iGoogle's demise is just a month away and it's time to get ready to move. Our endorsement for an iGoogle replacement is igHome!
We know, some of you may be asking, what took you so long? igHome's been out there for a year. We looked at and continued to track all of the following alternatives.
24eyes | 43marks | Aboogy | All My Faves | ALOT | AOL | backstitch | Blinkdash | BlinkList | BonzoBox | ClickO | Delicious | Den | Diigo | Excite | Funky Homepage | Feedly | Genieo | Google Sites | Gritwire | iClick2View | iFroggles | igHome | iGoogle Portal | iloggo | Inbox.com | intereStuff | Internet Buttons | Jolicloud | Kadaza | Kiiosk | KiteDesk | LStack | middlespot | Moovlink | My MSN | My Way | My Yahoo! | MyFav.es | myLinkCloud | MyStartSite | NewsBlur | Netvibes | Nextaris | Nollr | Nowsy | Only2Clicks | Opera News Portal | Ost | Pinboard | Pobb | Portalfin | PortalPanel | Protopage | Pulse | ROCKZi | Sitehoover | SiteShuffle | skim.me | Spaaze | start.io | Startific | STARTME | Startpix | State | StumbleUpon | Symbaloo | SymbalooEDU | tabUp | Tizit | Tizmos | Totally.Me | Transferr | uStart | Weblist | Webnavigo | Webwag | Wonderpage | YourPort.com | Zeadoo | zenstart | Zimbio
And, like so many, we kept expecting the emergence of a personal dashboard that made iGoogle yesterday's news. igHome is quietly doing that by steadily building content, a track record of reliability, a good name and a loyal following. Read on to learn more about igHome, including our comprehensive setup guide.
Prior to making our endorsement, we contacted Mike Sutton, igHome's founder and long-time iGoogle gadget developer, to learn a little bit more about igHome operations. Most important, we wanted to know about igHome operating reliability, financial sustainability and future plans.
igHome's network may not look like a Google datacenter...yet. But, it's pretty good, with "redundant servers in multiple state of the art datacenters, along with onsite and offsite backups of data." The team at SaveiGoogle.org has regularly monitored igHome's progress since it launched last year and has never experienced an outage or data loss.
Mike also told SaveiGoogle.org, "igHome operates using an ad supported model. There is one unobtrustive banner ad at the bottom of the dashboard along with ads on search results pages. The revenue generated makes igHome profitable and sustainable for the foreseeable future." igHome also allows gadget developers to run ads within their gadgets as long as they follow igHome policy.
Regarding future plans, Mike told us "we're focused on building the site infrastructure and improving performance to get ready for iGoogle's closing. Once we're comfortable with the service level, we will focus on improvements including a new weather gadget, finance portfolio gadget, and language specific versions of igHome. Users are constantly providing suggestions and we make the most popular ideas a priority. In addition, we are working with other developers to make it easier to write and submit gadgets to the igHome directory. We believe that quality, user-provided gadgets and content are the key to providing ongoing, continuous improvement of the site."
igHome reliability, a sustainable financial model and what sounds like reasonably paced development along with user engagement are priorities for Mike and his team. That should keep igHome users happy too.
igHome Setup Guide
Signup and Access
igHome operates well for desktop, laptop and tablet devices and a mobile version is in beta testing. igHome can be accessed using the following links:
- Desktop/Laptop/Tablet: https://www.ighome.com. The link provided is a secured link. After accessing igHome, to register or login, click on the prominent blue "Sign In To Personalize" button at top right. A popup dialog box will appear. Follow the instructions to register or login. After login, igHome will redirect you to it's unsecured version. Like iGoogle, many igHome gadgets are actually hosted at sites other than igHome and the nature of their content (e.g., rss feeds and the infamous hamster gadget) should not require delivery using a secured link. After login, you can switch to the secured link if you prefer. A good way to do that is to add the secured link to igHome's black bar (more on that further below). But, recognize you may not be able to access many of igHome's gadgets in secured mode.
- Mobile: http://www.ighome.com/mobile/. Signup using the full site is required before the mobile version of igHome can be accessed. It's still in beta testing, so don't be surprised if some content can't be accessed. For now, we're referring you to the unsecured link. The secured link (https://www.ighome.com/mobile/) does function. But, after login you aren't sent to the unsecured mobile version and the secured version currently provides minimal functionality. If you want to view the full site on your mobile device, you can do so by selecting the "View Full Site" link at the bottom of the dashboard page.
