Heartened

The whole kit & doodle!

Custom Google

I swear this is relevent to this blog. LOL

I've used Google as my home page for I don't know how many years. Long time, though. It is one of the few megabillion dollar companies whose business practices I generally agree with. (Good thing since Google owns blogger, 'eh?) And I probably spend 20 hours a week using Google for web searches. I'm always looking up new stuff. I love Google! Ok, so anyway, back to using it as a home page.

Google started this new thing where you can totally customize your "Google Experience." Follow this link – Customize Google – and you'll see what I mean. I like this so much that I'm going to give you a quick overview of how to customize a Google page – and no, you don't have to have a Google Mail (Gmail) account to do it. No, Google won't spam you. And no, there is no spyware garbage.

Now, why would you want to do this? Because one of the very cool features of this customized page is that you can set it up to have RSS feeds. "HUH?" you might ask? Let's say "The Adoption Void" is one of your favorite blogs. (You know it is!) You want to know when I've updated it. You want to know when there is some cool new thing here to read. (You know you do!) You just can't get enough of "Da'Void." (You know it is true!) But what a disappointment it is when you eagerly click on me in your favorites, only to find -GASP- nothing new to read!

You can forever more avoid said disappointment by using a "Feed Reader" to keep you abreast of what's happening on your favorite blogs. There are a lot of feed readers out there, some are better than others. I don't like most of them. I'm extremely picky about what I allow on my laptop. Feed readers full of advertisements or conditions in the "fine print" are definitely not on my list. A customized Google page is a nice solution.

Here is a screen shot of what greets me each time I open a browser window. (Yes, I use Firefox – you should too, you know!) These are just thumbnails, so click on the images to see the full sized version – it will open in a new window.

Isn't that pretty? Do you notice some familiar names down the left side of the picture? If you were able to scroll down further, you would see that I'm able to view the title of the first three posts on a whole bunch of blogs – basically all the blogs I have linked to over there on my links list. On the right, you see my current weather, a neat new "word of the day," and some of my favorite bookmarks. Basically, the ones I visit every single day (and usually several times a day). Plus I have the news. Which isn't actually usually there – I'm not too keen on having headlines blasting me with mayhem and death every time I open a browser. I put it there just so you could see it. In actuality, I usually have the RSS feeds from blogs over there as well. With a quick glance, I know when Kim Kim or Wraith or Cookie or any of my other "blogger buddies" have updated their blogs. I love it when I see an unvisited link showing up! There are other cool things you can add to your custom page as well. Certain little games, cute little clocks, googley eyes, etc. Depends on what you like to see. I like to see what my "blogger buddies" are up to, I like to know the weather, I like new words. I also get three "quotes of the day" and a news feed from Rueters – their "Oddly Enough" news. Usually full of humorous news stories. That's the kind of news I like!

So how do you go about setting up one of these pages? Go here – Customize Google – and click on "Sign In" next to the big red arrow in this picture –

On the next page, you'll see this on the right hand side –
Click on "Create An Account Now" (also next to the big red arrow)

Then fill out the form. Like I said, you don't need a Gmail account to sign up. (If you want one, however, drop me an email and I'll send you an "invite" for a free Gmail account – love that, too.)

Ok, so now you've created an account which allows you to customize your Google home page. Now you want to make it nice and pretty, right?
So here's what you do. Go back to – Customize Google – and click "Personalize Your Google Homepage." Suddenly, the page is going to do this neat little shift thing, and a section will open up on the left side. That's where you're going to start selecting what content you want to see on your page.
See?

Then you can drag the content wherever you want on the page for placement –

Now, if you want to get the feed from some of your favorite blogs, all you have to do is click "Create a Section" in that section on the left side. A small text input field will appear where you can type in the address of the blog you want to read. But the address has to be formatted in a particular way!!!

Let's say you want to get the feed from "Da' Void" (you know you do!) You can't just type in http://adoptionvoid.blogspot.com – it won't work. It will tell you it has encountered an error.

Instead, you would use this URL – http://adoptionvoid.blogspot.com/atom.xml

Notice that "atom.xml" on the end? That's what blogger.com uses for feeds from their server. If the blog you want to link to is not on blogger, you'll need to visit the blog itself and look for something that says "RSS Feed" or "Syndicate" or "Atom" or something similar and use whatever URL that offers. Assuming the blog you want is on blogger, all you have to do is add that atom.xml tag on the end of the URL when you type it in to the text field on Google. They'll do the rest. You'll then notice that the blog has been added in the pane on the right and you can drag it around the screen and place it wherever you want.

Now if that isn't cool, I don't know what is!

Remember when I mentioned "other cool things you can add to your custom page as well"? Well, you'll notice that at the bottom of the little pane on the right (when you are in "Add Content" mode), there is a link for "More Content." Follow it and you'll find things like this:

and lots more!

Have fun with it, that's what is most important!
Oh, and two more things – don't panic if you occassionaly get a message which says that certain content is temporarily unavailable. When sites are updating or having server issues, their content won't display on your home page. This is completely normal and nothing to worry about. It will fix itself soon. Also, every once in a while I have to log out of my personalized page, close the browser window, open a new one and log back in because changes I've made to the layout, etc. don't seem to be sticking around when I save my changes – this has happened only twice. It's not a big deal, though, takes me 30 seconds to fix it. Google HAS saved my new page, it just isn't displaying correctly on my computer.

I hope you'll consider using this feature. It is such a simple way of keeping track of what is going on with one another and remaining informed of new blog entries. For me, it is also a reminder to keep track of what is happening with all of you – otherwise, I tend to forget to view my favorite sites.

Enjoy!

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January 30, 2006 - Posted by | Geek Stuff

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