January 30, 2010

What you need to Know About and How you can Use the XML Blogger Templates

There's a lot of Blogger XML templates that you can download and use for your Blogger blogs. However not all of them can be used as is. They don't come perfectly suited for your needs. Oftentimes, you have to tweak them to suit your particular requirements.

The templates come in XML files that include both Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) and Hypertext Mark-up Language (HTML) codes. XML stands for Extensible Mark-up Language and it is a standard way of defining the characteristics and properties of an object for use in exchanging information across the Internet. All Internet browsers know how to extract and use the contents of an XML file.

CSS is a language for specifying the properties of HTML elements in a web page. It is a powerful language for defining the characteristics and behaviors of similar HTML elements so that you don't have to repeat the formatting characteristics of an element every time it is used in the web page. HTML is a language for structuring the different elements that comprise the web page. It uses the CSS formatting elements to properly construct the web page inside an Internet browser.

It will be obvious that you need to be skilled in both CSS and HTML for you to be able to tweak the Blogger template to suit your requirements. However, you don't have to be an expert on both to be able to perform minor tweaking of the template. I do not consider myself an expert on CSS or HTML but I was able to change the code on my templates so I can put in more AdSense Ads on my web pages.

Blogger has standardized the contents of a Blogger blog and developed an application programming interface for assembling the contents of a blog page before sending it to the user. It gets the formatting information from the XML file and the contents from the data base of blog posts to prepare the page before sending it over to the Internet. Blogger has also developed a standard XML template that the template designers use as basis for customizing the appearance of a web page that uses the template.

A Blogger web page basically consists of the header, the body which includes the post contents and the sidebars, and the footer. HTML tags are used to position the elements on the page and CSS specifications are used for determining how and where exactly the elements should be placed. The HTML DIV tag is used to build the web page from top to bottom and from left to right.

The XML template is divided into two basic parts: the CSS codes for specifying how the page elements are to be displayed and the HTML code for building the page using the HTML DIV tag. The template is actually a special kind of HTML file that contains the formatting specifications and the outline of how the web page is to be constructed. Blogger looks at the display plan contained in the template and combines it with the post that the blog author has submitted to build the actual HTML page that will be sent to the user.

It used to be that only HTML was used to format and assemble the web pages with the content intermingled with the HTML codes. The HTML table tag was used to position the different elements of the document on the web page. However, it was soon found out that this was a very inefficient way of coding web pages.

CSS was invented to separate the formatting codes from the substantive content of the web page. Most of the formatting tags in HTML have been deprecated and integrated into the CSS for styling the appearance of the web pages on a site-wide basis. Basic formatting elements, however, still remains with HTML. But formatting with CSS was truly more powerful than what HTML can accomplish. Unlike the HTML table tag where you can only approximate the placement of the element on the page, CSS was able to pinpoint exactly with pixel measurement where the element should be placed.

HTML alone can still format and build a page but only to a limited extent. When you start studying HTML, you will undoubtedly have to go beyond the basics and finish with the study of CSS. I believe that bloggers should make a special effort to learn HTML and to master CSS formatting. This is the only way by which you can tweak the Blogger XML template so that you can precisely control how your web page will look when displayed on the Internet browser.

Before you can modify the XML template, you must already have designed an HTML page using the CSS specifications. This means that you can code a CSS style sheet and the HTML code that will use the style sheet to build the web page. Once you're comfortable doing this, then you can easily modify an XML template.

The most important thing that you have to know is where to find the CSS code that you need to change and how you are going to change it. For example, you should know where to look if you want to increase or decrease the width of the web page. If you want to insert a horizontal line between two elements, you should know what property of which element you should be changing.

There are a lot of different ways of coding the CSS style sheet so you cannot tell beforehand without looking at the actual style sheet where the changes should be made. Thankfully, with the Blogger XML template, everything is in their proper places since all Blogger templates are based on the standard template developed by Blogger.

The fastest way to learn the Blogger XML template is to get the codes of three templates and to compare each with the other two. By doing this, you will have a general idea of how the original template designed by Blogger looked like. All the XML templates that you can download from the Internet descended from the standard template developed by Blogger. After looking at some templates, you can develop an idea of how you can design a template of your own if you have the artistic skill to create a visually appealing home page.

One reason why you would want to change the template is if you want to include more elements in the page than what is provided for in the template. You may want for example to have more places where you could put advertisements on your web page. Another reason would be to remove some elements that you don't intend to use in your web page. If you have a really simple blog for example, you won't need to have a menu bar on top of the page. And if your template has that provision, you should know exactly what portion of the HTML code to comment out in the template.

There are also legacy codes that were placed on the template at a time when Internet browsers were still perfecting how they handle CSS Style specifications that today can cause problems when printing the page. There are also a few workarounds that you can do to address a few issues related to the use of Blogger's XML template. By researching on these issues using the search engines, you gain a lot of tips and tricks that you can adapt to more effectively tweak the Blogger XML template.

The basic procedure for using a new template is for you to prepare your site by removing first the gadgets that can cause problems for the new template like HTML codes and advertisements which you can easily add back later. Next, you backup your old template just in case the new template does not work out well with your contents. Then you download and unpack the new template on your computer.

Next, you need to sign in to Blogger and go the layout page where you would upload the XML template from your computer. You will then view how your pages look using the new template and make the necessary adjustments. Then you can add back the gadgets that you have removed before using the new template.

The Blogger layout tool can only be used for adding and removing gadgets on your pages. Most of the problems that would crop up require that you modify the code behind the page. This is where your knowledge of HTML and CSS would come in handy. Most of the templates do not exactly fit the particular needs of your web page. In these cases. you have to modify the CSS and HTML codes on the template.

These are some of the things that you need to know about the Blogger XML templates and how you can use them in your blogs.

Read my article on how you can modify your XML Blogger template to make the most of your AdSense ads at: http://publishtoweb.blogspot.com/2010/01/how-you-can-modify-your-xml-blogger.html.

Read my article on download, modify and use a free Blogger XML template in your blog and learn CSS and HTML along the way at: http://laptopwriting.blogspot.com/2010/02/download-modify-and-use-free-blogger.html.