After login, it's time to get busy customizing your igHome dashboard. Almost every customization option can be accessed by selecting the gear (settings) icon in the top right corner of the dashboard. Following is a description of all settings accessible via that icon, including Profile, Messages, Hide Search, Hide Share Icons, Add RSS Feed, Add Gadgets and Logout.
My Profile - Preferences
After selecting profile, you'll be taken to the preferences page were you can select your default number of columns for a tab (page), and select several default preferences for RSS feeds. Default preferences can be modified for each tab and RSS feed (more on that further below).
My Profile - Choose Theme
Following preferences is the option to choose a theme. igHome has 40 built-in themes and also allows for customization using solid colors (i.e., "Choose a custom color") or your own image (i.e., "Custom Image (URL)"). Hopefully, Mike and his team will be able to make time to add a color picker or color picker gadget. Until then, we suggest using ColorPicker.com to find a solid color you like. Note that custom images have to be hosted somewhere on the internet. If you don't have a website, add the image you want to use to a website where you store images (e.g., instagram, flickr, google drive), make the image publicly accessible and enter the image address into the box by the "Custom Image (URL)".
You can also go directly to the Choose Theme option by selecting the "Choose Theme" link on the right side of the tab bar near the top of the dashboard.
Update: As pictured to the right, a theme color picker has been added to igHome. Clicking on the checkerboard area on the right side of the "Choose a custom color" input box (circled in red in the picture to the right) will display the color picker. Use the color wheel to select a color and the slider to the right of the color wheel to lighten or darken it. You may still want to use ColorPicker.com for color inspiration.
My Profile - Search Engine
Following choose theme is the option to modify the search engine used by igHome's search bar near the top left of the dashboard. We prefer to leave it set to the default (igHome results provided by Google) so that igHome gets a little revenue from Google when we click on an ad that interests us. But, there are also options for Google, Yahoo, Bing, DuckDuckGo, Startpage, and country specific Google search. Search results can also be shown "in the same tab", replacing the dashboard, or "in a new tab".
My Profile - Black Bar Links
Following search engine is the option to modify the black bar links. The black bar is similar to the Google black bar and runs across the length of the top of the dashboard. It is preset with links to Gmail, Google Calendar, Feedly, Google Bookmarks, Google Maps, Google Images, YouTube, Google News and Google Drive. Each one of those links can be modified or removed and there is room for three additional links. In addition, the links can be set to open "in the same tab" or "in a new tab".
My Profile - Change Email Address
Following black bar links is the option to change your login email address. We presume no explanation is necessary regarding the purpose of that setting.
My Profile - Change Password
Following change email address is the option to change your password. Again, we presume no explanation is necessary regarding the purpose of that setting. We do hope that Mike and his team will be able to make time to add some tips for a strong password and a password strength meter. Until then, we suggest you use pctools Secure Password Generator if you need help creating a password.
My Profile - Import from iGoogle
Following change password is the option to import your iGoogle settings. Unlike many iGoogle alternatives, no conversion steps are needed. Follow the instructions on the "Import from iGoogle" page at igHome to get your iGoogle settings and import them directly into igHome. As the instructions state, you may not be able to import many iGoogle gadgets to igHome, but you should be able to import most of your RSS feeds. Information on modifying RSS feeds, gadgets and tabs is further below.
My Profile - Import from OPML
Following import from iGoogle is the option to import an OPML file. Many news readers can generate an OPML file to allow for the export of RSS feeds from one news reader to another. You can learn more about OPML files here. To import an OPML file, follow the instructions on the "Import from OPML" page at igHome. Hopefully, Mike and his team will be able to make time to add an export to OPML option too.
Returning to the dashboard (select the igHome icon in the top left corner), then selecting the gear (settings) icon in the top right corner, the next setting option after Profile is Messages. Messages is the equivalent of igHome's blog. Don't expect to see a lot here in the short term. Mike and his team have been pretty busy since last October 2012 building igHome.
