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From a design point of view, I think Microsoft took a bold move by creating their own mobile user interface instead of trying to blatantly copy the iOS look and feel like everybody else. We will still have to wait and see whether or not the UI will help Windows Mobile survive the competitive phone market, but many people think this new design is unique and good looking. Microsoft also takes the design one step further by implementing it as “Metro” – the UI of the future Windows 8.
If you like Windows’ new user interface design, you can implement that look on your browser’s start page with the help of Eight. It’s a Windows 8 start page theme which will give you more than just eye candy. Eight allows you to customize its elements to suit your needs. The last update of Eight is compatible with Firefox 4.0.1, Chrome 12, Opera 11.11, and Internet Explorer 8.
The concept of the start page has become popular for the past several years in the browser world. Every time a user opens a new tab, they will see a graphical list of the sites they visited the most. So instead of repeatedly typing in the URLs of those favorite sites, users can just click on the sites on the start page.
For the following walkthrough, I used Firefox. But the steps should be more or less the same under any other compatible browser.
- Replacing your browser’s default Windows 8 start page with Eight is easy. First, you have to download the 2.5MB theme package (top right of the page under “Add To Favorites“) and extract it to a folder in your computer. Please make sure that this folder will not be moved or changed in the future, since doing so will break the file path used by your browser.
- Then, use the “File – Open File” menu in your browser to navigate to and open the “index.htm” inside Eight’s folder. Close all other opened tabs before you continue.
- To set Eight as the default start page, go to “Preferences – General” (under Tools menu in Windows or the Firefox menu in Mac) and choose “Show my home page” from “Startup – When Firefox starts“.
- Then, click the “Use current pages” button, and close the Preferences window. If you have other open tabs while doing this, other tabs will also be recorded as the home page. So make sure they are closed.
Now, every time you open your browser, Eight will show up. You can click on one of the links to open the URL destination.
Eight comes with twelve default pre-set links: YouTube, Yahoo!, Facebook, BBC News, CNN, Grooveshark, Last.fm, DeviantArt, Twitter, Wikipedia, iTunes, and Google. Users can quickly go to those sites by clicking on the visual links. But everybody has their own preferences, and luckily Eight is fully customizable. You can change the destination links, logos, and even the background color of each visual link according to your preferences.
If you want to customize Eight, you can find a very short explanation in the Readme.txt file inside Eight’s folder. But let’s now replace one of the visual links (thumbnails) with MakeUseOf’s link, so we can fully understand how the process works.
- First, let’s open the “Sketch.jpg” file for our guidance. We can see the reference number, location, and maximum icon size for each thumbnail.
- Let’s pick one square as the location for the MakeUseOf visual link. I picked box number 10 because I want the largest possible size but I don’t want to replace Google (box number 6). This means I should put the logo inside a 420 x 205 pixel image area with a transparent background. You can use any decent image application to prepare the thumbnail. The instructions suggest that you use a white logo for clarity, but you can use any kind of color for your logo. Give a name to your thumbnail logo and put the image file inside the thumbs folder.
- The next step is to open the “source.xml” file using a simple text editor to edit the source parameters.
- Find the entry that you want to edit and change the name, URL, and image name. You’ll see the new thumbnail after refreshing the page. You can repeat the process to change the other thumbnails. Please note that the numbering in the source starts with 0 while in the sketch, it starts with 1.
Customizing thumbnails in Eight is not difficult, but the setting up could take up to a couple of hours, especially the image editing process. However, once everything is set up, all of your favorite sites will be on the tip of your mouse.
Do you use a start page? Would you try Eight? Do you know any other similar tools? Tell us what you think and share your opinions using the comments below.