Tips, tricks and tweaks for iGoogle

Features David Hayward Jan 15, 2013

David Hayward gives iGoogle a once over, before it’s finally put to sleep

iGoogle or, as it was formally known, the Google Personalised Homepage, is coming to an end sometime late 2013. November has been declared, but then looking back at Google’s track record, it may very well be next week.

It’s a bit of a shame really, as iGoogle isn’t all that bad. It’s an Ajax-based personal portal, to give it its full development title, and was originally launched in 2005. However, a few issues came about (namely security related ones), and the launch was held off another month or two while the bugs were ironed out.

Google, in its divine wisdom, has stated that the service has eroded over time, so must be led dutifully to Madame Guillotine for a swift severing of the head. In addition to the death throes of iGoogle, this is the last (for now) Tips, Tricks & Tweaks, because this column is going on hiatus for a while. Still, let’s not be glum; these things have a habit of returning in some form or another, and we’ve enoyed producing this series and have learned one or two things ourselves along the way.

So charge up the glasses, put your silly party hat on and prepare for one final blow-out of TTT and iGoogle!

All themed up

Lavish and seasonal art work is always top of theming lists, and why not? A little sprinkling of snow, some holly and mistletoe during Christmas placed nicely on your iGoogle page goes down a treat. We’re a bit like that: melodramatic. Anyway, theming your iGoogle page is easy. Simply open up and log into your iGoogle page, then click on the icon in the upper right of the screen that looks like a small mountain range. You’ll now have some rather fetching images appear on the screen.

From here, you can search for a particular theme (e.g. Christmas), or click on the ‘Browse all themes’ links located in the bottom-right corner of the newly popped- up theme window. Once you’ve found the theme of your choice, simply click to add and your iGoogle page is updated with the new imagery. Nice.

Change your layout

iGoogle comes with a default layout of three columns, but for some, three columns is either too much or too little. That being the case, there’s a way to alter the number of columns on your iGoogle page from just one, all the way up to a heady four columns.

To do this, click on the downward pointing arrow next to the settings icon, located in the top right, next to the theme icon (it’s an icon of a cog). In the drop-down menu, select ‘iGoogle Settings’ and you’ll be taken to the measly iGoogle settings page, funnily enough. In the second section you’ll see, under the theme part, a section for ‘Layout’. In this are the four radio buttons for each of the column layouts, so just click the one you want.

Back up and export your iGoogle

Despite the fact that iGoogle is going the way of the dodo in a matter of months, you may want to create a backup of the page layout and various gadgets, themes and so on, as well as exporting the current settings to an XML file for safe keeping.

Also in the iGoogle settings page, at the very bottom you’ll see ‘Troubleshooting’ and ‘Export/Import’ sections. In the ‘Troubleshooting’ section you can click on the ‘Backup’ button to make a backup (presumably stored somewhere on your Google account) of your iGoogle page, along with a ‘Restore Now’ button, which can restore the look and content of iGoogle from a date in the pull-down menu next to the button.

In the ‘Export/Import’ section you can click on the ‘Export’ button to create an XML containing your iGoogle settings, possibly to be imported into a future web portal. Or you can just import the saved XML back into an iGoogle session by browsing for the file and uploading it.

Productivity gadgets

No doubt all reading this will already be knowledgeable when it concerns the usual brace of iGoogle gadgets (Gmail, Date and Time, Weather, etc). These are all fine and well and aid with productivity on what can be described as a normal scale. However, there are times when a gadget can aid with your productivity on a slightly obscure scale. Check these out:

  • Remember the Milk: A nice task management and to-do list service.
  • Uday’s Scratch Pad: A handy scratch pad for your home page.
  • Microsoft Outlook: View Outlook inbox, Calendar, Tasks and Contacts from an iGoogle gadget.
  • TeleMessage SMS Sender: Send an SMS to mobile phones across the globe. With ten free texts to start with.
  • Yahoo! Messenger: Does anyone use Yahoo! Messenger? If so, then here’s the gadget for you.

Odd gadgets

While my significantly better half and I use iGoogle as our productivity home page, displaying emails, various RSS feeds and the latest headlines from around the globe, our children use it as some kind of bizarre menagerie for all kinds of virtual pets and other critters.
My daughter, for example, has a virtual hamster, some penguins and a virtual horse. Daniel, on the other hand, being older, has a spaceship fighting game, strange things in Google Maps and a list of ZX Spectrum games to play online.

We’re pretty sure you could find many more odd gadgets - after all, there are 1,144 of them.

Save your iGoogle

By ‘save’ we don’t mean saving the layout; what we do mean is sign the petition to try to persuade Google not to kill off iGoogle. Yes, the internet may have grown beyond the confines of iGoogle as it was in 2005, but recent stats have shown that over 20% off all Google search requests come from a logged-in iGoogle page, and if Google makes an estimated 1,722,071,000,000 (one trillion, 722 billion, 71 million) searches per year, that’s 4,717,000,000 (four billion, 717 million) searches per day (based on 2011’s numbers), then that would mean that at least 344,414,200,000 (344 billion, 414 million, 200 thousand) searches are performed from an iGoogle page. Not a bad number, by all accounts.

Should you wish to save the fate of iGoogle, then pop on over to goo.gl/qC0vN, and see if Google can swing things in favour of those who use and love this wonderful little web portal. Who knows, perhaps iGoogle can be brought up to HTML5 specs and speed? At least then it would be future proof, to some degree.

And now, the end is near…

Well that’s it for Tips, Tricks and Tweaks, for now anyway. We hope you’ve enjoyed it!