Friday, October 17, 2008

Why Opera Speed Dial Rocks and iGoogle Ultimately Sucks

I use the Opera web browser preferentially and have done so since it was a pay for use program.

I can't quite recall the precise ordering of events but two things happened in fairly short succession that captured my interest. Opera began having a feature called Speed Dial. Here's a Screen Shot from a version of Speed Dial for Firefox (so yes, Firefox fans - go score that add-on right now!):

Each of the paneled mini-windows is actually a link to the current version of the page pictured in the Speed Dial interface. It's all the stuff you are interested in one click away and with a visual interface. Speed Dial comes as is with 9 entry spaces but you can tweak Opera and Firefox to give you more entries. I like this interface very much and I highly recommend its use.

Around the same time Google premiered iGoogle. In the best of all worlds iGoogle should like this:

Now that's pretty damned cool, right? Like Speed Dial it gives you access to points of interests because each of its panels is actually a link to the current main page of the RSS feed. And right, because its linking to many RSS feeds what you actually get are the constantly updated top stories from all of your feeds. You can get the current weather conditions, top stories from "the Beeb," quotes of the day, whatever floats your boat. Yes, it could be that cool.

But because of a forced upgrade with no path back to the preferred appearance, it actually looks like this:

What's the difference? That idiotic left navigation tool is what. Why the hell would anyone need or want another panel on the left hogging up valuable desktop real estate and thereby forcing additional vertical scrolling? Take a closer look - all it offers is a text version of the main iGoogle page with all of the same panel header links repeated. Now if it were placed as a horizontal tabbed CSS pull-down menu navigation device in the same header line that at the right reads "Get artist themes | Select theme | Add stuff" it wouldn't be so fucking annoying. Placed there it wouldn't be sucking up real estate. As is, it basically sucks. For about two or three months I have been using tools like "Remove it Permanently" in Firefox and "Kill Elements" for Opera to remove that annoying panel. And in all of this time, no one at iGoogle's development team has fixed that damned thing. And that points up another problem...

...iGoogle is calling the shots with something that is supposed to be highly user configurable and probably collecting marketing data as payment. Now I wouldn't necessarily mind the marketing data price tag if the damned thing were truly configured as I would like it. I mean, I'm not exactly linking to blueprints of suitcase bombs or anything like that - it's all news crap of various types. I'd like it if they'd let me do it my way. As is I'll probably find something better than it and say goodbye to iGoogle.

This user wants lots of personal preferences respected. They should know better.

Why did I compare these two interfaces when they serve different functions? Well, mainly because I use the iGoogle panels as links because RSS feeds tend to operate as gatekeepers and I'd rather go to different news sources and sift what is and is not important for myself. But that's the nature of RSS feeds, sometimes you want it served up as highlights and sometimes you want to dig into the many, many stories that are out there yourself.

When push comes to shove I can live without iGoogle, but I have become very acclimated to the use of Speed Dial as an indispensable feature of Opera and Firefox.