When you open the browser, what do you see? Is it a start page carefully chosen? For many, it’s whatever it was the day the computer came out of the box.

This article shows how to design a start page that’s actually helpful. Imagine opening the browser and your calendar, emails, weather forecast, commonly-used bookmarks, news, a calculator, and a notepad are all there. Now, that would be a helpful start page! That’s exactly what I have, and you can have it too.

My history with start pages

In the fall of 2007, I wrote about my experience with iGoogle. Five years later, Google announced it was shutting down the service. I wrote about that issue and a replacement (Netvibes) here.

A few months later, I found something that suited my taste even better, igHome. I wrote about it in this post. It’s worked well for me, and I’ve taught countless people how to set up igHome and use it as their own start page.

But it’s time to make a change again

A funny thing started happening over the last year. An increasing number of the “gadgets” available in the library were no longer working.

Then, a reader pointed out to me a personal experience. She changed a link on the “black bar” and all the links return to the default. She also mentioned the inability to change the search engine embedded in igHome. Finally, she reported that links allowing users to report issues were no longer there.

I found what the reader was saying to be true. Having saved the email address for the developer, I reached out several times. No response.

It’s time to make a change. I can no longer recommend igHome. My current recommendation is Netvibes. You can have it up and going in minutes. So let’s get started.

Setting up Netvibes

  1. Go to and click the “Try now” button.
  2. On the next page, you may choose some “interests.” This step is optional and one I recommend skipping. The result is Netvibes will create a tab corresponding to each interest. Each tab will contain news stories aligned with the topic.
  3. The next page asks more about your interest. It will add even more tabs to your Netvibes. This page is also optional and one I recommend skipping.
  4. Scroll to the bottom of the page and select “Dashboard It.”
  5. Your dashboard will appear. Now the fun begins.

Adding to Netvibes

Adding essential apps

  1. Be sure you are on the “Welcome” tab. Click on it just to be sure.
  2. Click the green “Add” button in the upper-left of the screen.
  3. Look for “Essential apps” in the left column. If it’s not visible, expand the “Apps” menu.
  4. Select the green “Add to your dashboard” button. Add the apps of your choice. You can always return and add more.
  5. When finished, click the green “Add” button again.
  6. Drag the apps around on the page as desired..
  7. You have additional control over the looks of the page. Click the drop-down arrow on the Welcome tab. In the “Tab layout” section, experiment with the choices. I chose “3 boxes” and all the apps appearing in one of three columns. When you’re done, click the “x” in the upper-right corner of the dark box.
Choose the layout of your tabs

Working with tabs

If you selected any “interests” earlier, each one appears as its own tab. Delete any tab by clicking a drop-down just to the right of its name. A “delete” option appears.

That same drop-down allows you to change a tab’s name or add an icon. Likewise, clicking the “+” at the far right allows you to add a tab.

My preference is to use only one tab. If you choose to add a great deal of reading content to your page, you may add more tabs.

Bookmark app

“Bookmarks” is my favorite app. Yes, I use Google Bookmarks. It stores several hundred sites collected over the years and boasts a host of tags. The Bookmarks app on my Netvibes page contains “the few, the proud,” each with the appropriate tag(s).

In the image below, you see the “Productivity Treasure Chest” tag displayed. The 13 bookmarks within that tab are tools I use on a daily basis. In a future post, we’ll talk about “5 Free Sites to Make PDFs Less Painful.” You would see those (and others) if I clicked the “Converters” tag.

Bookmarks app

Make Netvibes your start page

The idea is when you open your browser, you want Netvibes to display. In other words, it’s the “start page.” I prefer to also make it my “home page,” the page that loads after clicking the “house” icon to the left of the address bar. Here is how to adjust those setting.

That’s enough for now

Netvibes has capabilities beyond what I use. For example I don’t use, “Potions.” Instead, I use an entirely different service: “If This Then That” to automate actions between different services. Netvibes offers an upgrade option to a paid version, but I don’t need it. The free version me everything I need.

Get started by setting up your Netvibes page. Also, how about sharing this post? If you are a Twitter user, click the Tweetable below. Beneath this post, you’ll see icons to share on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, or Linkedin. Also, leave a comment about what else you might include on your page.