Microsoft has recently demonstrated a new product of their Fuse Labs (a research-focused division of Microsoft) named “Montage“. According to them, Montage is a new way to organize and curate web’s information. As the name suggests it is basically a ‘montage’ that you can easily create & share online based on any topic of your choice.
As you can see from the screenshot above, I tried the service quickly and made a montage of “Jessica alba”. Basically after you specify a topic, it automatically get relevant news/blog entires/pictures/videos/tweets on that topic and displays them in a ‘magazine-like’ layout. It also allows you to easily change the layout/design & gives you the ability to move things around.
Below is a short video introduction of the service:
In early march, Google released a beta version of Blogger Template designer – an intuitive system to customize your templates on the fly with easy to use features and pretty much just drag-and-drop. Yesterday Google opened up the Blogger template designer to everyone! It has already created a lot of buzz and all the bloggers who use Google’s Blogger/Blogspot to host their blogs are simply loving it.
What is Blogger Template Designer?
Well just watch the video here. You will be amazed to see what it can do!
Highlights of Blogger Template Designer
There are a gazillion blogs out there and majority of them look just the same. Why? Because most of the blogging platform doesn’t make it easy to customize the look and feel of the blog. Of course there are templates available, but its hard to make edits on them if you are not a code wiz. SquareSpace really saw this as an opportunity and made a wonderful service that lets anybody to start a blog with a really cool and almost ‘unique’ design, without having to worry about coding, hosting or anything at all. But it didn’t get a lot of traction among the general bloggers who wants to blog about their cat or their hair for instance. The reason being, the service isn’t free and its not even cheap.
Google’s Blogger on the other hand is a free service and used by millions of people. However it had a lot of limitations in terms of what you could do with the design and layout. Those limitations made a lot of people to switch to other platforms like wordpress. But with the introduction of this new template designer, newbie bloggers might prefer to stick to Blogger for now.
With the Blogger Template Designer, you can create your own blog designs through:
19 Awesome looking templates. You can now quickly give your blog a great new look by selecting one of the new templates.
Finally, CSS Support! Designs are completely defined in CSS (Cascading Style Sheets), meaning that any design can be applied to any blog layout, making templates more flexible and unique.
Lots of Free Stock Images for your blog. Google has partnered with iStockphoto to offer you hundreds of gorgeous background images at zero cost.
One Master control over your design colours. With other platforms, users have to define every color in their blog separately, making changing the color theme of your blog a tedious task. The Blogger Template Designer lets you change all the colors in your blog at once, by changing the Main color theme.
Real time preview. You can watch your blog update as you create your template design via the real time preview feature.
Complete control. Under the advanced tab, you can override a design’s CSS and enter your own CSS in the editor and see your blog’s preview updated in real time.
Cross-browser support. Blogger handles cross browser support for you, so you don’t have to. Your blog will work perfectly in Firefox, Internet Explorer, Chrome and other major browsers.
and many more…
Lets Try Blogger Template Designer
Anyone can try out the template designer here. If you like your design, you can apply it to a new blog or to an existing blog. You can also try the Template Designer on your blog (Design > Template Designer).
Here are some Tips from the Blogger Team
You can get your links to match a background image quickly by using the Background panel’s “Main color theme” to adjust all of your blog’s colors at once. This works particularly well with Simple’s second design.
If you have a three-column footer, you can fit in several gadgets to interest your readers after they’re done reading your post.
If you’re using our new Pages feature, put the Page List gadget in the wide section at the top of your blog.
Many of the patterns in the background image picker are semi-transparent, to let your blog’s background color show through. Look for the “transparency page curl” to see which patterns these are.
The Attribution gadget (added to the footer by all new templates) is there to give credit not just to the designer and artist of the background image, but to you as well. Edit its settings by clicking “Edit” on Layout > Page Elements to add your own authorship or copyright information.
So do you like the Blogger Template Designer? Share your experience with me!
The Google Font API gives a webmaster the ability to use a simple, cross-browser supported font from the Google Font Directory on any web page. The fonts have all the advantages of normal text: in addition to being richer visually, text styled in web fonts are still searchable, and doesn’t get distorted like images when they are zoomed, and is accessible to users using screen readers.
“Google has been working with a number of talented font designers to produce a varied collection of high quality open source fonts for the Google Font Directory. With the Google Font API, using these fonts on your web page is almost as easy as using the standard set of so-called “web-safe” fonts that come installed on most computers.”
How to use Fonts from Google Font Directory?
All the fonts under the Google Font directory are hosted in the cloud. You don’t need to download or install anything on your side. In fact your visitor doesn’t need to have that font installed on his computer to view your site.
As a webmaster all you need to do is to add a simple line of code on your website to call the particular CSS file for the font. For example, if you want to use Droid Sans, add this code in the HEAD element:
link href=’http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Droid+Sans’ rel=’stylesheet’ type=’text/css’ >
Then you can use Droid Sans in any CSS rule inside your stylesheet:
And you are all set! Due to the operations being performed behind the scenes, these custom fonts will even be recognized back to Internet Explorer 6! Isn’t that amazing?
Nettuts+ has a great video showing exactly how to implement this. I have embedded the video below:
Example of Google Font:
The only few possible downside of this whole thing:
Google font server may go down! However, like any style-sheet, if the first font doesn’t load I’m sure it will point to an alternative. So your users will always see the text on your page.
If you are using a very uncommon font, that the user is loading on his browser for the first time, he may experience a bit of slowness. But as he browses more and more pages, all these fonts are going to be cached locally on his browser/computer. Thus things will be really speedy on his future visits
So why do you think Google is doing this? Apart from the fact that this will make the whole web much ‘nicer’, do you think google has any other underlying interest for doing this whole thing? Share your speculations in the comments!
Have you noticed that Google has a New Favicon? Favicon is the small icon that sits right next to the address bar in your browser. For instance, my favicon is the cartoon head that you can see right next to the address bar and also on your browser tab.
So what about Google’s Favicon? Here it is –
Personally, I don’t really like it because its just too colorful. I still prefer the original Google Favicon. Barry is running a poll @ Search Engine Roundtable and so far the results are pretty competitive. Out of 190 votes, 35% likes the new favicon and 36% likes the original favicon. Make sure you cast your own vote too.
Google has developed many favicons that they have never used. Here’s a sampling that they shared last June in the official Google blog:
So do you like this new favicon? Share in comments!