Normally, I would stay away from anything named BackStreet. Just sounds shady. Yet, I find myself going camping this weekend where there is no Internet connectivity. Egads! Gadzooks! Whatever shall I do? Well, I found me a great blog that I like to read and I’m going to download the entire blog for offline reading.
(No, camping isn’t that active an affair with me. A little fishing, a little drinking, a little reading. Thank heavens for the)
Usually, I would use HTTrack to download blogs for offline viewing. It’s been around since the 56kbps days and works very well indeed. But HTTrack has been covered on MUO quite well already. So, BackStreet’s back, alright! (Sorry.)
Step 1: Download and Install BackStreet Browser
Here it is, it’s only 1.48MB in size. Quick download, quick install.
Step 2: Set up the Parameters
Parameters is a fancy word for options. I like big multi-syllable words like maramalade and mayonnaise. Click on New to start a new project.
Enter the URL of the site you wish to download, a Title for it, and choose the Folder you want to download the site to. Under the Load tab, you’re going to set how much of the site you want to load. The default values should serve you well. Note that each level of link depth that you add, can add to the size of the download almost exponentially. Three should be plenty.
The File Filter tab is where you determine what types of files you wish to exclude or set size limits on the files. This helps you restrict just how much is downloaded. Let’s say the site has a lot of images that don’t have much to do with the content. You might exclude JPEGs then. Then the site would download quicker and take up less of your hard drive.
Under URL Filter you can choose which protocols you will access. If the site has a protected section you don’t want to access, you might uncheck HTTPS. If the site has an FTP download site, say for free programs, you might want to uncheck that as well, to speed up your download. The Server option can be used to determine where the files are downloaded from. Some sites use server balancing or mirror servers. Choosing Follow other servers would allow for downloads from them. Download pages only from other servers would download strictly from mirrored or associated servers. I’m not sure why you would want to do that. Maybe the main server is down?
Folder options are to limit what folders are canvassed for files. By having it on only Follow only subfolders, the process will take files only within the tree of the first file accessed.
Now the Connection tab. Here you can decide how BackStreet will identify itself to the server. If you don’t want the site administrator going through their stats and seeing their site was downloaded by the BackStreet browser, you can choose one of three other browser types. Here you can also set up a connection through a proxy server, but I’m not sure why you would do that for a legitimate connection.
Others. Good old Others. The catch-all tab for stuff that didn’t have a home elsewhere. Folder Structure is a neat option. I recommend selecting Copy folder structure especially if you are making a back-up of a site for transfer to another server. I don’t see much sense in changing the other values here. But as you use BackStreet more and more, you may want to tweak these values. Once you have everything in place, just click the OK button.
Step 3: Downloading
Here it is downloading! In the bottom frame, you can see what file it is working on. You can also see in the top frame, just how fast it is downloading as well as some other stats. One of the best things about BackStreet is that, if for any reason the download is interrupted, it will simply wait until it can reconnect and keep downloading. Especially useful for very large sites.
There the site is downloaded. By expanding the tree in the left frame, you can see that the directory structure has been kept pretty much intact. Now I have a full local copy of my own blog, should I need to recreate it one day on another server.
Step 4: Viewing the Downloaded Blog
You can view the site within the BackStreet browser, however, it doesn’t work that well where scripts and stylesheets are involved. I prefer to view things in my Firefox browser. Here’s how to do that. Open Firefox, and click on File>Open File.
Now navigate to where the index.html page of the downloaded site is. Choose that file and click the Open button.
Voila! Your downloaded blog is now readable, completely offline.
Wait a minute! It looks crappy! Yes it does. Please keep in mind that most websites today are generated on the fly. Lots of things are put in there dynamically from databases or functions or linked files elsewhere on the web. It isn’t really feasible to download all those things for just one site. Then you would have to set up a web server identical to the one where your site is hosted as well as a database and database connections to properly duplicate the blog.
What matters here is the content. I can read each article on the blog completely and fully, with the majority of the images being in place too. How awesome is that? Moderately awesome, yes. Extremely awesome when it’s raining and you are stuck in a tent with a half-full mini keg of Heineken.
If you were going to download blog for offline reading, which one would it be? What’s you’re favourite off-line browsing tool? Like Heineken? Let’s hear about it in the comments!