For those who want to go their own way in the blogosphere and ignore the big guns of WordPress, Blogger.com, Movable Type or any number of other options, we take a look at BlogEngine.Net. This fella is an open source, server-based software package that aims to simplify the increasingly sophisticated world of online scribbling.
BlogEngine.NET is a product for .NET developers who want to bolt on a useful feature to their sites or create something that the herd of blog sites cannot do -- but do not want to reinvent the wheel. The software is maintained on CodePlex, it aims for clarity, lack of complexity while making use of all the features that .NET offers.
You may already have heard of BlogEngine.NET -- it is offered by several Web hosts -- or you could have come across it on CodePlex or one of the other open source sites. Let's round up some of its key features:
- No Database Needed. It uses XML to store blog entries, although a SQL database can be used if required.
- Quick Start. Upload the files to your server and you are ready to blog.
- Feature Support. Comments, trackbacks, referrals, syndication (RSS 2.0 and Atom) plus there is support for multiple authors.
- Web 2.0. Supports features like Gravatar, AJAX, coComments, Google sitemaps, OpenSearch support, social bookmarks and tag clouds.
- Customization and Widgets. Widgets help make a blog stand out and BlogEngine.NET helps integrate these into any blog. It has some custom widgets, such as an AJAX calendar and an auto updating blogroll, while coders can create their own. Extensions can turn an ordinary blog page into a media-heavy, social monster.
|Product Name ||BlogEngine.NET|
|Product Category ||Blog/Micro Publishing System|
|Typical Scenario ||Blog platform for simple or customizable online publishing|
|Bad Fit Scenario ||Any small company whose staff will happily use a hosted (SaaS) blog service or for those that prefer the LAMP stack of technologies.|
Creating blogs can't get much easier
Company History & Origins
BlogEngine.NET is an open source project with a pair of coordinators and six developers. As such it's not really fair to delve into their deep executive psyche. However, the platform has been around since April 2007 when it was conceived as a lightweight blogging engine for .NET developers.
Since that time, it has evolved and grown intermittently, exploding into life in March this year with a raft of revisions and updates culminating in April's release of the Version 1.5.
As well as on the code side, this year has also seen an expansion of blog themes to entice users and BlogEngine is now available on Microsoft's Web App Gallery, garnering more than 55,000 downloads and a four-star rating in just a couple of months.
Product Core Technology
With its open-source and extensible nature, BlogEngine.NET can become a lot bigger than just the platform. A massive list of potential additions to your blogs shows just what the possibilities are. But that's for the user to choose, let's take a step back.
BlogEngine.NET uses ASP.NET 2.0 or Mono to achieve its aims of a server-based open-source blogging engine available for free using the Microsoft Reciprocal License. Data is stored natively in XML or can be kept in a MySQL database. As it can be customized by the developer, it offers a flexible solution for those looking to build their own blogs. TinyMCE is provided as a part of the install package as the WYSIWYG editor.
Installation is just a matter of copying the files over to any ASP.NET 2.0 compatible server which has write permission for the App_data folder. You won't be alone as close to 125,000 people have downloaded the latest version. There are practical video tutorials on the site to help those in need of assistance when installing, using or even trying out some advanced features.
Pages can be created either as live blog entries, updatable and interactive for readers, or static pages suitable for front ends, often-used messages and so on. Blogs can be commented on, added to other's blog rolls and other common blog features. Multiple authors can write for a page.
BlogEngine matches up to the big boys for editing
BlogEngine.NET supports some 31 languages, allowing it to be deployed in the majority of nations including Japanese, French, German, Spanish and Russian.
Admins can create users who can write and make changes to most of a blogs settings including blogrolls, widget controls and creating pages (distinct from posts). They can also set Ping Servers which will help indexing services know when your blog has been updated.
Another, rather limited feature, is the referrers list which keeps a weekly record of sites that link to your blog, but even the documentation recommends using Google Analytics or something similar.
Creating a blog post follows the usual pattern, you can enter a title, summary, content and add images or files for others to download. Live Writer support makes it just as fluent as using WordPress.
An optional feature is to change the URL of the piece, which is usually the title, to another name, useful if you have a specific structure for links. Comments can be allowed by ticking the appropriate box, enabled or disabled on a per-post basis, ideal if you don't want a debate over certain content.
With TinyMCE as the editor, iSpell provides the spell checking facilities. Windows Live Editor can also be used. BlogEngine.NET also comes with a calendar, sitemap facility. RSS 2.0 and Atom 1 feeds are available for syndicating updates.
As a C# and ASP.NET product, BlogEngine.NET can be customized in any and all ways, depending on the needs of a developer. Extra features can be added to the blog using standard additional web tools including the following: photo slideshows, lightboxes, automated thumbnails, Flash MP3 players, YouTube support, FLV player and more.
Templating & Theming
BlogEngine.NET comes with a range of themes to get those eager bloggers started. Developers can also modify or add their own, be it a corporate theme or something more avant garde. There are a couple of theme sites that you can grab themes, widgets and extensions. Blogenginethemes.com is an essential resource for any user.
Themes both simple and stylish can be used for your blogs
Keeping Things Simple
Users who have a problem with BlogEngine.NET can make a post on the Issue Tracker, which seems to be a fairly responsive environment. Development does seem to have slowed down on the product after the rush to the 1.5 release, but with a stable product that lives up to its ambitions, perhaps there is no rush for the next big push.
We're pretty comfortable recommending that .NET fans consider BlogEngine.NET for when looking to quickly bolt-on blogging features to existing sites or applications. It is far from the only product in the open source .NET field though. On the simple side there's also AtomSite, dasBlog, Subtext and probably others. Or for more sophisticated scenarios you have DotNetNuke, N2 and Umbraco.
Remember, no one system is best. Take your time defining and prioritizing your needs, then take a thoughtful look at the products and the teams behind them.