Google has started testing an improved version of its popular Blogger blog publishing service, adding long-awaited features such as the ability to categorise entries with labels, to control access to blogs and to make layout changes by dragging and dropping.

The improved service is only available to a limited number of beta testers at present. Those who want to try the new features out right away can create a new account at

"You've been asking for ways to do more with your blog, and you can with this new release," reads a note posted on Monday on the official Blogger blog announcing the new version.

The new Blogger adds new page elements as well as font and colour options. It also allows members of the free blogging service to customise their sites with a new drag-and-drop interface, reducing the need to make layout changes by writing code. Meanwhile, a new setting lets users make their blogs private and specify who can view them. Google is also adding new templates to Blogger.

On the content syndication front, Blogger now provides a feed for all the comments posted on a blog, as well as individual feeds for comments made on specific entries. Support has also been added for the RSS 2.0 and Atom 1.0 standards.

Google also improved the dashboard, overhauling its interface. Also, bloggers don't have to hit the "publishing" button to publish posts or replicate changes to existing posts. The service now detects when a post has been added or changed and publishes it automatically.