How To Build your Custom Browser Start Page

For quite some time my personal browser start page has been to what you can see in the screenshot below:

startpage01   How To Build your Custom Browser Start Page

The Google / Firefox Start page in the upper and my own favorite sites mix in the lower window. I love the look, but it has become a pain to keep it updated. Links have changed, my favorite sites have changed, some don’t exist anymore, and thus the time has come to try something new.

Fortunately, there are many services out there that will do much of the work for you, and in my quest to find the best replacement I tested a few and will share my experiences with you. Let me just say that any personalized start page requires a bit of work – constantly. That’s pretty obvious.

If you prefer an extremely simple, yet stylish start page, give AwesomeStart a try. It’s your favorite search engine and your very own selection of links at the bottom, infront of a pretty background. You can pick a theme from different galleries such as movies & tv, music, videogames and some miscelleanous themes. Great plus: no need to sign up! They recognize you as you by using cookies. So you better back up that cookie if you don’t want to lose your personal page.

startpage02   How To Build your Custom Browser Start Page

In my search I found a few very techie sites, among them yourminis, which collects bookmarks on a desktop-like environment, complete with calendar and other widgets. Feel free to check it out. I found it too challenging to even try.

startpage05   How To Build your Custom Browser Start Page

If you are into widgets and different little windows in which you can search, view RSS Feeds, videos or pictures and your notes, but want it to be easy to maintain and without the desktop feel, there is MySurfPad.com (no longer online), Pageflakes or iGoogle to try.

They are all pretty much the same, but Pageflakes left me with the best overall impression. Flakes are those little widgets that will bring news, tools (calculator, weather, Wikipedia, e-mail, address book), pagecasts (calendars, to-do-lists, bookmarks, clocks), entertainment (YouTube videos, Flickr photos, podcasts), and Fun (Sudoku, Twitter, Facebook, MySpace) straight to your start page. Open the menu and make a selection. If your page is becoming too full, create a new one and drag&drop flakes from one page to another.

You can import your bookmarks from Del.icio.us, Internet Explorer or Mozilla Firefox.

startpage06   How To Build your Custom Browser Start Page

There definitely is potential for addiction in Pageflakes. But frankly, even though all of the widgets are extremely cool, my bookmarks get a raw deal in this setup. They should be the focus, not the side dish.

So let’s have a look at Tabmarks. You start out with a selection of ten default tabs, i.e. categories for your bookmarks. That’s also the maximum number of tabs you can add to one tabmark.

startpage03   How To Build your Custom Browser Start Page

Below each tab is a list of links belonging to that tab and this list can be personalized. Click on a link and it opens underneath the tabs. To make some space, you can hide the tabs. startpage04   How To Build your Custom Browser Start PageYou can personalize tabs through the Library, not through Preferences! In Preferences you can select your landing page, the overall style, and which tabs are to be shown or hidden. In the Library you can control all of that plus re-name, re-order tabs, and add a whole new “tabmarks”.

It’s not quite what I was looking for. Rather than a plain text link I would love to see a little preview image of my bookmark. However, I love the way links are opened and I realize that images would take up much more space, making this impossible. Also I can still open links in a new tab if I wish using the middle-mouse click in Firefox. So the way links are treated is a huge plus and Tabmarks will be my new browser start page. :)

Finally, attentive MUO readers will recall that Linda has written a similar post back in February. In Aggregate your Favorite Websites on One Page she wrote about AllMyFaves and Symbaloo. I found AllMyFaves quite overwhelming. There are way too many icons and logos on one page to handle and it’s not yet customizable. Symbaloo on the other hand is pretty neat with an adorable style and allows for some customization.

What does your start page look like? Do you know of other, better services? Please share with us in the comments!

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29 Comments -

Alex

I think the simplest and at the same time the most customizable homepage creator is lutterme.com. It lets you write and add links anywhere on the page, move stuff around, add your own images, and so on. Check it out, I hope it hits the sweet spot for many people.

Tina

ClutterMe looks very cool. Thanks for sharing Alex!

Abhijeet from Jeet Blog

Nice Collection Tina. My browser start page is Gmail :) Can’t help…am addicted to it !

Another worthy mention here Netvibes, which is one of the most popular too. It has come into focus more after their recent launch of Ginger, completely AJAX based browser start page. I tried it and found it pretty good. But then reverted back to gmail. ( Addiction :) )

Inferno

I’m using netvibes, but I’ll check out page flakes. Personally though netvibes is much better than IGoogle, and has a lot of useful and customizable features.

Mark O’Neill

Maybe it’s just me but I think that start pages are slowly becoming obselete. With Firefox offering Session Saver as default, I always have my previously opened pages ready and waiting whenever I next open my browser. I haven’t had a start page for at least 2 years.

