Create a Customized Web Portal With Netvibes

By Scott Spanbauer

Thanks to the timeliness and ubiquity of addictive community sites such as Craigslist, Digg, Flickr, and YouTube, not to mention the Web versions of newspapers, radio stations, and TV networks, Internet-connected computers are quickly replacing broadcast and print media as our primary source of information on happenings around the world. Walter Cronkite, we hardly knew ye.

But the Web’s wealth of offerings also presents a problem. Although tabbed browsers that support RSS permit you to stay current with a handful of feeds, the truly Web-addicted require more powerful resources to retrieve and present the latest updates of all their favorite Web sites. iGoogle, My Yahoo, Windows Live, and other personalized home pages do precisely that by combining RSS feeds, e-mail tickers, application widgets, and search tools into customizable screen layouts.

Personally, I prefer Netvibes, a service that allows you to share individual pages you’ve created with other people, and to publish multipage sites for the whole world to see. For a great example of how the Netvibes Universe service works, visit PC World’s Universe page.

Creating your own Netvibes page is a snap. Browse to, and click Sign In, then Sign up now. Enter your e-mail address (which the service uses as your log-in name) and create a password. Don’t use your e-mail account’s password; make up a different one for Netvibes. Your Netvibes page is now ready to customize as you wish.

If Netvibes doesn’t list a feed you’re interested in, you can add it manually: Visit the Web page containing a link to the feed, right-click the link, and choose Copy Link Location in Firefox or Copy Shortcut in Internet Explorer 7. Switch to your Netvibes page, click Add a feed, paste the feed URL into the Address field, and click Add. Individual feeds or modules may contain settings menus for adjusting how many story headlines are listed and other configuration details such as log-in name and password, if required.

Netvibes also lets you control the design of the overall page, and create additional pages. To maximize the space available for feeds and other content, disable your site’s title and redundant search field: Choose Settings in the window’s upper-right corner, select General settings, uncheck both Display page title and Display search area, and then click Done.

You can create your own Netvibes widgets if you know JavaScript, and those widgets will even work with iGoogle. Netvibes also makes it easy to customize the overall look of your page using the service’s Themes and Wallpapers options. Choose Settings, Themes to select a predesigned theme, or click Create my own theme to choose from a palette of colors available for the various page and module header backgrounds. You can also select Wallpapers to configure your Netvibes page to use an image from the Web for its header or main body background images, and to adjust the height of the header to accommodate its wallpaper image.


Feeling Creative? Go Nuts With Your Netvibes Hacks

Serious Netvibes customizers can create their own backgrounds for pages and feeds, as well as tweak other settings for their page layouts, using the Netvibes Customize module. To install it, click Get more modules to open the Netvibes Ecosystem directory. Next, choose the Modules tab, and enter its name in the search field. While you’re in the Ecosystem, browse the amazing clocks, calendars, games, cartoons, and other shared feeds, tabs, and Universe pages.



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