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ATPM 9.10
October 2003





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Review: TypePad

by Raena Armitage,


Developer: Six Apart

Price: from $5/month

Requirements: Internet connection.

Trial: Fully-featured (30 days)

Weblogging, or blogging for short, is the practice of updating a Web site frequently—akin to a Web-based journal of sorts. Everyone’s doing it: bloggers everywhere are posting news, opinions, thoughts, snippets of their life, photos and more. Best of all, you don’t need to be a Web wizard to start a weblog; if you’re not interested in hosting a weblog yourself, there are a plethora of services available that let you build and maintain your weblog with a minimum of fuss.

Currently in its preview release stage, Six Apart’s TypePad promises to be the cream of the crop when it comes to hosted weblog services. Based on the Movable Type platform, TypePad adds a whole swag of features and versatility that Movable Type users normally only get after installing a bunch of plug-ins and hacks. What really sets TypePad apart, however, are the numerous small but very cool improvements on the standard offerings out there.

Getting Started

Starting out with TypePad is a piece of cake: just choose a user name, sub-domain name (such as and an appropriate pricing plan, and you’re on your way. There’s a 30-day free trial, which you can cancel at any time, and no charge until the 30 days are up. Once in the system, you’ll start by creating your first weblog: it’s as easy as filling in a form.


Posting, setup and maintenance are only a click away from TypePad’s Weblog Overview screen.

TypePad’s slick interface and easy controls make the process of designing your weblog’s layout and content a quick and painless effort. The built-in templates offer a wide range of layouts, all written in attractive, quick-loading, standards-compliant HTML—no crusty JavaScript or broken hacks here. TypePad’s Plus- and Pro-level accounts let you dig deeper into the layout: you can alter styles and layout in Plus using a drag-and-drop interface, and Pro users can utilize special tags and custom templates for extremely fine control over every element of their weblog’s design.


Drag and drop your weblog’s contents around for control over the layout.


When you’ve tweaked everything to your heart’s content, you’ll undoubtedly spend most of your time posting updates. TypePad’s posting screen is straightforward, but can be customized to show more fields and options for finer control. You can optionally file your post under a set of categories, use the TrackBack system to send messages to other weblogs when you post about them, add keywords and an excerpt for syndication, or allow users to add comments. If you want to have posts appear later, they can be scheduled to do so: TypePad won’t publish them until the date and time you set.


If you can write an e-mail, you can post to TypePad. The HTML to display an image is created for you as soon as you upload the image.

Uploading files is as easy as can be, with no more worries about whether you got the URL and HTML right: TypePad can generate the necessary HTML for you when you upload an image. Even cooler still, it recognizes whether your layout will permit an image of that size, and offers to create a thumbnail sized accordingly.

For road warriors, one of TypePad’s neatest features is an easy way to set up mobile settings. Users of the Plus and Pro plans can post images and text from a mobile device using e-mail, with their choice of identity verification—using a “secret” random e-mail address at, responding to a confirmation message, or using a PGP signature.

Bookmarklets live on the bookmarks bar of your browser, and offer a quick and easy way to post items to your TypeLists or weblogs. When you’re at a Web site and you’d like to post a weblog entry about it, just highlight any text you want and click the Bookmarklet in your Favorites tab. It’ll open up a new TypePad posting window for you, with the URL of the page already filled in and the text you highlighted.


Highlight and click—you’re ready to post.

Meanwhile, more prolific bloggers will be pleased to know that you don’t need to log into the TypePad Web site every time you want to post. The third-party tools that work with Movable Type work extremely well with TypePad. Users of the full version of NetNewsWire or the freeware Kung-Log, among others, can use those applications to manage their weblog posts without ever having to touch a Web browser.

The aforementioned mobile posting settings are also a handy thing: naturally, you don’t have to use a mobile device with these features, and you can use those settings to post to your weblog from your favorite e-mail application. (It’s also a neat way to blog from work and appear as though you’re writing some terribly important memo, but I didn’t tell you that.)

Photo Albums

Who doesn’t want to share their digital photos? TypePad allows its Plus and Pro users to create photo albums, again with a selection of very nice layouts and styles. Uploading images with the album tool offers a load of great features. It can extract any EXIF data from a photo you’re uploading and automatically insert the date and time it was created, generate nice square thumbnails, and scale larger photographs to a more manageable size. Once you’ve created an album, you can display a thumbnail of your latest addition on your weblog’s sidebar.

Doing something similar in TypePad’s nearest relative, Movable Type, takes a fair amount of fiddling with templates and isn’t anywhere near as simple as this. You could use a third party tool like Gallery, but it doesn’t offer the same level of integration with your weblog. There’s nothing quite as slick as this.


Photolog like the pros in five minutes flat.


This very cool feature of TypePad absolutely blew me away. There are four types of TypeLists you can create: People, Links, Music, and Reading. Adding a new item is simple. With the Music TypeLists, entering the album and artist grabs the album thumbnail from Amazon and places it in your sidebar along with a link to the product. If you use an ISBN number to add a book to a Reading TypeList, it does the same, and grabs the full title and author while it’s at it. If you’ve entered an Affiliate ID in your TypePad profile, it puts that ID in the link to Amazon. Adding a URL to a Link TypeList grabs the page’s title right out of the HTML, and adding a URL to a People TypeList gets the information from metadata embedded in the page, if it’s supplied.


A weblog sidebar, with a photo album and a TypeList.

You can display TypeLists in the sidebar of your weblog, so that everyone knows what you’re reading or listening to, or who your Web buddies are. You also have quick access to your TypeLists in the TypePad Bookmarklet, so you can quickly add links to your Links or People TypeLists, or books and CDs to your Reading and Music lists.

