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John T. Unger

New TypePad Compose Window

John T. Unger May 21, 2008

One of my most frequently requested features has just been added to the Compose screen for TypePad: Text and picture justification tools. Even though it's a really simple thing, it excites me a lot because I generally like to center photos in a post and I hate doing it manually in the HTML tab when it's been available in every other text editor I use for as long as I remember. Anyway, we've got it! Yay!

There's a lot more updates for the compose screen that will also make posting to your blog easier and more productive. Read the post at Everything TypePad for the basic overview with screen shots of the new compose screen. For a more in-depth look at features, check out the new article in the Knowledge Base.

Some of the new features that I am most excited to see include:

  1. Header Menu: The old compose window made it possible to select a text size from a drop down menu, but it didn't use header tags to accomplish this. So if you wanted to define the size and color of subheads in your stylesheet, you could, but you had to edit the HTML to use them. This is a significant improvement.
  2. Remove Formatting Button: This is a nice shortcut too… especially since when you copy and paste text from other websites, the compose window usually preserves the formatting. I've often found that feature, the preserved formatting, to be incredibly useful actually… I often use it to more quickly add formatted text to a post by copying and pasting text that was formatted and then editing the text, rather than having to edit the HTML. But being able to strip out formatting quickly, without diving into the HTML makes it even more useful.
  3. Link Controls: The new link buttons offers two features that make life much easier: the ability to specify on an individual basis whether the link opens in a new window (or tab) and the ability to strip out a link. There have been a number of easy ways to set all links to open in a new window, but I prefer deciding that on a link by link basis… I don't think it makes sense to open links to your own blog in a new window for example. And again, you could always do this in the HTML but it's much nicer to have it automated.
  4. Image Controls: The new Insert Image popup provides more control over the size of the image than before, including allowing you to set the size as a percentage of the column. I'd still like to choose whether to scale the image by height or width (for a row of thumbnailed images, I find consistent height to be more important that consistent width, for instance). Perhaps the new ability to edit an insert image will make that a bit easier.
  5. Alt Tag Field: This is a bigger deal than some of you might be aware of… I've always used alt tags for my photos, and in the past they had to be hand-coded into the HTML of a post, which was a real pain (I generally use Dreamweaver or Ecto if there are very many images in the post). Over the last couple years, I've found that alt tags were one of the better SEO elements on my blogs… I get a great deal of traffic from Google image search that would not find me if I didn't use alt tags for images. I'm really glad to see this implemented into an easier format in the Compose window.

Overall, it looks like the new Compose design solves a lot of problems and brings the posting interface much more up to date. I have not yet had a chance to play with the beta, but I'm quite looking forward to it.

There's just one thing that I'm not wild about: the "extended entry line" concept that replaces the Extended Post field. There were some useful aspects to having a separate window for extended posts. For one thing, every field on the compose page can be repurposed somewhat with a little clever hacking to the templates, so losing a field is a bit of a drag. But more importantly, I've found that for clients who needed to be able to paste HTML into a post but don't actually understand HTML, the separate windows made it easier for them to separate their writing and the code.

An example of what I'm talking about is a recent eCommerce project I built for my friend and client Debra Condren. Debra doesn't understand code at all… but she wanted to be able to easily post CDs and MP3s for sale. So we created a separate blog and edited the text that links to the extended entry to say Click here to purchase "title" ». Now all she has to do is title each post the same as the product, write a description in the Post Introduction field and then paste the shopping cart code into the HTML tab for the Extended Post. It separates the words and code so that it is harder for her to make a mistake when pasting in the button code. Plus, I felt that it was a nice, understated but obvious way to do a store… you read through the descriptions and if you want to buy, you just click through. If not, you don't have to look at all the buy now buttons or wait for the Javascript that loads them to run.

So, I kind wish we still had both fields for composing a post. But other than that, this is a great update.

More Like This: Changes + Updates , News , TypePad

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John T Unger says:

Hi Glenn,

If you go to http://beta.typepad.com/blog/ there's a link to sign up for the beta program, which is currently the only place that the new compose window is available. Keep in mind though that the Beta program is just what it claims: Beta. ie: you will have early access to new features but you will also be working with new software that is a work in progress.

Dave Weiss says:


Go to the HTML tab of the editor after writing the content of your post. You'll see your paragraphs delineated by < p > and < /p > tags. You can change the opening tag to < p align="center" > (remove the extra spaces I put in).

That will center the text between these paragraph tags.

Karen Hall says:


Especially the new photo insert, which takes twice as much time as the old one and looks horrible once it's done.

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