and WordPress. If you're hosting your own blog, you can still use Jott's voice-to-email service in conjunction with your platform's email-to-post function to indirectly get your thoughts up online, even while you're miles from your keyboard.
6. Automate repetitive code with text replacement
If you've ever manually embedded a Flickr photo, created a custom headline or signature template, or searched out previously-used code to copy and paste for your posts, you need to add a text replacement app to your stable. Any of them—Texter for Windows, TextExpander for Mac OS X, or Snippits for Linux—can quickly paste, while also preventing common typos and misspellings. If you just want to speed up your HTML coding, try Adam's Markdown automation script, a stand-alone, blog-focused precursor to Texter.
5. Get topic-based post ideas sent to your inbox every day with Google Alerts
Whether you write about a team, a certain topic, or a broad trend, Google Alerts brings your post material to you. Use the same kind of advanced search operators you use on Google's main search site to laser-focus on a particular kind of web site, blog post, news story, or group post you're looking for. Decide if it gets sent as fast as Google's servers find it, or in a daily or weekly email digest. Using Alerts exposes you to a wider array of information than you'd get from a defined list of RSS feeds, and it's an easy way to keep your eyes on the web without really being at the search box all day.
4. Spend less time resizing images
Few blogs can get by with just words alone, but finding the perfect image to illustrate a post—and then making it fit right—can take more time than the post itself. If you're not committed to Photoshop or its open-source alternative, GIMP, free online image editing site Picnik is a good bet, both for its right-click Firefox extension and its integration with Flickr. If you've got a whole set of pictures to post up, you can try the Windows-only ImageResizer, or for an elegant solution, use the export-and-resize functionality of Picasa. (For more on finding reusable images, see our six ways to find reusable media.
3. Keep post ideas synchronised with Foxmarks
Great posting fodder can be found at all hour s of the day, but you're not always ready to post it at that exact moment. Use the Foxmarks bookmark synchroniser, and your bookmarks toolbar becomes a universal idea space you can drag-and-drop your links onto. Anyone who likes more control over their backed-up bookmarks can synchronise with their own server, and it can be rolled into a portable Firefox to help you get blogging done with just a thumb drive and some spare time. (Original post)
2. Quick post media (minimum writing required) with Tumblr
A tumblelog—that is, a quick-post blog powered by the Tumblr webapp—makes posting your thoughts, IM chats, videos, photos, and other favourite media tidbits a lot less intimidating than the wide-open HTML spaces of Wordpress, Movable Type, and other platforms (which are still great for longer, text-and-links posts). The real time-saver is Tumblr's bookmarklet, which makes capturing and preparing a new post a one-click affair. Here's more on keeping up an instant, no-overhead blog with Tumblr.
1. Bookmark and track email and posts with Gmail
Adam showed us back in the day how you could set up Gmail as a bookmarking service (using the Gmail this bookmarklet), but with Gmail's 2.0 version, it's even easier to throw the emails that inspire you to get blogging with your other links, as they have short, human-readable permalinks that you can easily drag into a bookmark folder. And, assuming your blog inspires some kind of feedback, you can keep it separated and organized from your day-to-day mail using filters and persistent searches.
To all our blog-savvy readers: What sites, tools, or tricks are indispensable to making your posting routine a fun, efficient hobby? Let's hear about your finds in the comments.