How To Build your Custom Browser Start Page

Tina Sieber 07-05-2008

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


How To Build your Custom Browser Start Page startpage01

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.

How To Build your Custom Browser Start Page startpage02


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.

How To Build your Custom Browser Start Page startpage05

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 (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, Internet Explorer or Mozilla Firefox.

How To Build your Custom Browser Start Page startpage06

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.


How To Build your Custom Browser Start Page startpage03

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. How To Build your Custom Browser Start Page startpage04You 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 Aggregate your Favorite Websites on One Page Read More 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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  1. ptoone
    December 22, 2009 at 12:00 pm

    I am using, nice simple design with yummy 3d icons!

  2. Kim
    October 15, 2008 at 5:03 pm

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

  3. Bobby
    October 13, 2008 at 8:22 am

    I found this site - 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

  4. devteam
    June 17, 2008 at 1:36 am

    hi, we have a light-weight personal portal page 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.

  5. Zia
    June 3, 2008 at 8:22 am

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

  6. Tina
    May 19, 2008 at 3:56 pm

    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.

  7. fryguy
    May 13, 2008 at 1:08 pm

    Lately I've been using but before that, mostly about:blank.

  8. Anthony Ding
    May 8, 2008 at 10:58 pm

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

  9. Manoj
    May 8, 2008 at 10:35 pm

    I would rather stick to Opera's Speed Dial.

  10. Fastbullet
    May 8, 2008 at 9:35 pm

    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

  11. Ellie
    May 8, 2008 at 10:38 am

    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.

  12. Dave
    May 8, 2008 at 7:43 am

    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!

  13. Bligoo
    May 8, 2008 at 7:25 am

    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.

  14. Nxqd3051990
    May 8, 2008 at 7:14 am

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

  15. Stimul8d
    May 8, 2008 at 5:30 am

    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,, etc,..) without a hitch.

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

  16. Omar
    May 8, 2008 at 4:46 am

    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

  17. Aibek
    May 8, 2008 at 2:01 am

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

  18. josh
    May 8, 2008 at 12:59 am

    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

  19. Madhav Trpathi
    May 8, 2008 at 12:29 am

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

  20. Keith
    May 8, 2008 at 12:12 am

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

  21. Erin
    May 8, 2008 at 4:25 am

    I've been using 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.

  22. Taylor Reese
    May 7, 2008 at 9:55 pm

    The news tab on 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
      May 7, 2008 at 11:07 pm

      You are right on!!! 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!!!!

  23. Walido
    May 7, 2008 at 9:37 pm

    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 - thats my favorite out of the 3

  24. Mark O'Neill
    May 7, 2008 at 6:00 pm

    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.

  25. Inferno
    May 7, 2008 at 5:26 pm

    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.

  26. Abhijeet from Jeet Blog
    May 7, 2008 at 4:58 pm

    Nice Collection Tina. My browser start page is Gmail :) Can't 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 :) )

  27. Alex
    May 7, 2008 at 5:39 pm

    I think the simplest and at the same time the most customizable homepage creator is 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
      May 8, 2008 at 4:26 am

      ClutterMe looks very cool. Thanks for sharing Alex!