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Start Me Up

There's no need to simply take what's handed to you. How to get started on a default start page that works for you.

Are you still using the default start page built into Netscape (Communicator or Navigator) or Microsoft's Internet Explorer? Millions of us do exactly that. Ugghh. Know that you can--and should--do better.

Naturally, both Microsoft and Netscape want to drive traffic to themselves, so the defaults are set to do exactly that. But what serves them doesn't necessarily serve you and, odds are, any of hundreds of possible start pages--the page where a browser goes when you first log on to the Net--will do more for you.

Case in point: A friend with an active Hotmail (http://www.hotmail.com) Web-based e-mail account frequently just forgot to check that box, despite a steady stream of incoming mail. That triggered grumbles, as clients angrily asked why they were being ignored. But now she's changed her start page so that whenever she logs on, she's at Hotmail. This slight change has given her happier clients.

For myself, I use a highly customized "My Yahoo" (http://www.yahoo.com) start page, which gives me global news, business headlines and breaking tech stories, plus a stock tracker, local weather, foreign currency exchange rates, a selection of feature stories on small business (including pieces from Entrepreneur and HomeOffice magazines)--even (I must confess) lottery results. And I don't get a "Chatroom Tracker," sports scores or TV listings, although I could have all that and still more personalized content on my start page, which I consider an "at a glance" newspaper that contains only what I want.

My Yahoo isn't the only game in town. Excite (http://www.excite.com) also offers a good, personalizable start page. Another strong option: NewsHub (http://www.newshub.com), which updates its headlines every 15 minutes--far more frequently than Yahoo or Excite. Or get still more exotic. For instance, those who follow Latino affairs might like StarMedia (http://www.starmedia.com), while an auction aficionado would crave a start at eBay (http://www.ebay.com).

Sounds tempting? Here's how to change your start page: First, surf over to the page you want to begin all Net sessions with. Then, in Netscape, click "Edit, Preferences." On the screen that pops up, look for the "Home Page" entry. Below it, click "Use Current Page."

In IE, click "View, Internet Options." Click the "General" tab, then in the entry headed "Home Page," click "Use current."

AOL users, click "My AOL, Preferences, www," then in the entry headed "Home Page," click "Use current."

That's it--your start page is updated and from now on you'll start every Net session with the information you really want.

Robert McGarvey started exploring the online world over a decade ago with Genie, and has been writing on--and complaining about--the Net ever since. He writes about the Web for Entrepreneur, BizTravel.com and Upside.

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