On Thursday, I described the Pageflakes and Netvibes home page services, which I turned to after iGoogle suddenty grew a left pane and put me a click further away from my full-function Gmail in-box, among other questionable enhancements.
I also tried two other iGoogle alternatives: the beta version of the Symbaloo service and Yahoo's Delicious bookmark-sharing site and toolbar. I was hoping to find a way to view my Gmail in-box, Google Calendar, Google Reader, and Google Docs on my home page.
In the end, only iGoogle let me put all four of the elements on my start page. Still, both Symbaloo and Delicious offer lots of ways to get to the Web information you need.
Pack your home page with shortcuts and RSS feeds
Symbaloo looks like a cross between a Twister mat and '60s-vintage pop art. Your home page consists of a grid 10 squares wide and 6 squares tall. The middle 8 squares display the contents of news and weather feeds, your Gmail in-box, and other Web information sources.
Each square of the grid represents an RSS feed or shortcut to a favorite site. You can add entries from the selection offered by Symbaloo or enter the URLs of any RSS feed. You also get a choice of Internet radio stations, specialty search boxes, and other Web applets, though the current selection of widgets is slim. But that's to be expected with a beta test version such as Symbaloo.
Even with the unique view of your favorite Web resources, Symbaloo lets you see the contents of only one widget or feed at a time. I was able to see my Gmail in-box in the Symbaloo window, but the Google Reader and Google Calendar squares are merely shortcuts that open each service in a separate window.
Dig deeper into your bookmarks with Delicious
This service previously used the interesting URL del.icio.us, which I always found difficult to remember (guess I should have bookmarked it). After you sign up at the Delicious site, you can import your existing bookmarks, browse other people's bookmarks, join a bookmark-based social network, or view your bookmarks by their tags.
The Delicious toolbar puts your bookmarks in a row along the top of your browser window. Likewise, the Delicious sidebar opens on the left side to show your bookmark tags in the top window and your bookmarks in the bottom window. You could use your Delicious bookmark page as your home page, but there's nothing dynamic about the list, so all your information remains a click away.
Only iGoogle provides a snapshot of your Google services
It's easy to see why Pageflakes, Netvibes, and Delicious have garnered such loyal followings. I'm betting that the new Symbaloo service becomes the home page of choice for many people as well, once its lineup of widgets improves. But I've grown accustomed to opening my browser to a view that includes my Gmail in-box, Google Calendar, Google Reader feeds, and Google Docs file list, all without an additional click (once I've signed in).
In a comment to yesterday's Worker's Edge post, "hdkruger" pointed to a Greasemonkey script that he says removes the left pane that has been added to iGoogle. Perhaps I'll give that script a try, or maybe I'll get used to the list of widgets and tabs that right now just seems to take up valuable screen real estate. But what I'm really hoping for is that Google gives me the option of reverting to the old-style iGoogle page.