Out of the box, the default Netvibes screen doesn’t look too remarkable. A widget for Gmail, a search box, example RSS feeds and the obligatory Flickr feed to display other peoples lovely cats on your home page.
However, the real power of Netvibes lies in the power and flexibility to configure the page(s) to be exactly what you want, where you want and how you want.
Thankfully, the signup page is blissfully simple so you get an account immediately and painlessly.
One of the main things I am interested in is a personalised portal with access to all my RSS feeds. Simply click on ‘Add Content’ and you can either add individual feeds by URL or, in my case, import my OPML from Newsgator Online.
Wait a few seconds and all my RSS feeds are successfully imported and, even better, my hierarchy is preserved. Impressive.
You can simply select an individual RSS feeds from the available list. This presents a brief summary and the option to add the feed to the current page.
Clicking on an article of interest opens up the detailed RSS reader. This is a fairly standard two pane view and you can click through to the Web site.
Netvibes offers multiple tabbed pages. I created several pages including one for all the Oracle blogs I read. I then simply used ‘Add to current page’ for each Oracle blog to create my personalised Oracle blogs page.
This is pretty good but when you are actually reading the Oracle blogs, the blog hierarchy on the left of the screen is unused and a needless distraction. No problem - just close it which leaves you with this newspaper style screen.
Now to see whether there are any articles of interest. Simply click ‘Expand all’ to reveal what everyone is talking about.
One of my pet hates about most RSS readers I have used is that it wasn’t easy to select which blog appears first in the list. With Netvibes, it is trivial. If you decide Doug Burns is more interesting than that clown, Andy C, simply drag’n’drop to put Doug first in the list. No need to rename your favourite authors as 001Doug, 002Tom, 999Andy. This is the year 2006 and Web 2.0 after all.
Each tabbed page can be assigned a pretty icon and Netvibes comes with a handy set of (growing) widgets (Gmail, Yahoo Mail, del.ici.ous, Box.net, Ical, ToDo, Weather) in addition to featured RSS feeds.
Overall, an excellent piece of well designed, fast software. Netvibes doesn’t have a help page. You simply don’t need one due to the intuitive interface.
I started out hoping to find a personalised home page and I discovered a very powerful, customisable RSS reader hidden under covers.