Quick Start Tutorial

This tutorial will guide you though the creation and management of a Thingamablog powered weblog. Although it only touches on the essentials, it is a good starting point if you’re new to the application and aren’t familiar with all the available options. More detailed information on the topics covered in this tutorial can be found in the Using Thingamablog section of the user guide.

Creating a Profile

Thingamablog stores weblog and feed data in a profile on your local drive. Thus, before you can create weblogs or feeds you have to specify a local directory where Thingamablog can create your profile.

Note: The first time you run Thingamablog you're asked to create a profile. If you've already created a profile the first time you ran Thingamablog you can skip the next two paragraphs.

To create a new profile select File » New Profile. A file dialog appears, asking you to select the directory where you would like to create the profile. After selecting the directory, Thingamablog creates the required profile directory structure. You can now create weblogs and feeds.

New Profile

Additionally, you can also open existing profiles. To do so, select File » Open Profile. A file dialog appears, asking you to select the profile you'd like to open. Browse to the directory of your profile, and select the file "user.xml." After selecting the file, Thingamablog closes the current profile and opens the profile you selected.

Creating a Weblog

Before you can begin publishing you must first create a weblog within Thingamablog. Think of a weblog as a container for your entries, categories, authors, templates, etc. Thingamablog allows you to create an unlimited number of weblogs, and each weblog can contain an unlimited number of entries, categories, and authors. Thus, the layout of your web site can be as complex, or as simple, as you like.

For now, we’ll create a simple weblog via the Weblog Wizard . To begin, select "New Weblog" from the File menu.

The Weblog Wizard

Weblog Wizard

To get started with the wizard you must supply two peices of information; the Base URL and the Base Path of the weblog. The Base URL is the top most URL the weblog will have. It must begin with the protocol and should not end with a filename. Examples of valid base URLs might be http://www.yourblog.com, http://www.yourblog.com/subfolder/blog, etc. The Base Path is the path on the FTP server, network, or disk drive that you upload the files to. Typically for FTP this path is either "/" or "/public_html", or something similiar. If you're publishing via FTP and are unsure of what your path is, you can obtain it from a standard FTP client such as FileZilla (http://filezilla.sf.net). From the FileZilla screenshot below, we can see that the Base Path should be /www/public_html

Since we’re just getting started, we’ll create a weblog that publishes to the local drive. Thus we’ll use a "file URL" for the base URL. The file URL and Base Path will point to a directory on the local machine.

Note: File URLs may behave differently on different platforms and different web browsers. You may need to consult your OS/Browser documentation and adjust the URL as needed.

Assuming Thingamablog is running under a Windows platform fill out the fields as follows

Base Path: /weblog
Base URL: file:///C:/weblog/

Or, under Unix based file systems...…

Base Path: /home/your_user/weblog
Base URL: file:///home/your_user/weblog

After you’re done with the first screen, click the next button. The next screen asks you to enter a title and description for the weblog. For the title enter "Test Weblog" along with a short description in the description text area. The Description can be as long as you like and may include HTML tags.

Adding Categories and Authors

The next two Wizard screens ask you to enter Categories and Authors for the weblog. A separate page will be generated for each category that you create. Each of these pages will contain the entries that belong to the category of the page. Furthermore, you can specify an author for each entry you create.

Adding Categories

Each weblog can have an unlimited number of categories and authors. For now, though, we’ll add three categories and one author.

On the Categories screen, Click the "Add" button and enter the category "Miscellaneous " in the text field and then click the OK

Button. The category should now appear in the list.

Repeat this process two more times for the categories "Fun" and " News"

On the Authors screen, click the "Add" button to enter an Author. On the Add Author dialog enter your name, email address, and/or URL. Note that the only required field for an author is the "Name" field. You can leave the other fields blank if you wish.

Choosing a Theme

When Thingamablog generates the weblog, it uses a theme to layout the pages that comprise the weblog. Included with the distribution are a number of pre-built templates that you can select on the Themes screen of the wizard. The theme that you select here will get you started. You can, of course, edit the theme's templates later, or create your own templates.

For now, let’s select a simple template to get started. Click the Templates combo box, scroll down, and select the "Plain Jane" theme.

Select a theme

Publishing Settings

The "Publishing" screen of the Wizard asks you to select a Transport Type. In Thingamablog terms, a "Transport" is a method by which the weblog will get published. Currently Thingamablog supports three different Transport Types; FTP, SFTP, and Local.

Publish Settings

Most users will probably choose FTP, since that is what the majority of web servers provide.

SFTP is a more secure version of FTP that sends login data encrypted. Your web host must support SFTP in order for you to use it.

The Local transport simply publishes the weblog to a local directory, or a network directory.

The location that all of the transports publish to is the "Base Path" you specified earlier. Since we’re creating a local weblog, select the " Local" transport.

After clicking the Next button the Wizard will inform you that you’re done. So click the Finish button. The Weblog should now appear in under the "My Sites" node under the weblog hierarchy.

Now that we've created our weblog, lets post some entries.

Publishing the Weblog

You’re now ready to

publish the weblog. Recall that we’ve set this weblog to publish locally to the directory C:\weblog , or under non-Windows platforms /home/your_user/weblog. When the weblog is published, its directory structure will be created within this directory.

To see the progress of the publish, click that Task tab to switch to the Tasks pane.

After the publish has completed, click the View Weblog button to open the newly generated weblog in a browser window.

Note: Pressing the Publish button also pings the services you have set up in the weblog properties. For more information on pinging, see the "Pinging Options" section of the User Guide.

Publishing to the Web

So far we’ve published the weblog to a local directory for demonstration purposes. Next, we’ll publish the weblog to the web. This section requires that you have access to a web host via FTP or SFTP.

