Become a Tumblr Power-User with XKit

When someone mentions Tumblr, many people immediately think of teenagers and silly GIFs. While it’s true that the majority of Tumblr users are young people, this powerful blogging platform also hosts branded content and professional websites. Purchased for a billion USD by Yahoo in 2013, Tumblr is still completely free, and millions of new posts are created every day. A browser extension called XKit makes Tumblr blogging easier and more efficient.

A quick reminder might be useful in case you’re not familiar with Tumblr. The name of your blog is a part of its URL (http://name.tumblr.com). You can also use a custom domain for your Tumblr blog. It’s possible to follow other users, like and reblog (share) their posts and leave notes (comments) on their posts, and ask them questions if they’ve enabled that feature.

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The Dashboard is the main component of Tumblr from which you control your blog – add new posts, manage followed users, modify settings. Posts from users you follow appear on the Dashboard. You can create several types of posts (text, photo, video, quote, audio) and share them directly on social media if you connect your Twitter and Facebook accounts to Tumblr. All posts can be categorized by adding tags, which helps others find them using the Tumblr Search function. Posts can be scheduled (queued) for later publishing and batch-edited with Mega-Editor. The best thing about Tumblr is that you’re absolutely free to customize your blog theme – all you need is a bit of HTML and CSS knowledge.

The XKit browser extension is available for Chrome, Firefox and Opera and requires the latest version of each browser. (There are known bugs with Chrome, but they can be resolved relatively easily.)

XKit is in fact a collection of a dozen small extensions or browser scripts that modify your Tumblr Dashboard, meaning that the tweaks are effective locally – in your browser. This is very similar to Stylish and Greasemonkey scripts. If you want to use XKit across different browsers and computers, you can enable the XCloud feature, which allows you to synchronize your local XKit profile with the server and access it from any other computer.

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XKit is installed like any other browser extension. After the installation you can only open it when you’re logged into Tumblr by clicking the XKit icon (marked with red in the screenshot).

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The main XKit window, also called the Control Panel, is where you can adjust all its settings and install extensions.

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XKit automatically updates extensions, but you can perform a manual update from the Control Panel. You can also set up notifications about XKit news and events such as new likes, comments, followers and activity on blogs you follow. To install extensions, switch to the “Get Extensions” tab.

The list of available extensions is really long, and new features are added regularly. Some extensions are still in the experimental phase, which means they might cause problems. You’ll get a warning message when you try to install them. A small turtle icon next to an extension means that it might slow down your computer. Most extensions have a settings dialog which you can find under the “My XKit” tab.

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With so many extensions to choose from, it might be hard to decide which ones you need. This short list of recommended extensions can help improve the performance of your Dashboard and make you a better Tumblr user.

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We can roughly divide XKit extensions into three categories: those that deal with posts and tags, those that help you manage followed users, and those that impact the appearance and functionality of the Dashboard.

1. Posts and Tags:

  • Tags on Sidebar – if you want to track (follow) specific tags, for example #football or #android, this extension will keep them quickly accessible in the Dashboard sidebar.
  • Quick Tags – offers a feature called “tag bundles”, which are sets of predefined tags that you can apply to selected posts directly from the Dashboard; no need to open and manually edit each post.
  • Bookmarker – keeps a bookmark list in the sidebar and lets you bookmark any post or link from the Dashboard.
  • Post Archiver – a step forward from the Bookmarker extension. This tool creates a “My Archive” button in the sidebar and lets you save complete posts to XKit. It’s also possible to rename and categorize archived posts.

2. User Management:

  • Mute! – similar to options available on other social networks. This extension doesn’t unfollow selected users but reduces the amount of their content that comes to your Dashboard.
  • Blog Tracker – makes it possible to track Tumblr users like you can track tags, providing information about new posts and activity of tracked accounts.
  • XStats – provides statistics in your Dashboard about people you follow, the most popular type of content and most active users.
  • Find Inactives – helps you find inactive users in your following list, making it easier to unfollow those who don’t post anymore.

3. Dashboard Tweaks:

  • Blacklist & Highlighter – two invaluable filters. Posts containing blacklisted words won’t appear on your Dashboard, while those with phrases specified in Highlighter can be marked with a different color for increased visibility.
  • Read More Now – particularly useful for long text posts, this extension lets you read the entire post in your Dashboard without taking you to the original blog where it’s been posted.
  • CleanFeed – allows you to browse Tumblr without accidentally stumbling upon NSFW content. This extension can block photos, avatars or all non-text posts in your Dashboard and show blocked content when you hover over it.
  • Themes & Theme Editor – bring some fun and creativity to the plain blue Dashboard. You can apply pre-made themes or make your own, but remember that they affect only the Dashboard, and not your blog.
  • Show Originals – an experimental extension that shows only original posts in the Dashboard. This is useful if you follow people who tend to reblog too much for your taste.
  • Disable GIFs – a great extension for slow Internet connections or for users who are more interested in written content than in endless animated GIFs. It works like the Flashblock extension for browsers, letting you “play” the GIF if you wish, but disabling it by default. However, the current version can’t disable GIFs which are added to text posts.

Can you recommend any other XKit extensions? Do you use Tumblr or do you prefer some other blogging platform? Let us know in the comments.

Image credit: Teaser image source