I’ve been on the lookout for a good start page from where I can get all my net-updates at a glance. I’ve tried out a number of the new web 2.0 start pages including Netvibes, Pageflakes and Protopages. Each of them have their own ups and downs. Netvibes integrates my 30Boxes calendar, but it’s feed reader is clunky, requiring you to close it and reopen it when you want to move to another feed. Protopages has better handling of feeds, but no calendar support. And of course all of them are quite heavy and the whole desktop/widget metaphor makes it easy to get distracted and start adding and doing things that you don’t need.
So I started looking around for an alternative. My requirements were simple:
- Fast loading
- A sleek look and feel, without clutter or distractions
- An integrated feed reader that is easy to use
- Displaying my new emails.
- Calendar integration with 30boxes
My first thought was to find a way to integrate everything with 30boxes, becuase their calendaring app is great stuff. But that idea didn’t last long, because though they let you pull feeds from other places, there isn’t any real feed reader application. But then I remembered that the reason I was leaving Netvibes because I didn’t like the feed reader. So I decided to go find a good feed reader first and work from there on. And I landed up with Google Reader. I used Google Reader a few months ago, but only for a few days because I wasn’t really online much. Now that I was getting back to blogging and reading blogs, I decided to give it another go. And I was hooked at first sight.
Google Reader sports the same sleek, attractive interface that has wooed Gmail users. It’s simple, but beautiful and it stays out of your way. Adding feeds is simple, just click the “Add Subscription” button, put in the feed URL and hit Add. Google reader also integrates nicely with Firefox meaning that you can use Firefox’s built-in feed recognition system to detect and add feeds from websites you visit, without having to search for the feed URL. You can view all the feeds you are subscribed to in the sidebar and you can group them using tags. For viewing the feed content you can use a list view which is similar to normal email or you can use the Expanded View which shows all the items from that feed together, almost like a normal webpage.
But a good feed reader was only part of my wanted bargain. But as it turned out, the others weren’t far away. 30boxes and Gmail give me feeds of to-do items and new email respectively. That, together with a weather feed from weather.com and one of the latest Arch Linux Packages give me everything I need. My Reader now has three tags: News, Weblogs and Personal, making sure that everything stays uncluttered and perfectly organised and I’m a happier person. Now i’m just waiting for a Scrybe invite so that I can get a better calendaring app.