I will miss iGoogle. It was definitely a convenient and easy way to access everything from one central location, but it has been almost 16 months that Google announced that they were doing away with iGoogle. There has been plenty of time to try out the many alternatives available – and I mean many! There are solutions that are very similar to iGoogle and then there are those that take a more visual approach to organizing your stuff. I tested out a few of these alternatives and will actually use more than one. I will use Symbaloo for quickly organizing my content in a visual manner and possibly Protopage for a more iGoogle like experience. Which will you use?
You can click on any of the screenshots to get a larger view of what the tool interfaces look like.
Awesome New Tab Page If you are a Google Chrome Fan you can use an extension called the Awesome New Tab Page extension. This Chrome extension allows you to customize the New Tab Page with bookmarks, gadgets, and custom themes. The design is heavily influenced by the Windows 8 Modern Theme – which I am not too crazy about, however it does make organizing easy. You can check out the extension in the chrome store here.
igHome is the most iGoogle like of the alternatives I checked out. It provides support for RSS readers, and gadgets. It is very simple to figure out and personalize by dragging and dropping items on the homepage. It gives you a ton of personalization options and you can customize multiple tabs, backgrounds, links, and search engine settings. I tested it using a Home, News, and Social Media Tab. I did have trouble setting up my Gmail gadget because Gmail recognized it as suspicious activity. Once I cleared that up, set up went smoothly. Although easy to use and a ton of gadget choices the design aspect is a little lacking compared to the other options out there. Check it out here.
Protopage is definitely more visually pleasing than igHome. I really liked the clean and uncluttered feeling that this page offered. It offers a search bar, gadgets, preset and custom feeds similar to iGoogle. It also provides wizards for adding custom content and they also support third-party gadgets which allows for additional flexibility. Check it out here.
PortalPanel is another online bookmarking tool. It has a built in Google Search box, real-time social media widgets, and the ability to bookmark any website in a visually pleasing manner. It also has NewsPortal which is PortalPanel’s RSS reader that allows the user to access the updated news from their selected feeds on their homepage and share or bookmark them. Additionally PortalPanel has a simple to use calendar and a searchable library. While visually pleasing I did not find this tool flexible enough for my needs. Check it out here.
UStart: Like iGHome and Protopage, UStart attempts to copy iGoogle’s interface and functionality. It looks a feels a bit like IGoogle, but this tool lacks in gadget selection. They do however do a nice job with social media and email. A nice functionality that they have that IGHome and Protopage does not is that they have a full list-style RSS feed reader. Check it out here
NetVibe: This option has both a free version and an enterprise version. With Netvibe users can access both a fee reader view and a widget review. There is a very large selection of feeds and gadgets to fit every user’s need. While I visually liked this option, I did not get the opportunity to really play with the interface. I signed up for an account and could not further customize my page until I received an activation link via email. When I didn’t receive one, I asked for one to be sent again. Still nothing. I emailed customer service and received the following email : “Thank you for your message. It has been forwarded to our teams. Please note that we cannot guarantee personalized support for our Basic dashboards. If you require dedicated 24h priority support, join our VIP program http://vip.netvibes.com “ Well if I was able to use the free version… perhaps I would consider the VIP version…. Well on to the Next option….
Symbaloo is different than any of the IGoogle copycats. Instead of displaying your information in expanded tiles which allow you to quickly view headlines, stock quotes, or email it takes a tile-based visual approach to the customization. Each Tab of tiles is called a Webmix. I personally like this clean approach for the sites and applications that I access most often, but miss the ability to quickly scan content from the same page. You can see from the screenshot that I didn’t finishing organizing yet – but I will! In this tool, some of the tiles, such as Google will open a Google search box in the center of the Webmix and other tiles like YouTube will bring you directly to a website. You can organize to your heart is content with the ability to add multiple tabs. Check it out here.
StartMe is a great option for bookmarking sites and RSS feeds in an organized list manner. I liked how the site allowed me to organize my content in to categories such tech news, search, sports, social media, etc. While great for organizing bookmarks, this site didn’t have enough functionality for me. Check it out here
Startific reminds me of my phone. It has a tabbed interface with icons that users can “swipe” a page from left and right to access bookmarks, gadgets, and social media widgets. As with StartMe, Startific is great for what it does, but there was not enough functionality for me. Check it out here.