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As writers we frequently rely on the web in our work. We manage our own websites and blogs. We visit others to stay connected with colleagues and stay on top of industry news. We use social media tools in networking and marketing. And sometimes the sheer number of websites we need to visit on a regular basis can get overwhelming.

Fortunately there's a simple trick that can help you keep your web browsing more focused. Use a customized browser start page.

A customized browser start page can help you get where you need to go without added distractions, letting you get back to writing sooner. Depending on which browser you use, there are different options for customizing your start page, from built-in options that show your most-visited sites to plugins or extensions that give you more control.

I mostly use Chrome, and for a long time I used the Speed Dial 2 plugin for my customized start page and new tab page. But recently there have been problems where the "dials" weren't loading properly about half of the time. So I looked for other options. What I settled on is a tool called Start.me.

Here's what my current start page looks like:

Start.me screen shot

As you can see, I keep it pretty basic using only the bookmark widgets. It allows me to keep the same sites on my start page that Speed Dial 2 showed me, but I can segment them in lists. You also have the option to show them as icons instead of a list.

Like Speed Dial 2, you can also have multiple pages or tabs with different widgets or bookmarks. As an example, I set up a new page that I named "Daily." It has my local weather, my Google Calendar, a Google Tasks widget for the day, and a notes section where you can write anything you need to remember. I also used one of their backgrounds to show you what a more customized version might look like. I can switch between these two screens by simply clicking their page names in the gray bar at the top of the browser window.


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startme-local

The one downside is that the Google Tasks widget doesn't let you update tasks (yet). You can only view them. As an alternative, you could have another notes widget where you type up a daily to do list and edit it as you go. Other widget options include embedding web pages, adding RSS feeds, a Twitter widget, a Gmail widget, a calculator, and more.

The more your start page keeps you off of unnecessary websites while helping you get to the ones you need quickly, the more useful it is as a productivity tool.

If you'd like to take this free tool for a spin, you can sign up at http://www.Start.me. Just go into your browser's settings and save their site as your start page or new tab page (or both). You can access your start page from anywhere, using the same start page on your computer and mobile devices. If you use Chrome (and, I believe, Firefox), you can also download their extension that lets you easily add web pages to your Start.me pages by clicking an icon in your address bar.

Does your current browser start page help you get more done in less time? If not, give Start.me or another customized start page option a try.

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Jennifer Mattern is a professional blogger, freelance business writer, and indie author. She runs numerous websites & blogs including All Freelance Writing, NakedPR.com, and BizAmmo.com.

Jenn has 18 years experience writing for others, around 13 years experience in blogging, and over 10 years experience in indie e-book publishing. She is also an Active member of the Horror Writers Association.

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