So you’ve decided on your topic, done your research and now you sit down to write your post. What tools do you use to put it together? Arguably, the most important tool is the ability to write in an engaging way but this is a topic that deserves a separate post which I hope to write in the not-too-distant future. For now, I’d like to recommend some software and other resources that have made my blogging life easier.
My first recommended piece of software is something all Windows PC already have (and I’m sure Mac computers have an equivalent): the humble Notepad app. I use Notepad to write my posts before I copy and paste them to the WordPress editor when they’re more or less done. I find it easier using Notepad which I can easily minimise or hide when I need to. Quite often when writing I need to look up something on the internet to check facts or open another application on my computer. Notepad is a tiny program both in terms of resource requirements and screen space demands and the way that it can be made to appear and disappear very easily is a time saver.
My next recommendation is also free but you will have to download it. It’s the WordWeb dictionary which not only gives definitions but also suggests synonyms, antonyms, and so on. It’s an invaluable piece of software that sits on my taskbar until I need it. It’s particularly useful for checking your spelling and as a tool for helping you remember that particular word that you had forgotten but know is just the perfect word to use.
All my posts have at least one photo. So far, I have not needed to take many photos of my own (but this will change in the future as I do more travel posts and review establishments such as restaurants and hotels). I don’t believe a blogger needs an expensive camera, especially one who is just starting out, unless his blog is photo-related. In most cases, a good phone camera would be sufficient. I have a Nikon D3200 for when higher quality photos are necessary.
Most of the photos that I use for this blog are downloaded from Pixabay, a website which offers tons of free pictures that “you can copy, modify, distribute, and use even for commercial purposes, all without asking for permission or giving credits to the artist” as per their FAQ page. There are other websites for free pictures such as Unsplash, Pickupimage, Skitterphoto, and 1Millionfreepictures. So try to resist just grabbing images from Google images.
A good blogger will also need a photo editor. Photos downloaded from the websites I recommended above are often in high resolution. They will need to be resized and optimised for the web so that they load faster and do not slow down your blog. If you already have Photoshop and know how to use it, stick with that. Otherwise, I would recommend alternative photo editors because Photoshop requires a hefty financial investment and involves a steep learning curve. I personally don’t use Photoshop because I don’t agree with Adobe’s subscription model. I prefer to buy software outright. Serif’s Affinity Photo is a fantastic alternative to Photoshop. It’s extremely powerful and has received mainly glowing reviews from the industry. The icing on the cake is the price tag: for the one-off price of approximately £50, you have a photo editor that has got the Adobe people panicking.
However, Affinity Photo, like rival Photoshop, requires time and patience to learn and it can be a resource hungry program which can slow down your computer. For this reason, I would also recommend another fantastic photo editor, PhotoPlus, also from Serif. Take note, however, that PhotoPlus is a legacy software which means it is no longer being developed but it is still available for just under £20 which is a steal. I have both Affinity Photo and PhotoPlus but for most editing tasks, I use PhotoPlus because it loads quickly and you don’t need a powerful computer to use it.
There are also free photo editors such as Gimp which you could consider. The important thing is to get to know whichever photo editor you use. A photo can make or break your post and so it’s important to tailor the photo to your needs. This could mean making improvements on a badly taken photo, making collages and/or adding text to the image. These are very good skills to have which you will use over and over again.