There’s a test version of the new Google customizable homepage (startpage), iGoogle, available to play with. When you start it up, the first thing you’ll notice are the pretty rounded corners on all your gadgets. The second thing you’ll notice are the tabs along the left side of the page, rather than across the top.
It appears to be organized this way: each of your tabs appear in the left navigation and listed under each tab are the gadgets included in that tab. When you click the link for a gadget, it appears on its own in the main portion of the window. Click the tab name and all the gadgets appear as before. The switching between gadgets and tabs is very fast, almost instantaneous, so when you open the Gmail gadget on its own, for example, it’s much faster than opening Gmail itself. Of course, you’re not getting all the Gmail features, only the ones that are part of the gadget. Google calls this feature, canvas view and you can also access it by clicking on the maximize button on the gadget itself when viewing an entire tab.
It all appears to be very much in the experimental stage. Things don’t seem to work even as Google’s Help page describes. For example, the Help page shows a screenshot of a feed in canvas view, which looks an awful lot like Google Reader.
When I try it though, I get what appears to be a single gadget on a page, with no extra functionality and a “you might also like..” list of suggested gadgets.
The new iGoogle also includes Google Chat right there in the left navigation column.
Are you salivating yet? Dying to try it? Well sorry, it’s only open to developers. But wait, can you keep a secret? OK don’t tell anyone but if you go and sign up to play in the iGoogle sandbox, you’ll instantly have access to the new test version.
You do have to give them a few pieces of information about yourself but it’s mostly stuff Google knows about you already (email, name etc.)
Don’t want to play with it anymore? Go back to the same link and the experimental version will be turned off. (But remember, if anyone asks, you’re a developer, right?)
The full rollout of the new iGoogle is expected next month.