Monday, August 15, 2005

Rearranging The Furniture...An Adventure In Template Coding

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First, a bit of history. I began blogging last summer, using a standard Blogger template. I liked it well enough, but I soon felt I needed room to stretch and breathe, because I kept finding things to add to the single sigebar in that tempate unttil there was just little room left. Eventually, I found the template I'm currenttly using, and set about learning to edit thee template code to make it my own personal space. I did learn, but I banged my shins and skinned my knees a couple (or more than a couple) of times in the process. I stopped looking for wolves in the bushes who were going to scare me to pieces; template code may nip at times, but it seldom draws blood, especially since I know where the delete key is and I'm not afraid to use it.

If you've been reading this blog for a while (and I hope you have), and if you are very observant, you will notice some changes in the sidebars. Things have been re-arranged, and yes, more new content has been added. It was not my original intent to make such large-ish changes, but I'm not displeased with the outcome. I was trying to add a couple more Compactible Headings Scripts to the left sidebar, and couldn't get them working, even though I was careful to ensure there were no typographical errors and no errors in copying/pasting the code. I tried several times to get the headings working, to no avail. Finally, I decided to just toss my entire template and start fresh. Drastic? Yes. But well worth it in the end.

Before I started deleting the code in my sidebars, I made sure to copy the data into separate text files for each heading. Thus, I didn't lose even the newest links I'd added. Finally, I deleted the entire template code and reloaded a new "blank" (no personal edits) template. Carefully, I began inserting the code for each of my headings, making sure to preview after each new insertion, then saving my work. I did this after each major insertion or after a few less major ones. Along the way, I encountered several issues that I was able to resolve on my own.

One issue: When I inserted the code for my Delicious Categories, the menu extended all the way across the screen horizontally. I had an extra < div > tag in the coding, and when I found it and deleted it, it was fine.

Then, I inserted my Ad-Sense code. Now, my sidebars and the center content section were vertically misaligned. I had put the Adsense code one line too high in the sidebar. I lowered it, and everything was once again aligned perfectly. All it took was moving some text and a few clicks of the mouse. It's all in knowing where to move text and where to click the mouse; that is a skill anyone can learn with practice.

I had a difficulty with Haloscan commenting. When I tried to use the automatic feature in Haloscan to enter the required code into the template, Haloscan would say it was successful...but when I viewed the template, I was looking at an old version Haloscan had considerately backed up for me in June that I discarded a while ago. I didn't want to revert that far back in time, so I ended up just inserting the code manually. Success! There were a couple other issues such as these, and I was able to resolve all of them without assistance. Some of these same issues would have had me frantic just a few months ago, but this time I had a mehodical approach. I just made sure to do one task at a time, preview, save, republish, add more code, and repeat the cycle until I had everything where it needed to be. I was even able to place a compactible header inside the profile container for my contact information. I've wanted to do that for a long time. Doing these things successfully and without help is immensely gratifying. I could literally feel my confidence increase as each issue was resolved.

The very next step I will take is to save a complete backup of this fresh template...because you never know.