Google has started testing an enhanced version of its popular blog-publishing service, Blogger, 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.

For now, Google is limiting the number of Blogger members who can switch over to the beta version of the service. When they are able to switch their blogs, members will see a link to the new version on their Blogger 'dashboard', which is the service's management console. Those who want to try the features out right away can create a new account here.

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

The new Blogger adds page elements as well as font and colour options, and it allows members of the free blogging service to customise their sites in a drag-and-drop interface, reducing the need to make the 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 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 enhanced the dashboard, which has an overhauled 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.