For quite a while now, whatever web browser I’ve been using, I’ve had my Gmail account set to open as my startpage. That’s been convenient in some ways. I have to admit it’s also been a productivity drain, because I tend to react to incoming email, rather than dealing with it in a planned way.

So I’ve been looking at other options for a startpage.

I’d heard or read comments by a few people to the effect that the iGoogle startpage is the bees’ knees. I tried it a couple of times and was not so sure. I was aware too that Netvibes had a good following. And Ole Brandenburg, who used to live not far from me, had encouraged me to check out his product, Pageflakes. So yesterday I spent some time playing around with those three.

Each is very good. I had some challenges with iGoogle and with Pageflakes: no doubt these can be overcome, but I do like things to work for me first time.

iGoogle

iGoogle was particularly unimpressive as it came up with an error message in the center of the page and another error message about Feedburner. Trying a different browser did not help and I could not discover any way to fix the problems.

iGoogle screenshot

Pageflakes

Pageflakes fared better. But they were not good on location. For my weather and local news they had me not just in the wrong city, but in a different state. Admittedly, I’m only five minutes from the border and the city is only an hour and a quarter’s drive from here, but we’re all getting spoilt these days with the granularity we have come to expect in information feeds. I would like to have more precision in local weather, maps and local news, thank you.

Otherwise very good. And the fact that Pageflakes has a community and forum is a plus. If someone can help me sort out the global positioning issue, I’ll be prepared to have another look.

Pageflakes screenshot

Netvibes

Netvibes was for me the winner on the day.

I liked the layout. They were only marginally more accurate than iGoogle about where I live, but at least they got the right State. The weather and other local information is described as being for “Richmond”, which could either mean the Federal electorate of Richmond (accurate, although a big geographical area), or the Richmond River area, not far from here but on a global positioning accuracy score not actually better than iGoogle’s effort in placing me in or near the city of Brisbane.

Netvibes screenshot

There was interesting information on the Netvibes blog, about the new “Ginger” version of Netvibes currently in beta and being trialed by a select group. The representations of the interface make it look quite interesting and I’m assuming it will have improved user controls.

netvibes Ginger beta scrrenshot

James Mowery at Mashable provided, halfway through last year, a comparative review, with convenient chart, of fourteen startpage offerings, or “personalized homepages” from Netvibes, through Pageflakes and iGoogle, to one named, with perhaps unconscious but apparently justifiable modesty, It’sAStart.

The review’s top ranking was, in order, Netvibes, Pageflakes and iGoogle. The Mashable post mentioned also, and not dismissively, the good old MyYahoo! startpage – with the comment that, “if you use Yahoo services, there’s no reason not to use the MyYahoo start page”. I noticed just now that my MyYahoo page doesn’t try to be cute about where I live and just gives State capital city weather listings around the country.

But as I say, the review gave Netvibes the top ranking. Emphatically so:

Netvibes is without question the one to beat. Its customization is practically unrivaled. Not only that, Netvibes also provides social functionality by sharing modules with others. Netvibes, all in itself, could be your one stop solution to finding all your information on the internet.

If you have a preferred solution as a startpage, I hope you will share that here. Of if you think the whole startpage caper is a distraction and works against productivity rather than enhancing it, I hope we will get to see your comments on that.

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