Saturday, March 7, 2009

How to Make Non-Blogger Templates Work

As Featured On EzineArticles

We now have a blog that shows various templates: Template Demos

It’s very easy to change from a Google template to another and have everything work; simply go to “Customize”, and select “Choose New Template” and Blogger offers you “one of 30 professionally designed templates”, only what you really get is about 12 basic designs and 2-3 color variations on those. Take the Minima template, which has a white background: Minima Dark is the same with a black background, while Minima Blue is again the same but with a dark blue background. This hardly qualifies as three different templates since a blogger can change the background to one of basically 30 colors that each work, and has an infinite variety of text, header, and title font colors. Would be then say you can created a million templates from Minima? No, one template with customizable colors, that's all you have.

However, there are many well-designed and “more professional looking” templates out there, very tempting to the everyday blogger to import. Most of these are tested for blogger and work fine, but Google has made the importation of these a buggy and more tedious process than it used to be. There are simple steps to make these other templates work.

1. To change to a new template, you must first have the new one downloaded onto your local computer, and it will normally be in .XML format, but sometimes is simply in a TXT file.

2. Inside of Blogger, “Customize” your blog.

3. First backup the existing template: select “Edit HTML” and “Download Template”. Change the name to something you recognize, like “Temp-MyBlog-030509”, then save it. This takes a few seconds, the file will be small, usually 50-100k.

4. Then backup your posts. Select “Settings”, and under Basic, “Export Blog”. This exports the posts themselves. Again save the file as something you remember, like “Exp-MyBlog-030509”. You won't have to reload these, but it’s a good idea to back up your posts periodically anyway, especially when making major changes.

5. You need to copy each of your widgets HTML code, and unfortunately, copy and paste is the only option here, one at a time. Make sure you use a text editor like Notepad. I put them all in one file with labels for each and a seperator line, which makes it easy to copy them back into the new template in order, if desired.

6. Now you’re ready for the new template. Return to “Edit HTML”, and select “Browse” to find the new template on your computer. When you select it, hit “Ok”, then when back in Blogger, select “Upload”. The new template will be transferred to Blogger.

7. You will see a list of “widgets” that will be deleted, such as “html1” and “blog1”. If you proceed from here, you will likely get the infamous “Bk-#” error screen with an error code. You must first debug the new template.

8. Use “ctrl-F” to find, and search for “widget id”.

9. When you find one, edit the result you see by incrementing the number, as in “html1” should become “html2” and “text1” becomes “text2” and so on. Sometimes there may be two or more of each of these, change them all. Don’t miss changing “blog1” to “blog2”, this seems to always be present.

10. When you’ve edited them all (and be careful to NOT cycle through them twice), click “Save Template”. After the screen refreshes, you have a new list of “widgets” that will be deleted, but now it’s OK.

11. Click “Confirm and Save”. This should work without errors now, and you can either “Preview” or “View Blog” and see the results.

12. You can now copy your widgets back (one at a time) that were deleted during the importation process. Even if you have many, it should take less than an hour.

Since you’ve properly backed up the previous template, if there’s a problem with the new one or you don’t like it, you can change back to the original by using the “Upload” process again, and select the original template backup name. You will have to copy back the widgets again, but at least you won’t lose anything.

If you want to see some good alternate ones at working blogs:
National Rage uses ProBlogger
World's Best Books uses Brooklyn
1000 Great Films uses Cellar Heat (dark version)
Stem Cell Stock Informer uses Froggy

This blog is also using the Brooklyn template, see the footer for links to the creators, Our Blog Templates.

So, don’t be afraid to try a new interface and refresh your blog!


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