It was a few months ago I shared my use of Google’s Personal Home page, (get yours now) which has been for some time the home page on the 4 or so computers I use. I was recently helping Rachel set up hers with some modules and decided it was time to clean up and add some new decoration to my own home page.
First of all, for some inexplicable, “forgot my human interface design rules” reason, Google made it much harder to add any RSS feed to be syndicated to your home page. Previously it was clearly available form the lower left side of the “available content” categories. This has led more than one blogger to deduce you could not even add your own feeds.  . Hello, Google?
For those trying to figure out the magic incantation, you need to click the “add more stuff” link from your own home page, where they list the “Homepage Content Directory”:
Almost hiding, adjacent to the Search Homepage Content button, is the small magic link “Add by URL” (circled above). Clicking that expands a URl feed where you can add any RSS feed’s URL and then add it is a content nugget to your home page. Once installed, clicking it’s “edit” link allows you to set how many headlines to display.
I added a few more things to the front page:
including some common search tools (minimized, left).
I had been a long time user of the Flickr wallet module for pulling a random image from my flickr pile, but it seemed more and more that the module’s XML was misbehaving, and generating errrors. There are plenty of other flickr modules you can find at Google Modules (Oh goodie, just found a flickr search module to add)… and settled on Allen Hutchinson’s Random Flickr Pictures, which pulls more than just one random image, and changes them out on my specified interval.
This will provide more distractive fun for my personal memory quiz.
From the Google Directory, I plunked a few more, including a basic time clock that shows the current time in selected time zones (this is critical, since I have colleagues I interact daly on Pacific and Central Time, and I reside in Arizona (half the year on Pacific Timw, half on Mountain), loosely defined by Rachel as “Alan’s Weird Time Zone”.
One feature I like a lot here is you can create “tabs” so not as to clutter the page, and you can not only drag and re-arrange modules on a page, you can move them to different tabs by dragging. I have a “tasty feeds” tab, that I almost never look at, but it would be how you might use this as asimple RSS scanner:
I like the image ones, such as the Dynamic Earthquake Watch… oops, there is some quaking on southern california and I am headed to San Francisco later this week!
Lastly, I have a “toolz” tab with some things I might need in a quick pinch, such as a mini Google Map lookup (you can save locations), so I have my Union hotel’s location charted in Union Square, a currency converter, a flight status lookup, language translator, and more:
The ones I use the most are the peek into my Gmail inbox, but having this gadgets easily accessible, where I want them, saves me time from having to wander around to other web sites to use the tools– same principle as an OS X Dashboard, but I spend more time in a browser than my desktop.
It is interesting that the suite of Google Tools that I use on a more frequent basis (Calendar, Documents, Reader, etc) do not offer from their sites the ability to quickly add the modules to a Google home page.