Walido

The more you play around with the start pages the neater you realize they are. Was a big fan of Firefox default page but now I am really feeling MySurfPad.com – thats my favorite out of the 3

Taylor Reese

The news tab on MySurfPad.com is the most comprehensive gathering of news information I have seen on any of these web/desktop based pages. Its great to pull of randomly and get all the news you need immediately without having to open numerous pages. Kudos to the developer

Angel

You are right on!!! MYSURFPAD.com has the best news section I have ever seen!! Also the search tab also got what I need!! Overall – by far the best homepage out there!!!!

Erin

I’ve been using only2clicks.com for several months now. It’s free to sign up, and easy to use.

You can add websites into an unlimited number of renameable categories. The sites show up with a small automatically added screenshot (or you can add your own picture). You have the option of opening sites in new tabs/windows. To navigate to a site, you only need to click on a maximum of two things – the category name, followed by the site’s screenshot.

There’s four default skins for only2clicks, and you can also add a custom skin if you like things to look fancy.

Keith

I used to make my own homepage that I uploaded to my host. But now i just use Google partner pages, nice and simple.

Madhav Trpathi

at present my homepage is google but its nice to take a change.

josh

i’ve been using igoogle for the past year or so but got kind of bored of just plain text… ive just switched to mysurfpad and pretty happy so far… the music widgets are pretty cool as well

Aibek

I recommend Netvibes, the best and fastest startpage I have seen.

Omar

They’re all pretty cool, netvibes is awesome, but I love Mysurfpad, the radio and that news section is crazy, but im a hardcore news junkie so it makes my life a thousand times easier

Stimul8d

I’ve tried and tested almost all the start page sites around now and i can say, with no doubt, that netvibes is streets ahead at the moment. Pageflakes comes in a close(ish) second but lacks the extensibility and functionality that this kind of aggregation requires. Probably third best is yourminis but it’s so loaded with AJAX that the interface can become sluggish at best.

Coudn’t live without netvibes now – it handles all of my email addresses elegantly, makes viewing my subscribed RSS feeds a piece of cake (as well as having the ability to import/export the OPML) and centralizes my social presence (FaceBook,Digg,Del.icio.us, Box.net etc,..) without a hitch.

No competition as far as i’m concerned- netvibes, for the moment at least, is king!

Nxqd3051990

No netvibes I’m confused , I’ve heard about Netvibes Ginger in beta. Anyone has invites plz give me.

Bligoo

Personally I use the firefox extension bookmarks home page, it is not supported since FF 1.5 but you can find workarounds to have it working with FF2.0.
I creates a nice looking page with all your local bookmarks.

Dave

I’ve never gotten used to using a start page, although I think in theory they make a great deal of sense. Since about 1996 or so my start page has been Astronomy Picture of the Day. I guess I like to remind myself that there are other things going on out there, and I don’t like to start off diving right into my email, the latest news, or my RSS feeds. Starting my browser in the morning is a time to start my day “serenely” rather than information overload! :)

Nice list though Tina, all great recommendations!

Ellie

I have a Netvibes account, but I do spend a lot of time just using the Session Saver function from Fx. I go to Netvibes just for entertainment’s sake when I’m totally, absolutely bored.

Fastbullet

Firefox is my browser of choice and so I don’t care that this is not usable with Internet Exploiter. Speed Dial is strictly a Firefox add-on.
Generally, my first concern when I fire up my ‘puter is my inbound Email from any of 5 accounts. The first page I want to see is Speed Dial, which has a block of 9 thumbnails on its page. All of my email accounts are in front of me along with four other user-determined options. It is like a bookmark of bookmarks that I have placed exactly what I want/need upon. (If more than 9 options are needed, there are other pages available within Speed Dial).
Firefox users will find it quite useful while Exploiter users will simply become new Firefox users. Both of these are good things

Manoj

I would rather stick to Opera’s Speed Dial.

Anthony Ding

I usually use PageOnce, it’s in Beta and only accepting members w/private invitations. Email me if you’d like one ;).

fryguy

Lately I’ve been using flashhomepage.com but before that, mostly about:blank.

Tina

After using Tabmarks for a little longer I found there were more than a few minor bugs to worry about. Today all my links were gone. Tabs still there, content vanished. And support is not responsive.

Zia

As the comments show, Netvibes is a popular choice which should have been covered by the original post.

devteam

hi, we have a light-weight personal portal page HomePageForMe.com. The tool is simple and efficient for your daily browsing. It groups your favorite links in color-coded boxes, has RSS news feeds, a free personal web site, multiple web search and map search tool, and bookmark toolbar for easy bookmarking. Take a look at it and let us know if you like it or not. Thanks.

Bobby

I found this site 43marks.com – its like all my faves but better cuz you can add you own bookmarks and delete any bookmarks you don’t like. Its free and totally customizable

Kim

I am using browserstart.net – it is easy, fast and I have access to contacts, calendar, bookmarks and the major portals and stuff..

ptoone

I am using http://ico.thexyz.org, nice simple design with yummy 3d icons!