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Start a new tab on any modern browser and you meet the speed dial, a collection of your most visited sites. It’s handy, sure, but the new tab page can be much more useful.
The key to productivity is finding out what works for you. Don’t just apply what a productivity guru says without thinking about your needs. The New Tab page can serve many purposes. If you don’t need a collection of your most visited sites, turn it into something you actually need.
Web apps and extensions are the best way to make this happen. But when you are choosing one, try to find something that works across all browsers. That way, you aren’t restricted to one browser or device alone.
1. Searf (Web): Customized Search Bar and Bookmarks
You can integrate different search engines in the URL bar of any browser you use. But if that’s not you, Searf is the next best option.
In the setup process, Searf asks you to choose your favorite websites. Then it asks you for the search engines you use most often. Searf will combine your answers into a custom page for you, which looks a lot like the Google homepage. In the top-left corner, you’ll find your favorite sites, while the large search bar dominates the page. This bar can search whichever engines you chose, like Google, Wikipedia, or YouTube.
Searf has an extension for Google Chrome, but also works as a standalone web app. Make it the default address for any New Tab page in your browser’s settings.
2. Minimalist (Web): Portable Minimalist To-Do List
To be productive, you need to know what you have to do next. Minimalist is a gorgeous and clutter-free to-do list that works in any web browser.
It’s one large page with the default to-do list in the middle of it. In the left-side pane, you can create additional lists, to separate your “work tasks” and your “grocery” lists. Finish an item and check the box next to it, so Minimalist will give it a satisfying strikethrough. Nothing like striking items on a to-do list, is there?
You can create a new list and add the custom URL as your New Tab page. I would also recommend signing in to it with Google, since that will let you visit Minimalist.com from any device and bring up your list.
3. Awesome HQ (Web): Windows-Like Tiles for Your Browser
If you loved the look of Windows Phone’s Live Tiles, then Awesome HQ is for you. The tile-like interface also makes it one of the few New Tab pages that you can use on a mobile browser as well.
You will need to sign in with a Google login to choose the sites you want to add as tiles. Once logged in, Awesome HQ will bring up weather information for your location, arrange bookmarks as beautiful logos, and even add widgets like the latest XKCD comic.
Be warned that the login process is a bit temperamental. It didn’t work for one of the writers at MakeUseOf, but did for another.
4. Shrib / ProtectedText / Textpad (Web): A Simple Notepad
We couldn’t choose between these three wonderful online notepads to use as a New Tab page, so see what works best for you.
Protected Text lets you choose your URL name, which is a big bonus. It also password-protects the document. The design is a bit old-school and clunky, but no one else will see what you type.
Textpad is the most modern of three, a minimalistic notepad that also counts characters and words. The only problem is it saves data locally, so you can’t use it across browsers. But hey, your notes aren’t going into the cloud, so that’s a security boost.
5. Live Start Page (Chrome, Firefox, Opera): The All-in-One Extension
There are some things web apps can’t do. Live Start Page is perhaps the best cross-platform New Tab extension.
Live Start Page has three basic features. It showcases beautiful live wallpapers as backgrounds, with a new one coming every day. There’s a meditation mode to help you destress and focus on what matters. And the productivity dashboard has your favorite bookmarks, a to-do list, weather forecast, a clock, and other odds and ends to get things done.
Natively, it supports Chrome, Firefox, and Opera. But in reality, apart from Edge and Safari, it works on any browser. Remember, you can now install Chrome extensions on any Chromium-based browsers.
What’s Your New Tab?
Do you use a New Tab extension, or are you stuck with what came by default with your browser? What shows up when you press Ctrl + T?