First, highlight the weblog (Test Weblog) in the My Sites hierarchy and then click the Weblog Properties button on the toolbar

The Weblog Properties dialog opens with the General Options for the weblog (Test Weblog).

Next, fill out the "Location" fields accordingly. Note that you must use the ABSOLUTE path to your public html directory on your web host for the Base Path.

For instance, let’s ASSUME that your web server’s public html directory is /home/user/webdocs (yours is likely different).

Note: It’s possible that your web host is set up so that "/" is your public html directory.

So, then, If you’re setting your weblog up in the top level of your public html directory, the "Location" fields on the Publishing tab would like something like this…

Base Path = /home/user/webdocs - or just "/" if you’re going by the second example
Base URL
= http://www.yoursite.com
Archives Base URL = http://www.yoursite.com/archives
Media Base URL = http://www.yoursite.com/images

Alternatively, if you’d like your weblog in a subdirectory of your site, you’d fill out the Location fields something like this…

Base Path = /home/user/webdocs/blog - or just "/blog" if you’re going by the second example
Base URL = http://www.yoursite.com/blog
Archives Base URL = http://www.yoursite.com/blog/archives
Media Base URL = http://www.yoursite.com/blog/images

Note: Thingamablog creates subdirectories automatically, so you don’t have to create them beforehand.

But what if you don’t know the path to your public html directory? You can usually find this information somewhere on your host’s web site, or you can use ordinary FTP clients like wsFTP or gFTP to obtain the actual path of your public html directory.


Next, scroll down the options list and click the "Publishing" options. The Publishing options panel becomes visible. Select the Transport method (FTP or SFTP) in the Transport Type combo box and fill out the publishing options accordingly.

Click the OK button to save the changes to the weblog.

Finally click the Publish button on the toolbar.

The Publish dialog opens and shows the progress of the publish. Provided the publish settings are correct, the weblog should now be live on the Web. To view the weblog, click the View Weblog button on the toolbar

Publishing from the Entry Editor

Up until now, we’ve posted entries using the Post button and published the weblog explicitly using the Publish button . These two steps can be combined using the Post and Publish button on the Entry Editor’s toolbar.

Click the New Entry button on the toolbar to open the entry editor. Next, fill out the editor with a new entry. Finally, click the Post and Publish button. The entry editor closes, and the Publish dialog opens showing the progress of the publish.

Now that we've published the weblog, lets learn how to customize its appearance.

Working with Theme Templates

Themes are comprised of a set of template files. Thingamablog uses these template files to construct the pages of your weblog. The Front Page template specifies the layout for the front page, the Archive template specifies the layout for archive pages, the Category template specifies the layout of category pages, and the Archive Index template specifies the layout for the archive index page. Additionally, Thingamablog includes a Feed template that specifies how to construct a syndication feed.

Templates are composed of HTML or XML and Thingamablog "template tags." When you publish the weblog, the template tags are replaced with dynamic weblog data. For more detailed information on Thingamablog’s template tags, please see the "Templates" section of the User Guide.

Editing and Saving Templates

Next, let’s make a small change to the Front Page template.

First, expand the "Templates" node of the Test Weblog hierarchy.

Double click the Front Page template.

The Template Editor opens with the Front Page template.

Scroll down to the bottom of the template and, just before the closing </BODY> tag, enter the text "Copyright Your Name <$CurrentDate format="yyyy"$>"

Note: <$CurrentDate$> is a built in template tag that prints the current date. The "format" attribute tells the tag to print the year of the current date. Thus, when the weblog is published, <$CurrentDate format="yyyy"$> will be replaced with the current year. i.e. 2010.

After entering the text, click the save button on the Template Editor’s toolbar.

Finally, publish the weblog and view the changes as described previously.

Creating Custom Template Tags

In addition to Thingamablog’s built in template tags, you can define your own "Custom Tags." The Custom Tags that you define represent chunks of text you need to use more than once throughout your weblog. When Thingamablog publishes a weblog it replaces all Custom Tags with the text each represents.

For example, suppose you would like to include a list of your favorite links on each page of your weblog. Furthermore, assume that your "favorite links" change from time to time. Typically, you’d enter the list’s HTML on each page and, worse yet, update each page when the list changes. However, with Thingamablog’s Custom Tags, you can define the list once, and simply include a single tag wherever you’d like the favorite links to appear.

Let’s add a favorite links tag to the weblog. Open the Weblog Properties dialog. Click the "Custom Tags " option in the options list to make the Custom Tags pane visible. Next, click the Add button to open the Custom Tag editor.

Custom Tag editor

In the Name field enter "FavoriteLinks "

In the Value field enter the HTML…

<div class="sidetitle">Favorite Links</div>
<div class="side">
<a href=http://www.google.com>Google</a><br>
<a href=http://www.sf.net>Source Forge</a><br>
<a href=http://www.slashdot.org>Slashdot</a><br>

After entering the data, click the OK button to save the custom tag to the weblog. The custom tag <$FavoriteLinks$> should now appear in the Custom Tags list.

Finally, click the OK button on the Weblog Properties dialog to save the changes.

Adding Custom Tags to a Template

Now let’s add the <$FavoriteLinks$> tag to the templates.

Open the Front Page template as described previously. In the Front Page template’s HTML, find the comment " <!-- Archive links list -->" and directly above it enter the Custom Tag <$FavoriteLinks$>. Finally, save the template.

Template Editor

Repeat this process for the Category and Archive templates.

After you’ve inserted the custom tags, republish and view the weblogs. The Front Page, Archive Pages, and Category pages should now contain your favorite links.

Well, that concludes the tutorial. You should now know enough to create, update, and maintain weblogs with Thingamablog. Have fun and happy blogging.