AOL Journal Users: How to get your files when all else fails.

The options you’ve been given for preserving your years of writing, photo-swapping and friendship-making on AOL Journals are not all that great: you can either download your files or transfer them to a new web host named Blogger. That’s all.

Not only are your options limited, since AOL put little thought into helping you move elsewhere, some of you are also having problems transferring your files.

This post is about how to capture your data if every other method has failed you.

The good news is you still have 12 days left – almost two full weeks – to download your files. The bad news is you must get cracking now or your files will be deleted by AOL on Oct. 31st. This can be time-consuming, so be sure to set aside some time to get it done.

Using Notepad – or Word – to copy your HTML files.

On using Notepad…

Notepad automatically saves your files as text files unless you specify otherwise. I suggest you save every page on your journal with Notepad as a text file. Doing so will ensure your files can easily be uploaded to another service.

The neat thing about Notepad is you can also save your CSS and HTML files with it…just change the file’s extension. To do so, click File->Save As, then type the name of the document and add either .css, .htm or .html to the file name.

On using Word the right way…

Unless you save your raw HTML pages correctly, Word will use the Document (DOC) format to save your files, which can mess up your HTML when you try to transfer it to another blog or journal service.

If you use Word, make sure you save your files as plain text files. Plain text files are preferred, since they can easily be uploaded to another blog or journal service. To do so, in Word select File->Save as Text. In Word 2007, select the Word logo in the upper right corner and then select Save As.

Saving your files as HTML requires you to open each saved web page in a web browser, to right-click each page and to copy the source to Notepad or Wordpad (making double work for you!), or to hunt through your saved data manually to find the text file that contains your HTML. If you want to make it this hard on yourself, in Word select File->Save as Web Page. In Word 2007, select the Word logo in the upper right corner and then select Save As.

Downloading your Blogger blog to your hard drive…

To save a copy of your entire blog once it’s on Blogger, follow the instructions here.

Getting a domain name for your blog on Blogger…

Once you’ve imported your AOL Journal to Blogger, this Blogger Help page gives you instructions on how to use a custom domain name (yourname.com as opposed to yourname.blogspot.com) with their blog service.

On using Blogger as an import/export tool…

This is a bit naughty, but you can use Blogger as an import/export tool. If you don’t want a Blogger blog, but you do want an easier way to transfer your journal to another hosting service, this might be your ticket – as long as your journal transfers to Blogger without any problems.

First, following the simple steps on this Blogger Help page for importing your journal to their platform, then follow these instructions to get it onto WordPress instead. Doing it this way completely automates everything…you just have to click a few buttons, type your current journal or blog address in here and there, then wait for your transfers to finish. When you’re done, you can delete your Blogger blog if you want by following the instructions here.

(AOL Pictures is closing down on Dec. 31st)

How to save pictures stored on AOL Pictures or AOL FTP…

Hint: Pictures take up a lot of space on your computer’s hard drive, so ensure you have enough space before you get started. Click Start->My Computer, then right-click the hard drive you wish to save your pictures to and choose Properties.

A small window will open with a small, color graphic that shows you how much space is free. You may need up to one Gigabyte of space or more for your pictures, so make sure that much space is still available.

It helps if beforehand you create a new folder on your computer to hold your pictures. To do so, click Start->My Documents, then right-click on an empty white space and choose Create New Folder. The new folder will be named “New Folder” by default. To change it click on the name and type in the name you want.

To save your pictures, while browsing your journal in a web browser, right-click each picture and choose Save Picture As… (IE wording) or Save Image As (Firefox wording).

If you have room on your hard drive for some but not all of your pictures, you can download a small amount of them at a time to your computer, then upload them go a free photo hosting service like Flickr or Photobucket, then delete them from your hard drive, download another batch and repeat until you are done.

How to transfer pictures without downloading them…

With a free Photobucket account, you don’t have to save pictures to your computer at all. Just log into Photobucket and keep the Album page open in one tab or window; in another tab or window open your journal page, then right-click each picture on your pages and choose Properties (in IE). Find and copy the URL and paste it into Photobucket’s Web URL upload slot. In Firefox right-click each picture and choose Copy Image Location. Once you’ve copied the URL paste it into Photobucket’s Web URL upload slot.

Photobucket includes a mass uploader with technically unlimited uploads, but the more pictures you upload at once, the longer it will take, so I suggest not uploading more than one picture at a time on dial-up, or more than 10-20 at a time at higher speeds.

A question for AOL Journal users…

Does anyone reading this want me to post about free journal and blog services you can transfer your files to besides Blogger and WordPress? If so leave me a comment; enough “aye” votes and I may write one. I tend to shy away from recommending any blog or journal service because there is too much politics involved in making such recommendations. If there is a strong demand to know about more free services, though, I may try to fulfill it.