Returning to the dashboard (select the igHome icon in the top left corner), then selecting the gear (settings) icon in the top right corner, the next setting option after Messages is Hide Search. That does what you would expect. It hides the search bar at the top of the dashboard, allowing more of your dashboard to be seen without scrolling. It also hides the Add RSS Feed and Add Gadgets buttons, but see further below for another way to add them. You can unhide the search bar by selecting the gear (settings) icon in the top right corner of the dashboard, then selecting "Show Search".
Hide Share Icons
After selecting the gear (settings) icon in the top right corner of the dashboard, the next setting option after Hide Search is Hide Share Icons. That also does what you would expect. It hides the sharing icons near the top right corner of the dashboard. We don't know why you would want to do that because we know you'll want to share igHome with everyone. But if you do decide to hide the sharing icons, you have that option. You can unhide the sharing icons by selecting the gear (settings) icon in the top right corner of the dashboard, then selecting "Show Share Icons".
Adding and Modifying Tabs
Adding a tab (page) is done on the dashboard. Select the "Add Tab..." link on the tab bar near the top of the dashboard. A popup dialog box will appear. In that box enter the name of the tab and select the layout (number of columns). A tab's name and layout can be modified at any time by selecting the "e" (edit) icon in the top right corner of a tab when that tab is active.
Adding and Modifying RSS Feeds
After selecting the gear (settings) icon in the top right corner of the dashboard, the next setting option after Hide Share Icons is Add RSS Feed. Unless you've hidden the search bar, that option can also be accessed using the prominent "Add RSS Feed" button near the top right corner of the dashboard. Before selecting that option, go to the dashboard tab where you want to add the feed. After selecting "Add RSS Feed", a popup dialog box will appear. You can input an RSS address (URL) or a website address. If you input a website address, igHome is good about identifying the feed for that website as long as there is only one. If there are multiple feeds for a website, it's better to identify and input the RSS address in the dialog box. After adding a feed to a dashboard tab, you can customize it in the following ways:
- select the title bar of a feed to drag and drop it where you want it located on a tab,
- select the bottom border of a feed and drag it up to reduce the height of the feed or drag it down to increase the height of the feed, and
- select the "e" (edit) icon in the top right corner of the feed to change its title, height, assigned tab, number of stories and several other options.
igHome also has a basic news reader that's a hidden feature. All feeds added to your igHome dashboard can be read at http://www.ighome.com/reader/. That's a link you might want to consider adding to igHome's black bar.
For those looking for a more powerful news reader, we recommend using Feedly in combination with igHome. By default, igHome includes a link to Feedly in the black bar. igHome also has a full-featured Feedly gadget we recommend adding to a one-column tab.
Adding and Modifying Gadgets
After selecting the gear (settings) icon in the top right corner of the dashboard, the next setting option after Add RSS Feed is Add Gadgets. Unless you've hidden the search bar, that option can also be accessed using the prominent "Add Gadgets" button near the top right corner of the dashboard. Before selecting that option, go to the dashboard tab where you want to add the gadget. After selecting "Add Gadgets", you will be taken to the gadget directory where you can search for gadgets or browse through directory categories. After finding a gadget you want to add, select the "Add It Now" button and you will be taken back to the dashboard tab you selected and the gadget will be added to that tab. After adding a gadget to a dashboard tab, you can customize it in the following ways:
- select the title bar of a gadget to drag and drop it where you want it located on a tab,
- select the bottom border of a gadget and drag it up to reduce the height of the gadget or drag it down to increase the height of the gadget, and
- select the "e" (edit) icon in the top right corner of the gadget to change its title, height, assigned tab, header background color and header title color.
After selecting the gear (settings) icon in the top right corner of the dashboard, the final setting option after Add Gadgets is Logout. We presume no explanation is necessary regarding the purpose of that option.
So there you have it, the most comprehensive coverage on igHome to date. It's a nearly distraction free personal dashboard that's easy to use and loaded with features. We'll see you there!
SaveiGoogle Editorial Postscripts
Since initially posting this story, igHome has experienced outages due to significantly increased activity caused by iGoogle's impending demise. They continue to increase resources to manage new user traffic and outages have generally been brief.
Please keep comments "on topic" discussing igHome and other iGoogle alternatives that have all or most personal dashboard features. Comments that are thinly veiled site promotions will be removed.