Your browser start page, also known as your Home Page, is a launching pad of sorts. The first page that you see when you open your web browser, your start page can impact your browsing session in a couple of ways. First, the type of page you use as your start page can impact the speed with which your browser starts. Your choice of a start page also affects how quickly you get down to business even after your browser is open, as it can help you access other content faster. With those two sometimes competing interests in mind, let’s take a look at five types of browser start pages.
1. The Blank Slate
The quickest way for your browser to open is to use a blank page as your start page. If, heaven forbid, you find yourself stuck on dialup, this might be best for you. In some browsers, like Firefox and Internet Explorer, you can select a blank page as one of the provided options for your start page, without needing to know more. If your browser doesn’t give you this option, simply input "about:blank" (without the quotes) in the spot in your browser Options panel where you designate your start page.
2. A Speed Dial Page
Another way to start your browsing session is by choosing from a list or gallery of sites. How you do this, and the exact way it works, depends on what browser you are using. In Firefox, you can use an extension, such as Speed Dial or Desktop, to create a start page consisting of thumbnails of sites that you specify. Desktop, shown at work in the above screenshot, is particularly interesting, allowing you to customize and resize the thumbnails, and add search boxes and folders to your start page. Word of warning, however- Desktop is an experimental extension, so it hasn’t undergone a public review process.
Other browsers, such as Opera, Safari, and Chrome, have speed dial functionality built in, with different degrees of customization available. In Opera, for example, you can configure a background image with speed dial, and set the number of speed dial thumbnails available. In Chrome, you can choose between thumbnail view or list view.
Another option for a Spartan speed dial start is Fav4.org. With Fav4.org, you select four sites for your start page, from a list of available sites. The site is cookie based, so it doesn’t require any sort of registration. I used Fav4.org for a few weeks, but realized that the sites I typically started my day reading were not available. I’ve since switched to the Desktop extension for Firefox.
3. A Search Engine
If your job or interests are research-oriented, then a search engine can make a good start page. Sometimes, you start your browser precisely because you want to perform a search, so this can make sense. I used Google as my start page for a few years, but I decided that this was a bit redundant, with a fully functional browser box built into all mainstream browsers. Still, some of you might find a search engine’s front page, like google.com, to be more aesthetically pleasing than typing in a browser search box. Using a search engine’s home page also gives you quicker access to advanced options, if you don’t want to remember search parameters (such as Google’s "site:" parameter to search within a particular domain).
4. Your Favorite Website
Do you spend your day on Facebook, or some other site? If you have a site that you visit frequently enough, it might make sense for you to set this page as your start page. ‘Nuff said.
5. Customizable News Aggregator and Widget Page
There are certain sites designed to put all sorts of news, information, and tools right at your fingertips. Netvibes, for example, allows you to create boxes that can contain weather information, your email inbox, your Facebook and Twitter streams, RSS feeds from other sites, and more. For a nice look at Netvibes, check out the write up on Digitizd. Google’s iGoogle is similar, although not as aesthetically pleasing. The list could go on and on, for many sites offer this type of functionality. If you have a favorite, let us know in the comments.
Right now, as mentioned, I’m using the Desktop add-on for Firefox. I’m finding it more useful than my previous choices, Fav4.org and google.com.
What are you using as your start page, and why? Did we miss anything? Let us know in the comments.