GeekTech: Create Your Own Home Page With Your Favorite Links

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If you're an Internet-junkie geek like I am, you've long ago ditched newspapers and now do most of your daily reading online. And if you're an Internet-junkie geek, why set a frequently visited Web site as your home page or dig through your bookmarks file when there's a better way?

Sure, you can categorize and folderize all of your links for easy finding, but a really savvy and cool way to access all of the sites you regularly visit is to create what's called a Start page, or in my case, a Super Kickstart page.

The Super Kickstart page is basically an HTML-coded file with categorized links to news, e-mail, and fan sites. If you set this file as your home page, your browser opens to a comprehensive list of your favorite links, laid out all nice and neat before your very eyes. What could be better? Well, a million dollars and a trip to the white-sand beaches of Tahiti for starters; but, unfortunately, that's not something I can help you with.

What I can help you do is build one of these cool pages. The concept was introduced to me years ago by fellow columnist Matthew Newton. I remember peering over his shoulder one day in awe of this nifty bookmark page that he had all laid out, with a news ticker, search engines, and bookmarks to all of his favorite sites at the ready. The file he created has evolved over the years and now performs all sorts of sweet tricks like JavaScript pop-ups to link to sites for the local weather, a thesaurus, a dictionary, and even MapQuest.

To get started, download and uncompress this file: kickstart2.zip.

Add Links

Now that you've got the file on your local system, open it. In most Web browsers, you can just go to the File menu, click Open, and point it at the path to where you saved the file. Then check out my links and decide which ones you'd like to trash and replace with your own. (Don't worry, I won't be offended.)

To modify the file, open it in a text editor. You can use Internet Explorer to do this, by going to the View menu and selecting Source; that should open the file in Notepad. Another way is to use Notepad to open the file directly.

If you don't know much about HTML, don't worry: You don't really need to learn much to start customizing your page. You need only a text editor and the bravery to look at a huge text file filled with scary-looking JavaScript.

The easiest way to muddle through the text file to find a link is to look for it in the category where it appears on the page. In Notepad, hit Ctrl-F and then type in the category you're looking for. For instance, I've set up "Stuff," "Blogs" and other such headers to indicate categories. (I'll tell you how to change the category titles later.)

If you decide to replace a link, don't strip away any of the HTML tags--the only thing you want to touch is the URL between the quote marks and the linked text between the angle brackets.

For example, this is the original link:

<a href="http://www.cnet.com/">C|NET</a><br />

You could change it to point to PC World's site by changing the URL between the quotes and replacing the text between the angle brackets:

<a href="http://www.pcworld.com/">PC World</a><br />

See? That's not too difficult, is it?

Yes, there are dedicated HTML editors that would make this easier. But forget those fancy shmancy programs; I'm a geek who likes to do things the old-school way. If you really must have one, try any of the files listed at the bottom of our HTML Authoring page.

A Bit More Tricky

So now that you've gotten your feet wet, it's time to do some more basic HTML to customize your page.

I've divided all of my links into categories that correspond with my linkage. (What other way is there, really?) I've set up "News," "Blogs," and an all-encompassing "Stuff" category.

To change category names, open that massive text file again and search for the category names I've already included. For instance, do a search on "Blogs" and you'll likely come to the header I've set up. Then just slap in your own text without touching any of the code around it. So if you've got a category of links for sports or puppy Webcams, just put your own text into the spot where my text happens to sit.

After a bit of playing, digging through the file, and replacing text and links, you should have your very own customized Super Kickstart page. To use it as your home page, simply set it to be your home page in your browser and you're ready to go. To do this, open the file in your browser; we'll use IE as an example. Go to Tools, Internet Options, General. In the Home Page section, click on "Use Current" and it will become your home page.

In the three years I've been using it, my Super Kickstart page has become invaluable. So invaluable, in fact, that I put it online so I can use it whenever I'm not at my own PC and want access to all of my bookmarks.

Next time I'll look at other fun ways to customize your page.

Alexandra Krasne is a big geek who likes to do things the old-fashioned way. Have a question or a comment? Contact GeekTech.
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