Thursday, September 29, 2011

How to Backup Your Blogger Template (Technical Tuesday - Special)

I enjoy reading Nathan Hale's blog. He's an incredible artist/illustrator and often tells stories, a page at a time, on his blog. He shares tips, advice, and events from his life. He also runs some really fun contests. You should follow him.

A couple months back he re-designed his blog. That sounds boring, but he allowed his readers to see each step and even participate in the decisions. He'd  post some new artwork and get feedback, then we'd see the blog change. Sometimes the changes didn't work out the first time and he'd try again. It was a lot of fun and I learned from it, too.

I hope that this journey will also be entertaining and educational. I don't think I can compete with Nathan's illustrations, but I'll do the best I can.

With that high bar to clear, let's get started.

Step Numero Uno

The first step on our Dynamic Views journey is to create a backup. I've put a lot of work into my current setup and I don't want to lose it. Also, if I don't like my changes I want an easy way out. In this post, I'll walk you through creating a backup of your Blogger template.

Official Backup

Blogger provides a way to download a file with all your template information. You have to be using the updated version of the Blogger Dashboard, because the backup option doesn't appear to be in the old interface.
  1. Go to your Blogger Dashboard.
  2. If you see a link near the top of the screen that says "Try the updated blogger interface" then click it. If not, you're good.
  3. Go to the Template section of the Dashboard.
  4. Click the "Backup/Restore" button on the top-right.
  5. Then click "Download full template" and save the file to your computer.

One of my rules for backups is that I need to be able to understand them. The file Blogger creates is nice and easy, but I like to have a fail-safe--something that I can understand without a lot of technology. In this case, I'm mostly interested in recording how my blog looks, so a screenshot will do the trick.

The backup file Blogger creates is an XML file. I work with these all the time, so I could probably recreate everything from that if I had to, but a little more insurance is a good thing. Especially when it won't cost that much.

I took four screenshots of my blog to get the header, sidebar, and footer information. I also copied the text and html out of a few of my sidebar widgets and pasted them into a text document for safe keeping.

I saved all the files in a single directory.

Simple Test

We're done, right? Wrong.

This is the step people skip. They think, "I've got a backup, now I'm safe." But you don't know that until you try it.
  1. Go back to your Dashboard -> Templates.
  2. Click on "Backup/Restore" again.
  3. This time Choose your backup file and Upload it.
  4. Now, check out your blog and make sure everything still looks good.
If everything worked, nothing will change on your blog. It should look exactly like it did before. If there is a problem, then you can either use the screenshots (our fail-safe) to put everything back. Or you can keep moving ahead with the knowledge that you don't have a good backup. It's up to you.

Full Test

My next test was to switch my blog over to a Dynamic View and then restore it back again. I wanted to make double-sure I could go back if I needed to. This may seem like overkill, but I would rather know that I'm working without a safety net instead of believing that there is a safety net protecting me.

Note: Please read all the steps before trying this. I ran into problems part way through this test.
  1. Go back to your Dashboard -> Templates.
  2. Select one of the Dynamic Views and Apply it on your blog.
  3. Visit your blog and make sure the new view works.
  4. Go back to your Dashboard -> Templates.
I know what you're thinking, "Just click on Backup/Restore and upload the backup file." Well, I tried that and it didn't work. Agh! It appeared to work , but my blog never changed.

See? This is why it's good to test each piece as you go.

I did discover a work-around. You're mileage may vary.
  1. I chose one of the "Simple" templates and applied it to my blog.
  2. Then I was able to click on Backup/Restore and Upload my file.
My blog looked the same, so the backup worked. Hooray!

I suspect there is a bug that doesn't allow the older templates to be uploaded when a Dynamic View is active. If Blogger fixes this then you won't need the work around.

Now that we have a backup and we know it works, we're ready to embark on the Dynamic Views journey.

Thanks for hanging in there with me. I know this post was a bit dry. I felt it was important to cover--not only for this journey, but also for any time you want to make big changes to your Blogger template. I hope you find it useful.

Tomorrow, I switch to using a Dynamic View. Which one do you think I should try first?

* They don't make night deposit boxes like that anymore. This photo by Mira Hartford can be found on Flickr.


Canda said...

I really could have used this a few months ago. I didn't know about backing it up and I hit something just wrong and the whole blog was gone. I had to go to a historical backup to find it (well, I didn't--I had help. Right they did it). Thanks, I'm saving this one!

John Waverly said...

Canda - Ouch!! I'm so sorry. I'm glad you got it figured out though.

Donna K. Weaver said...

Thanks for much for this, John. I've had issues when shifting templates, and that's kept me from making a change again. I hadn't even considered copying the html for my widgets. Duh! And the screencapture idea is brilliant. I wish there was an easier way to keep retain my blog list. I went ahead and just opened each of them and saved the addresses into a Word doc.

I'm copying this and saving it to a Word doc, too.

John Waverly said...

Donna - I'm glad I could help. I'll see if I can come up with anything to help save your blog list.

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