We all like to customize our things – it’s nice when they feel really ours. This is true for many aspects in life, and naturally, doesn’t skip computers, phones and software. If it’s possible to customize things even a little bit, someone’s going to do it. It doesn’t matter if the default is great – the default is what everyone has. So out go the defaults and in come hundreds of different customizations. Now it’s only a matter of choosing the best, coolest, most useful one.
This is not one bit different when it comes to browsers. Back in the days of Netscape 1.0, all browsers looked pretty much the same, but the advent of add-ons brought hundreds of customization options, and these days they look different on every computer. One of the best and most useful ways to customize your browser is through the new tab page. We’ve told you about some great ways to do it with Chrome, but apparently, we’ve turned a blind eye to Firefox.
About 4 versions ago, Firefox finally added a default speed dial feature to its new tab page. The speed dial shows 9 of your most visited pages, and while it’s useful, it’s far from perfect. For starters, the thumbnails don’t always load; in addition, you sometimes see duplicate tiles for the same website, which is inconvenient and a waste of space. If you too feel that it’s time for an upgrade,or just want your browser to look different than the rest, read on to find some really great options.
New Tab King is a versatile, multi-featured new tab page that comes with a to-do list, a recently closed tab list and even shortcuts to launch desktop apps. It goes without saying that each element in your new tab page is customizable, collapsible and removable, and the entire left sidebar is collapsible as well, so you only see it when you need to use it.
As for the main section of the new tab page, this is a list of your most-used websites, and can be viewed in a list format, as seen above, or a traditional tile format.
The background image and colors are customizable as well, and you can connect it to an RSS feed, a Picasa community search, your own local images, and more.
Bottom line: Has many useful features and works well, but is far from being minimalistic.
With a strong focus on the speed dial options, FVD Speed Dial is another solid start page with multiple tile groups you can customize and switch between. Each tile group can also be viewed as a list, and everything from tile size to background and font colors is configurable. By default, FVD Speed Dial comes with 7 speed dial bookmarks (two of them promotional) which you can change and add to.
Additionally, you can view your most popular pages and your recently closed tabs in lists or tiles, each with its own custom settings.
FVS Speed Dial also includes a synchronization feature, so you can access your favorite websites and settings on multiple computers. In order to use this feature, you’ll have to create an account.
Bottom line: Slick, fast and useful. With a white background, also quite minimalistic.
Super Start is a simple, do-it-yourself type of start page, in which nothing comes ready made. Unlike the previous two options I mentioned, opening a new Super Start page for the first time results in a blank page. It’s your job to populate this page with tiles of your favorite websites, including a link, a name, and even an icon – none of these is automatic.
The add-on makes it easy to find popular icons online, but if you want to add a more obscure website, you’ll have to find one by yourself. That being said, adding tiles is super easy, and it does feel nice to start from a clean slate.
Super Start comes with a built-in notes feature for little to-do lists, a list of recently closed tab page, and four different themes.
Bottom line: Perfect for the minimalistic, DIY types.
Do all these tiles seem like useless clutter to you? Meet Moment – a completely different start page option. With Moment, there are no tiles, no lists and no bookmarks. All you get is the current time, date and local weather. That’s it. The layout is simple and beautiful, with Weather Underground providing the local weather. Want to customize it? You can change the background color, font color, and temperature units.
Everything else is static. So if you don’t like the layout you see above, feel free to skip to the next option, but if, like me, you find its simplicity quite fetching, I highly recommend that you give it a try.
Bottom line: A different, successful take on new tab pages.
Let me come right out and say it: New Tab Plus is tacky looking. In fact, it reminds me most of old programs from the days of Windows 95. As you can imagine, it took some thinking before I decided to include it here, but the fact is that New Tab Plus is so powerful and easy to use, it really can be a perfect solution for quite a lot of people. By default, your new tab page will be populated with 10 tiles, including a useful quick search widget for Google, Bing and Yahoo! search.
Want to change things around? Here is where the fun truly begins. Access the Settings to start playing with different layouts – you can either choose one of the preset ones or create one of your own. The “Cloud” button includes dozens upon dozens of different backgrounds you can choose from, organized by category. You can also choose a local image, or one of the 10 available background colors. The “Site Nav” button includes heaps of useful shortcuts, also organized by category.
When adding a new tile, you can choose from the multitudes of already available tiles, and if you can find it, just add it yourself. New Tab Plus will find the tile image for you automatically, unless the website is really obscure.
Deleting or editing a tile is note entirely intuitive: right click anywhere on the new tab page for the delete and edit icons to appear.
Bottom line: For those who don’t like working hard, and don’t mind the slightly tacky appearance.
If you actually like Firefox’s default start page and just want to tweak it a little, you might want to try New Tab Tools. All this add-on does is add some customization features to Firefox’s existing ones, but the start page and the tiles stay exactly the same. With New Tab Tools, you can change the background image and the tile images for your start page, and also add a launcher that gives you quick access to your downloads, bookmarks, history, add-ons page and more.
From the add-on’s options (accessible only through the Extensions page in the settings), you can change the number of rows and columns of tiles, and toggle the launcher on and off. The size of the tiles is set automatically according to the number of rows and columns, and you can’t change it.
Bottom line: If you really like Firefox’s default, this makes it slightly better.
Do you know of other awesome start page options for Firefox? Is there an add-on on this list you particularly like? Tell us in the comments!