Moving from Beta Blogger to WordPress, Part 2: Pre-Staging

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Photography: Plutor

There are a few things you want to set up before switching your domain over. Actually quite a few. We’ll cover two in this post, with the third (choosing plugins) in the next in this series.

The two for today:

  • Importing your Beta Blogger posts properly with new WordPress semantics, and
  • Updating your theme from Beta Blogger to WordPress.

A Warning About Imports and Permalinks

Assuming that you’ve already installed the very latest version of WordPress (version 2.3.2 at the time of this writing), you’ll find that importing from Beta Blogger is an easy and mostly happy process. Apart from one important thing.

Your permalink structure will change. In particular, it will change from

[blog url]/[year]/[month]/[shortened version of post title]

to

[blog url]/[year]/[month]/[day]/[full version of post title]

by default. The last part of the permalink structure is called a “post slug” in WordPress.

This change can totally ruin your day later on when you switch domains. I know it ruined mine. The part that can’t be changed without hacking WordPress is the post slug.

Fortunately, there’s a plugin nowadays called wp-maintain-blogger-permalinks; before then, you had to hack the import code. I didn’t know about this before I moved, and now I wish I did! This can be installed after the import too, apparently. I know little else about it, since I haven’t tried it, but this is definitely worth a look for you.

The Import Itself

Insanely easy. On your WordPress dashboard, go to Manage -> Import and choose Blogger. The rest follows.

The import will take care of both posts and comments. Awesome indeed.

From Labels to Categories and Tags

WordPress has two levels of organization: categories and tags.

  • Categories are the buckets in which you organize posts on your blog. You can think of categories as being like sections or areas of your blog.
  • Tags, on the other hand, are keywords, not really tied to less granular sections.

Blogger only has labels, so there’s no distinguishing between sections and keywords. WordPress imports all Blogger labels as categories.

Whether you want to have a zillion categories, or a few categories and tags is obviously up to you. I chose the latter approach, because categories are less convenient to apply than tags: you have to checkmark them in a form each time, and with many tags, that form becomes long and cumbersome. Whereas tags can simply be typed in an input box below your post.

To selectively convert your categories to tags, under Manage -> Import there’s a utility called “Categories to Tags Converter”. Do the natural thing. Your hand might get sore checkmarking a ton of little boxes, but I think it’s worth it for your later sanity.

Choosing a Pre-Selected WordPress Theme

That is, if you don’t want to preserve the look of your old Blogger blog to your new WordPress blog. If you had a pre-made theme in Blogger, I think the answer is clear: choose a WordPress pre-made theme. There are hundreds of them out there, unlike the 20 or so in Blogger.

You can play around with themes under Presentation -> Theme.

Unfortunately, a self-installation of WordPress out of the box comes with no themes other than the two default ones. They’re alright, but geez… save me from thousands of Kubrik clones with blue gradient headers. Still, with the right application of new colors and/or a header image, Kubrik isn’t too bland (under options for Presentation -> Theme->Options).

Give that there are hundreds of WordPress themes out there, you might want a smaller selection to try for. Most importantly:

  • You probably want a theme that is “widget-ready”. This will make it easier for you to play with widgets, which are just like the ones you had in Blogger, only a little bit different—you’ll find them under Presentation -> Widgets.

There are tons of themes over at http://www.wpthemesfree.com/, but here are a couple of sites with more select choices:

A warning about GridFocus: it’s Skellie’s favorite theme, but she likes a lot of control over her site; it’s not widget-ready, and you need to mess around with the template files yourself. Still, it’s one of the snappiest and best-organized themes.

Recreating Your Old Theme

If, on the other hand, you want to preserve the look of your blog—like I did—because it’s unique and distinct and you spent some serious time sweating over it, you’ll have your work seriously cut out for you.

Fortunately, Blogger themes—due to their mostly CSS nature—lend themselves towards transferral, given that you have a fair amount of CSS knowledge under your belt, via the Sandbox theme. Out of the box, it doesn’t look like much, but the structure of the code generated is such that CSS can be powerfully used to radically alter its traditional look. Most of Spontaneous Derivation is based upon Sandbox, in fact. Here are more examples of what you can do with this theme.

For more help, see cre8d Design’s excellent series about WordPress theme creation.

So what walls have you run into?

I haven’t yet covered every single caveat of a move from Blogger to WordPress (like all the plugins you’ll want to install to recover functionality lost in the move).

So to that end, what else have you noticed missing when you made the move from Blogger to WordPress?

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6 thoughts on “Moving from Beta Blogger to WordPress, Part 2: Pre-Staging

  1. Like the new digs, AJ! I updated the link on my blog.

    :sniffs:

    Everyone is leaving me. Although I understand. Blogger gave me fits this week. I couldn’t get into my own blog for two days.

    But now it has a new friday kitteh. :)

  2. Thanks, Mary! :)

    And I love the new Friday kitteh. It compares very well. Robert Frost is apparently a natural for kitteh-sizing!

    Blogger’s okay—I would have stuck around, since it doesn’t kill the CSS, Flash, or Javascript in my posts. But self-hosting is too good for me to resist at this point. :)

    Crime & Violins is staying on Blogger for the time being, because Blogger is more than sufficient enough for it right now.

  3. I am actually a fan of WordPress. Not only are you able to create a semi-unique looking blog, but like aforementioned earlier in the initial post, the ones that are widget-friendly are the ones IMHO the ones one should target using instead of the others that you must provide the right code to. Thanks for sharing the link to moving permalinks from Blogger to WordPress: It would be a great help to a few of my co-workers who like their blogs on Blogger, but would rather switch to the more user-friendly WordPress. on Wordpres. Take care and have a good weekend.

  4. Tamara, thanks for stopping by!

    WordPress is extremely flexible, whether you’re a casual user who doesn’t want fuss—or an experienced user who needs more power than the Blogger templates provide.

    I rather like WordPress this way. And with free WordPress.com accounts, no one need to be without WordPress in this day and age.

    WordPress FTW!

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