There's no place like home page: 8 iGoogle alternatives

If you're an iGoogle user, here are 8 alternatives, some of which are just as good -- and one or two of which are better.

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Startific

One might argue that iGoogle and its iClones try to pack too much information into tabbed pages that require too much clicking and scrolling. Startific turns the portal paradigm on its head -- or, more accurately, its side. Showing obvious Android influences, the site mixes icons and free-floating widgets on side-by-side pages rather than across tabs. The result is something familiar, functional and practical, though a little buggy in places.

Startific
Startific

By default, Startific provides four preloaded pages. Home includes various Android-like groupings of icons for things like search, social networks, shopping and news. This page also shows a free-floating ad widget, which, interestingly, you can close -- and it won't reappear until your next session.

Tap the right arrow key on your keyboard for a page of news/info widgets (maps, weather, calculator, etc.), tap again for a page of social-network widgets, and tap once more for a bookmarks page.

As you'd expect, you can add or remove pages, drag and drop icons and widgets into whatever layout you want, and add additional icons and widgets for just about anything. Computerworld icon? Check. Netflix widget? Check. Assuming you like this kind of interface, you'll love how Startific lets you customize everything.

However, in tests with both Chrome and Internet Explorer, weird glitches cropped up. The workspace is larger than the window that displays it, so that on the Home page, for example, one preloaded icon grouping was barely visible because it was too low on the page. And when I created a new icon on the widgets page, I initially couldn't find it because it appeared behind an existing widget. Also, the icon for how-to site eHow had an incorrect URL that resulted in a "Page not found" error.

Bottom line

There's a lot to like about Startific, especially in the looks department, but the developer needs to make the interface a little more stable.

StartMe

Not every user wants a home page littered with news, Twitter feeds, weather forecasts, and other iGoogle-style detritus. In fact, if your first stop is typically your bookmarks toolbar, you might appreciate StartMe's approach. It's all bookmarks, all the time. No widgets, no news headlines -- just a simple set of categorical sections for bookmarks and RSS feeds.

StartMe
StartMe

StartMe boasts a clean, uncomplicated design. About a dozen bookmark windows come prepopulated with links under categories like news, search, social, sports and tech. Favicons alongside each link give the page a little visual flair, at the same time making it easier to spot favorite sites at a glance.

The site also makes for a solid RSS reader. In the already-configured News feed, for example, you see the 10 most recent headlines from NBC. A small embedded toolbar lets you toggle among headlines from CNN, the New York Times and Fox News. You can modify these sources and set up your own RSS boxes with any number of custom feeds.

And speaking of custom, StartMe lets you create additional pages of bookmarks and feeds and allows for drag-and-drop organization -- not just of your sections, but also the links within those sections. It can import existing bookmark lists from iGoogle and just about any browser. And it lets you export your bookmarks and feeds should you decide to migrate elsewhere, a nice perk.

If there's fault to be found in StartMe, it's that the design is almost too clean: There's excessive white space between columns. Also, RSS items don't get grayed out or crossed out after you click them.

Bottom line

If you want a home page consisting entirely of bookmarks and RSS feeds, this is definitely the place to, well, start.

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