What’s the Damage?

TypePad’s subscription pricing comes in three stages: the basic service at $4.95 per month gets you one weblog; the Plus service at $8.95 offers three weblogs and more bandwidth and Web space; and Pro at $14.95 lets you create an unlimited number of weblogs, and gives you even more bandwidth and Web space, plus the ability to use the more advanced design and posting tools. You receive a 30-day trial plus the choice of paying monthly or yearly—yearly subscription gets you two months free—and you can change up or down a plan whenever you like. There’s currently no free option at all, although TypePad’s FAQ tells us that a free version may be on its way.

Compared to a “real” Web hosting account, this pricing isn’t terribly competitive. On the other hand, you don’t have to worry for a minute about setting up scripts, messing with FTP, or figuring out how to use a Web editor like Dreamweaver, so in effect you’re paying for a very nice hosting package and having it all managed for you.

Cheaper or free services are definitely out there, but none comes anywhere near the experience you receive with TypePad. Users of free services in particular have to be prepared to spend time tweaking some very ugly templates, breaking things, swearing at the screen, and putting up with obtrusive banner ads and anaemic feature sets. With TypePad, you’ll be blogging like the experts in no time flat.


This is a great service, and the best part is that it promises to get even better. Even though it’s still only in a preview release, its ease of use, feature set and general smoothness blows its nearest competitors right out of the water. While TypePad’s FAQ says that the Plus account is better if you’re “comfortable with weblogs but not interested in managing technical details,” it’s certainly not beyond the reach of the blogging newbie and represents the best choice in terms of value for money.

Reader Comments (4)

Michael · October 2, 2003 - 18:52 EST #1
I was a beta tester for TypePad, having used Movable Type for a couple of years. It is everything you said it is, and the price seems pretty high compared to Blogger Pro or Userland Radio, which run $30-$40 per year. That comes to only 2/3 of the cheapest TypePad service, and doesn't even have the photo gallery feature. Considering that Blogger is free without the pictures and has decent templates, it will be interesting to see if there is a market for it.

It is a great product but has a premium price. Remember all the screaming about the $99 annual fee for .mac?
Raena Armitage (ATPM Staff) · October 3, 2003 - 09:38 EST #2
G'day Michael,

Yeah, I was in the July beta period. (BTW, Blogger Pro is now free, though I don't know about the pictures.) It keeps getting better. I opted to keep it, but I also doubt I'll stay past the trial unless something happens to really make me stick to it. Like you, I've been using MT for a couple of years and I can understand what you mean about pricing: for people like you and me, the expense isn't really justified.

On the other hand, people who bought and use .Mac are doing so for two reasons:

1) It's a really easy service that doesn't require familiarity with anything particularly techie (unlike a nice, relatively cheap mail/web service).

2) It's kind of like the Rolls Royce of online services--it's packed with neat features and you get some cheap or free software as part of your membership. Most of the whining about its current price was from people who were used to getting it free.

People will either pay a premium for nice, functional stuff or they'll work hard to make their own--TypePad's for the former, and Movable Type/Radio/etc. are the latter.
John David Felt · October 7, 2003 - 01:21 EST #3
I did a lot of research into blogging software for my company. We needed an easy way for certain teams to communicate via their own web sites to the rest of the company. These users were, by no means, technically inclined.

When TypePad is compared to ANY of the for-pay, outside-hosted sites, it wins. It is a very well-written piece of software and there is the option of going to Movable Type is you outgrow it and need to host yourself.

That being said, with Blogger being free now, I'm not sure it provides enough bang for the buck.

Two other products I would mention are Bloki and Bloxsom.

Bloki bills itself as a combination of BlogTool and Wiki. While it's really not much of a Wiki, it does have some really cool features like WYSIWYG editing from anywhere through the browser (no other software needed). Built-in forums are another neat item. Bloki is free and it uses the outside hosting model so you do not even need a permanent connection to use it.

On the host-it-yourself side, there is Bloxsom. I am reallly thrilled with this. It's a tiny Perl script that provides an incredible array of features. It's really perfect for Mac OS X. Users of Windows and others platforms will have a harder time due to some Perl issues and some IIS issues (although you could avoid those by running Apache.) If you are thinking of hosting your own blog, I highly recommend Bloxsom.

Jane Mitchel · November 5, 2005 - 05:42 EST #4
I needed to choose a service for our company Blog and thought that Typepad sounded good. Since this was for a company I didn't like the idea of using a free service (even though many of the free blog services offer comparable features) and the expense wasn't that great. I signed up for Typepad Pro, their most premium and expensive service, so that we would have all the features and bandwidth needed as we grew.

It turns out that signing up for Typepad was a huge mistake. There were many problems, such as the ongoing problems with the Typepad service going offline. Apparently their servers are too overloaded and this makes the blogs totally inaccessible. If this isn't enough, their support can be totally unhelpful--if they even respond at all.

After so much work and effort, the company blog is essentially dead for now. No more resources can be poured into it, when it may not be working or available for anyone to visit. We're now in the process of restarting the blog on our own servers--without using any SixApart / TypePad services, software or garbage.

If you are doing a personal blog, you are probably best off with one of the free services. If you are doing a company blog, set it up on your own domain and servers.

There may be other services that are not as bad as Typepad, but it is best to be in control of your own destiny. That means you absolutely need to use your own domain, and not be or something like it. If everyone has that as your address in links and bookmarks, what do you do if Typepad pulls the plug on you, if Typepad is down again, or some other problem occurs?

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