Sunday, February 14, 2016

Blogging: The tools I use

Jim Connolly

People often ask me about the hardware and software I use for blogging. So, here’s a list of what I’m using right now, all of which I highly recommend.

Blogging software

WordPress is the most comprehensive and best supported blogging software out there. A recent study found that 19% of all Internet traffic comes from WordPress. It’s easy to see why. I find it easy to use, reliable and flexible.

Email software

More people read this blog by email, than read it online. To deliver those emails to my subscribers, I use Mailchimp. Mailchimp has 2 things that I value. Firstly, the service is exceptionally reliable. I switched to Mailchimp in 2012 and have had only 2 issues with the service. Secondly, Mailchimp is very good at making sure my emails get delivered. Email service providers trust Mailchimp, because Mailchimp is not very friendly to spammers.

Unlike everything else on this list, I recommend Mailchimp with 2 caveats. Whilst the service is extremely reliable, I have found their customer service, on the odd occasion I’ve needed it, to be poor. It may have improved, as it’s years since I needed help from them. Also, their software is not very intuitive, both for designing email templates and accessing data from your subscriber lists.

However, once you have set Mailchimp up, it “just works”. I’ve sent millions of emails via Mailchimp, without an issue. Because of the exceptionally reliable service I get from Mailchimp, I have included it in the list.

Blogging hardware

In recent months, I’ve used a Surface Pro 3 for almost all my blogging. I take lots of handwritten notes and this device lets me write them directly onto the screen. Then, when it’s time to write a blog post, I use split-screen; so I can see my handwritten notes as I type into WordPress. Because it runs Windows 10 Pro and uses a laptop grade Intel processor, I can do everything I need, even when I’m on-the-go.

My MacBook Pros are powerful, but lack a touch screen. The iPad Pro has a great touch screen, but runs on a mobile processor, a mobile operating system and relies on mobile apps. The Surface gives me professional grade hardware and software, with a great touch screen, all in one device.

Hosting

I spent years trying to find the right host for this blog. Then, around 6 years ago I gave Webfusion a try. Initially I used their VPS hosting, which was fast and reliable. I then upgraded to a dedicated server with 24/7 phone-based tech support. Regular readers will know that this site suffers with almost zero down time, which is exactly what I want. After years as a happy customer, Webfusion offered to sponsor my hosting. I don’t get paid to write about them and I am not an affiliate of theirs. I recommend them because I love the service I receive.

NB: None of the links in this post [or in my blog] are affiliate links.

Note taking software

I take notes every day, not only for blogging but for capturing ideas in general. I’ve tried lots of software over the years and the following 2 programs are the best I’ve found by far. They are OneNote and Evernote.

Both are a little tricky to get used to, but between them they do everything I need. I find that OneNote works best if you like to write with a stylus onto the screen. Evernote works best if you type your notes. Both Evernote and OneNote work on all leading mobile and desktop operating systems.

Note taking hardware

I like to walk regularly and like many people, that’s also when I get many of my best ideas. I know some people who write their notes down whilst walking, but I prefer to record mine. I previously used dedicated, digital voice recorders. Today, I use my iPhone and its built-in voice recorder. The sound quality is extremely good and as I always carry my phone with me, it means I always have a voice recorder with me.

Old school note taking hardware

As some of you will know, I also enjoy taking notes with a fountain pen. I have quite a few fountain pens, with my current daily pen being the Lamy 2000. There’s something enjoyable about the tactile experience of writing with ink on paper. At the end of a fountain pen note taking session, I use my iPhone to scan the notes directly into Evernote, using the iOS app. It works extremely well and allows me to access all my notes, all the time.

I hope you find this list useful.

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