NWA-PCUG Newsletter Article, July 2006
Choose Your Own "Home Page"
By Ira Wilsker,
APCUG Director; Columnist, The Examiner, Beaumont, TX; Radio & TV Show Host

Iwilsker( at )apcug.net
(click to email author)


I work on a lot of different computers at a variety of locations, and one factor that consistently astounds me is that many people have blissfully ignorantly never changed their startup "home page" from its default. This is the page that first opens when the user connects to the internet. For example, many Dell computers have the Dell website set for the startup page when the user first accesses the internet, while Windows itself, unless otherwise changed, defaults to Microsoft's MSN home page, making it one of the mostly used startup pages. Many internet service providers (ISP), such as AOL, AT&T, and others changed the users' home page to the ISP's selected home page.

Startup or "home" pages are big business because they are commonly advertiser supported, and the more views (also referred to in the industry as "hits"), the more revenue generated by the host. This on-screen real estate is so valuable that a type of malware or spyware, sometimes known as homepage hijackers, will attempt to change your homepage to its client's home page, for which the miscreant receives compensation for each page such changed.

There are many different services offering home pages, and if the user finds one that he likes, it is very easy to make the selected page the new home page. The process for selecting the default home page is the same for most browsers. Using Microsoft's Internet Explorer (IE), which is still the most widely used browser in the world, the process is simple. If the user visits a website that he would like as his homepage, he simply clicks on "Tools" on the menu bar, and then that will open a window where the home page can be selected. If the open page is what is desired, then click on the "Use Current" radio button, and the current page will be displayed each time the browser is loaded. If "Use Default" is selected, the home page will revert back to the Microsoft (or other manufacturer) default start up page. On the new Internet Explorer 7 (Beta), which offers tabbed browsing, a different home or startup page can be selected for each tab. For those who do not want to connect to any page at all when loading the browser, IE7 Beta offers the option of a blank page. All versions of IE also allow for the manual entering of any selected internet address for a home page. To directly go back to the home page at any time, simply click on the little house or "home" icon on the menu bar.

Firefox (http://www.mozilla.com), one of the most popular browsers behind IE, offers a simple interface to select or change the homepage. Clicking on "Tools" on the menu bar opens a window where "General" can be selected, and then "Home Page". Firefox allows the address to be manually entered, or the current page loaded can be selected. Other options allow for the home page to be selected from a previously saved bookmark (Internet Explorer calls these "Favorite"), or the option for a blank startup page can be selected. Firefox also offers the little house on the menu bar for instant access to the home page.

There are many choices for a home page, which is totally up to the user. Some users use their web mail accounts as a home page, first displaying their email when connecting to the internet, while others may choose retailers, auction sites, employer web pages, search engines (such as Google or Yahoo), newspapers (such as the Examiner at http://www.theexaminer.com), or any other page of interest. While any page can be selected as a home page, the most popular home pages selected are usually news and information based pages.

My personal favorite, which I use on all of my computers, is "My Yahoo", at http://my.yahoo.com. I have found My Yahoo to be the most comprehensive and flexible home page. Being an information junkie, I have customized my My Yahoo page to include stock and mutual fund listings, news from dozens of sources, weather, lottery results, sports scores, my personal calendar, latest emails received, TV listings, and other information. My Yahoo, which is very easy to configure, directly offers thousands of choices. Many information resources, such as the Examiner, are now using "RSS" or "XML" feeds as a news source, and these can be added to My Yahoo often with a single mouse click. My Yahoo is also customizable with hundreds of backgrounds, color schemes, layouts, or other features to personalize it.

Microsoft is currently testing a new homepage intended to at first supplement its flagship homepage at http://www.msn.com, and maybe later replace it. This new homepage, currently in beta testing, is currently online at http://www.live.com. It will be a strong competitor to My Yahoo, offering news, sports, weather, email, and other resources in columns that are infinitely customizable.

There are countless other "My" homepages available, such as AOL's http://my.netscape.com, and other personalized home pages, including Google's "Personalized Home" link sitting quietly on the top right corner of the popular http://www.google.com website. All of these home pages can be easily customized to suit individual needs.

There is no need to continue to use the default startup or home page provided by your operating system or ISP. Investigate some of the alternatives, and increase your enjoyment of the web.

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