Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Four ways to flip your blog posts

One of the most-sought missing features from Blogger is the little button you click to show your posts in chronological order, oldest first.

Where Blogger fears to tread, however, clever hackers (one of them too clever by half) have rushed in with template modifications and other tricks.

As of this writing there are four different hacks to show your blog's content first to last instead of last to first, each method with its own advantages and disadvantages. Here's a quick survey.

  • The ASC solution ("ASC") is a template modification that shows reordered posts on blog pages with special web addresses ending in ASC. At the moment this is my favorite method, though it may not work for every blog.
  • There is also a 500-posts-on-a-page hack ("500") that lets you show as many as 500 reordered blog posts (but no more) on a single static page.
  • Chronoblog is the name of a sidebar gadget that puts your oldest post in a little window at the top of your blog. Navigational buttons move, post-by-post, through your entire blog from beginning to end.
  • Finally, there is an out-of-blog ("OOB") solution that works by manipulating your blog's feed using several third-party web services, then displaying the reordered result on one or more static pages.

I'm not including the simplest method, which is to change the post order by editing the publication dates of every post.

There is something to be said for each of these solutions, none of them perfect. Here is a quick comparison.

First, none of these solutions will run for readers who have disabled JavaScript. None replace your main blog page, which will continue to show your content in classic blogging order, most-recent last.

ASC posts on special blog pages that have "older" and "newer" links at the bottom, just like regular archive pages. Oddly, posts with the same publication date will still appear in backwards order within that day.

To implement ASC, paste a script into your blog's template. I found this pretty straightforward. However, a related hack, to get around the same-day bug, was a little trickier. Also, you must tinker with the url a bit to get the first page just right.

One other nice feature: Once you install ASC, you can use it to generate an oldest-first page by label. So, for instance, you can make a page showing only the posts from that trip to Italy, starting with the first day and ending with the last.

The author provides the script and instructions in this blog post.

500 shows your oldest-first posts on a separate static page with a limit of 500 posts. Here you do not need to crack open your template, just paste the script (provided) onto a static page.

Chronoblog takes a different approach and shows your blog posts one at a time in a little window at the top of your regular blog. You navigate from post to post within the window. It is the only one of these methods that does not even try to look like a collection of regular blog posts.

Apparently, the 500-post limit also applies to Chronoblog, though the author says there is a workaround.

Chronoblog is actually a sidebar gadget that goes in the top-of-the-blog area. Installation is a snap because the author provides an autoinstall option that adds the gadget directly to your blog.

Finally, OOB entails pasting a script into a static page or, in one variation, a sidebar gadget. Like ASC, it can also make pages by label. Detailed instruction begin here.

The other methods rely on scripts running in your blog's template, but OOB works its magic on blog content outside of Blogger entirely.

For instance, the free feed2js.org will write a custom script to show your content. No programming knowledge is required: You specify what is shown with a friendly user-preferences form.

Out-of-blog solutions have the virtue of being immune to problems related to changes in blogger's own architecture, or in browser technology. However, they are exposed to issues related to changes in the third-party blog services themselves.

One recent change, for instance, requires you to write multiple scripts to show more than 100 posts.

If you want to format OOB to look like your blog posts you must add formatting code to your template. It's not so hard to do, and instructions are provided, but it can be daunting if you are not familiar with cascading style sheets (the standard way of formatting content on web pages).

Right now the other methods work well for most blogs and in my view have the edge over OOB. However, OOB also makes a great sidebar gadget, namely a list of clickable blog titles (just the titles) in chronological order. The list revises itself as you add new posts.

You can limit this to all the titles under a particular label, such as for your trip to Italy. It's a nice little table of contents, and no formatting is required. I currently have some examples running in the sidebar of this blog.

Also OOB, being out-of-blog, works on any web page--it's not just for Blogger pages.

In short (with links),
  • ASC puts reordered blog posts on special ASC pages.
  • 500 puts up to 500 posts on a single page.
  • Chronoblog puts your whole blog in a gadget, one post at a time.
  • OOB, at the moment, requires the most work to get right, though it does allow for a few variations the others do not.

Four ways to flip your blog posts


One of the most-sought missing features from Blogger is the little button you click to show your posts in chronological order, oldest first.

Where Blogger fears to tread, however, clever hackers (one of them too clever by half) have rushed in with template modifications and other tricks.

As of this writing there are four different hacks to show your blog's content first to last instead of last to first, each method with its own advantages and disadvantages. Here's a quick survey.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Using those new dynamic views—selectively

If you are an early adopter you may already have switched your blog to one of the shiny new dynamic templates.

But maybe you are cautious (like me), your face pressed wistfully against the glass, eyeing the sleek futuristic designs but aware of some drawbacks (and uncertain of others).

Sigh no more! You can link directly to dynamic views of your blog without changing your template.

The dynamic templates are impressive and suggest what the future of blogging might look like.

Or not. Bloggers who have switched to the dynamic templates are encountering problems and limitations. Many are switching back.

There are seven dynamic views, and especially if you have a lot of photos the effect can be really striking.

On the other hand the pages are less customizable and missing features that some bloggers find indispensable. Only a handful of gadgets are now supported, for instance. Javascript is not.

Blogger keeps adding features to these templates, so don't write them off. But you can have the best of both worlds by linking to a dynamic-template view of your blog from your regular old-fashioned one.

(Old fashioned? Yep, those layout templates, introduced with fanfare in 2010, are no longer cutting-edge. But here's is the remedy for my comrades in caution.)

To see your blog in a dynamic view, just append the following to your blog url in your browser:
/view/magazine
Adding the above text string to your blog's url take you to the Magazine view, but there are six others each with its own unique url. (Click to get them.) One of those, Flipcard, has four subviews that you can't link to directly. (Unfortunately, because one of them is really cool.)

You can use this technique to link to any label-search page (and probably to any search or archive or other page that is not static), by inserting the text string after the root address of your blog. For example you can view all my "hints" posts on this blog dynamically with the following url:
too-clever-by-half.blogspot.com/view/magazine/search/label/hints
Alas, Too Clever is too drab to do justice to these layouts. Fortunately I have another blog that I sometimes wheel out here for demonstration purposes only. It's about apples, and provides more colorful dynamic views. This layout is called Snapshot.

My favorite effect can be found by using the Flipcard layout (at /view/flipcard) and selecting the Date subview (which sadly has no direct url).

If you have a seasonal category of posts in your blog this combination will show the cyclical nature of your subject in the clearest possible way. For an example, click the Date option after clicking here.

Caution is smart, especially if you've put effort into your blog. But you can have these flourishes and keep your reliable blog layout too.

Using those new dynamic views—selectively

If you are an early adopter you may already have switched your blog to one of the shiny new dynamic templates.

But maybe you are cautious (like me), your face pressed wistfully against the glass, eyeing the sleek futuristic designs but aware of some drawbacks (and uncertain of others).

Sigh no more! You can link directly to dynamic views of your blog without changing your template.