Whether you're looking for the latest headlines, checking out video clips or conversing with colleagues via email or instant messaging, the internet offers everything you need at the touch of a button. Finding your way through the mass of information it provides, however, can be a full-time job.
On any given day, my web browser has multiple tabs open as I flick back and forth between checking emails, news headlines, RSS feeds and even the weather. As a journalist, I need to know everything that's going on - and all of this flicking between pages is far from efficient.
iGoogle is my lifeline. This service provides a personalised home page, customisable with ‘gadgets' that provide snippets of information and one-touch access to the website or online service in question.
The basic home page features four gadgets: the time and date, the weather, a CNN RSS feed and a YouTube gadget. But iGoogle offers many more gadgets that you can add (and then remove if they're not relevant to you), covering a wide range of topics. From tools such as the Gmail gadget, which previews the messages in your inbox, and a ToDo list, where you can enter the tasks for the day, to news feeds and fun applications, you're sure to find something to suit your needs.
It's even possible to create your own gadgets and make them available for others to download. Create one with your favourite photos or daily activities, for example, and your friends and family will be able to see this information on their iGoogle home pages.
You don't need to sign up for a Gmail account to use iGoogle gadgets, but doing so will allow you to access Gmail Groups, Google Reader and other Google services - as well as their individual iGoogle gadgets. This will enable you to display up-to-date information from all the online services you use in one place.
1. Head to google.com/ig. If you've got a Gmail account, sign in. If you don't already have one, registering will allow you to install more useful gadgets. The standard home page has a few gadgets, including the weather, the time and date, CNN news feeds and a YouTube search facility.
2. Click ‘Add a theme' at the bottom of the home page. Using the links on the left, scroll though the site's most popular themes. Alternatively, search for a particular theme using the box on the right. Once you've found a theme you like, click the ‘Add it now' button underneath the theme's thumbnail.
3. iGoogle will add the theme to your iGoogle home page. The time and date gadget will automatically adjust itself to your region; the weather gadget will not. Click Set Up on the gadget, insert your location and click Save. Your weather gadget will now display your local weather report.
4. To adjust a gadget's position on your home page simply drag it to a new location. Clicking the upside-down triangle icon on the gadget itself allows you to edit its settings. The weather gadget's settings let you alter the location and pick between ºC and ºF measurements, for example.
5. It's possible to either minimise a redundant gadget so that only a slim bar is viewable, or delete it completely. Alternatively, you can use an individual gadget's menu options to share those you particularly like with your Gmail contacts, or ask Google to suggest some more gadgets you might like.
6. Click Add Stuff at the top right to view a list of available gadgets. Use the links on the left to browse categories such as News, Communication and Technology. To add a gadget, simply click Add it Now. This action will highlight the entry and place a tick next to it. Click Back to iGoogle to return to your home page.
7. One of our favourite gadgets is the ToDo list, which lets you create a numbered list of tasks for the day. To add items click ‘Add new task' and start typing. Click More Options to access a larger version of your to-do list, as well as options to email it or print it out.
8. If you belong to any Google Groups, the Google Groups gadget displays quick links to them. If you'd rather not receive emails notifying you of new posts, it's a quick way to keep up to date with the group. You can even change the settings to order the groups alphabetically or by newest post.
9. To create your own gadget, click Add Stuff then choose Try Now under ‘Create Your Own Gadget'. Google offers six gadgets that you can personalise, including Framed Photo and Daily Me. These gadgets let you share your favourite photos or thoughts and daily activities with friends who install your gadget.
10. Click ‘Get Started' under the gadget you want to personalise and enter the information required. Select ‘Create gadget' and it will automatically be added to your home page. Choose to email your contacts a link to your gadget or publish your gadget in the directory and make it available to all iGoogle users.