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Review

By JULES ALLEN
© St. Petersburg Times
published September 9, 2002


Radio UserLand 8.0

  • Company: UserLand
  • Price: $39.95 (includes hosting, up to 40MB of storage space and free software updates for one year)
  • Systems: Windows, Mac

If you want to create your own Web log, or blog, Radio is a great place to start.

It's an easy-to-use software package where perhaps the hardest part is deciding what you want to say rather than how to say it. Right out of the box, all you have to do is type in your message, click a button, then sit back.

Within seconds Radio has published your missive to your UserLand-hosted blog and notified Weblogs.com that your site has been updated. It's great for attracting adoring fans or the idly curious.

Installing Radio is a matter of downloading the program and answering a few simple questions about your blog. It will connect to UserLand's servers, update itself with software patches if necessary, then present you with a screen to type in your thoughts.

I use Mac OS X, so I don't see the "what you see is what you get" text editing area. Windows users do see this by default and can make things bold or italic, create links and do other things without knowing HTML, the code for creating Web pages. Power Windows users have the option to set a preference to type in raw HTML, too.

At this point, the sum of the parts is well worth the price. But if you're a fiddler, a host of options await. If you don't like Radio's default look and feel for your blog, changing it is a checkbox away. Or, for example, you don't want to use UserLand's hosting services, you can publish to your existing site using FTP (file transfer protocol).

A particularly nice feature is that if you're on a plane or disconnected from the network, you can still update your blog. Rather than running on a remote server such as Blogger.com, Radio runs on your own computer and publishes to the remote server on which your blog lives. So, when you get back to civilization, you plug in your computer and Radio updates in the background.

Power bloggers can split their thoughts into channels, Radio's jargon for sending blog entries to different places. Perhaps you have a blog for work, which is private, and a personal one that's public. Radio manages both for you with minimal changes.

Programming types can actually get inside Radio and write their own extensions, which makes it one of the few software products that's universally appealing to tech nerds and humans.

This is reflected in Radio's community site. All are welcomed, and people actually help you sort out your problems. Theoretically, reading the well-written documentation should prevent you from needing help for anything but really advanced maneuvers.

If you can't spell to save your life, Radio isn't going to be able to help you. There's no built-in spell checker. And if you don't back up your computer and you lose your blog on your own computer, it could easily wipe out all of your published thoughts on the Web if you're not careful because it does an automatic update when you go back online. It would be nice to see Radio be smarter in this area and synchronize with the remote blog rather than just blindly push content out to it.

Otherwise, it's a great tool that will grow with you as your blogging needs get more complex.

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