Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Great Start Page Debate and How to Abuse Firefox with Tree Style Tab

Every now and again I see an online discussion about what the best start page is.  Some people like a blank page, some folks like iGoogle, some folks like pictures of bunnies and kittens, etc....  I guess I'm odd or something.  I have three separate start pages that I use on a daily basis.

That's right, three start pages.  AT THE SAME FREAKIN' TIME.  Suck it.

Since this topic comes up often enough in various online forums, it seems like I should briefly discuss my setup.  I don't think it's perfect, it most certainly isn't for everyone and it does assume your browser is one of the primary applications you work with all day (AdiumX and iTerm are the other two I use constantly).  But I do think my setup is unique enough to warrant some mention.  So, my three start pages are:
  • One for my personal stuff that points at my personal iGoogle page
  • One for work related services, that points at the start page for our Google Apps
  • One for work related links I use every day (ticketing, wiki, monitoring, etc..)
That's a lot of pages and links.  I probably could condense that down into one local page someplace if I really cared too.  Frankly though, I like have things separated out since it allows me to visually segregate work related tabs versus personal related tabs.  This setup also helps me stay focused on what I need to be doing without pulling in lots of other distractions from unrelated items.  For example,  I can't get distracted [1] by the TwitterGadget on my personal iGoogle page when looking at my work start pages.  This also lets me have really focused start pages with minimal information that doesn't require a scroll down to see everything at a glance.

If visually segregating tabs sounds odd to you, then you haven't discovered the Tree Style Tab extension for Firefox.  For someone like me who regularly has 75 browser tabs open on any given day and clicks a few hundred links in a day, it's a life-saver.  Tree Style Tab lets me have a nice horizontal list of tabs on the side of the window that are indented with parent-child relationships.  For the context of this post: the links I click on from one start page are created as new tabs under the start page from where they came, so everything stays grouped together instead of becoming a jumbled mess.  When combined with the Vimperator extension which removes nearly all of the chrome from Firefox and gives me great keyboard shortcuts for nearly everything, I have tons of room on my widescreen monitor for the tabs listing.  Tree Style Tab also allows me to only need one open browser window which is even more helpful since I use Alt-Tab as my primary method for switching between applications and in Mac OS X you can't target a specific window to switch to, just the most recently focused one for the app.

Have I sold you on Tree Style Tab yet?  No?  Well then perhaps a picture is worth more than the words in this post.  Here's an example screenshot of my browser window right before I started writing:

The top three non-indented tabs on the left are my start pages, the tabs under them are related to the start page (and so on down the tree), and the things at the bottom are tabs I opened directly.

1 - Yes, I am easily distracted by shiny .... oooohhhhh

Unspamming facebook

So, I have this blog imported into my Facebook account. Sadly, long rants about Linux and System Administration tend to seem silly in the light of Facebook, so I'm going to only import posts with the "facebook" tag now to try to not spam folks.