Thursday, December 20, 2007

internet start pages

With the incredible array of information available on the internet nowadays, where does one begin? Let's look at some of the available options out there for your personal start page, public access and staff computers.

What is a start page? How does it differ from your library's home page?

A start page is the page that comes up first when you open a web browser. It can be your library's web page. It can be any other page you set. Some web pages will have a button you can click on to make that page your home page. Or you can change the settings in your browser.

Go to the page you want to set as your browser start page.

In Firefox, click on Tools - Options
Under the Main tab, Startup click on Use Current Pages.

In Internet Explorer, click on Tools - Internet Options
Under General, Home page click on Use Current.

Note that both Firefox and IE 7 enable you to set multiple pages under different tabs to open up at once for your Start Pages.

Why do you need to think about a new start page for your library patrons and/or staff?

With the proliferation of web sites with RSS feeds, you can put together a lot of information that's updated automatically. So, people can have the latest news and you don't have to worry about updating it.


iGoogle is what I use for my start page on my personal computers.
  • You can use tabs to create multiple pages.
  • You can subscribe easily to RSS feeds for up-to-date news and weather reports.
  • You can subscribe to and display Google calendars.
  • You can display Gmail.
But I wouldn't recommend this for public access computers because I haven't found a way to lock it down. Any user could come along and make changes. Once you've spent the time getting it all set up, you don't really want someone else to come along and change it. Nor do you want to give others access to your Google account.


We introduced this start page tool at Fall Workshop in 2006. It's probably the most flexible. There are a wide variety of widgets available and you can modify them pretty easily to display just about anything you'd like from web pages to video podcasts to photos from Flickr. You can also lock it down so that users cannot make permanent changes.

The chief downside is that it won't always display properly. I tried viewing the page from my mom's computer that has a lot of accessibility options turned on and got NOTHING. You couldn't even see most of the widgets. And if you've got a lot of different monitors, your carefully planned layout is bound to look a bit off on many of them. And you have to be careful if you want to use it to display web pages because the widget isn't really a browser window. If you start clicking on links, you'll soon find out you don't have any way to navigate.

But I still think this might be a good way to design a start page with resources designed for specific target groups like teens.


Pageflakes is my current favorite. You can display RSS feeds for news, weather, sports, calendars.... It also works with Web 2.0 tools like Delicious and Flickr. You can add message boards, sticky notes and maps. It also has a social aspect in that you can use an existing page by subscribing to the pagecast. Then you can make your own modifications and use it for your own.

So, anyone interested in getting started with Pageflakes can set up an account, subscribe to my pagecast, delete any of the boxes with information that isn't interesting to you, add more feeds of local interest, and save it.

Pageflakes offers an option to save as your home page. You can set it up on public access computers using the instructions above. One thing I'd be careful about is only logging in and making changes from a staff computer. I suspect it's storing cookies and does remember you so if you've logged in from a public access computer, someone could make changes you might not like that would show up on all your computers.

If anyone's interested in an online training session on how to set up any or all of these tools, let me know. It can probably be arranged.

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