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Software

Review: iGoogle Customizable Web Portal

iGoogle is an incredibly customizable Web home page or personalized portal. Properly leveraged, iGoogle provides busy professionals with a single Web page for viewing and sending email, tracking tasks, checking flights, finding directions and performing other critical daily business tasks.

iGoogle is an incredibly customizable Web home page or personalized portal. Properly leveraged, iGoogle provides busy professionals with a single Web page for viewing and sending e-mail, tracking tasks, checking flights, finding directions and performing other critical daily business tasks.

Specifications

  • Manufacturer: Google
  • Product: iGoogle
  • Version: 2.0
  • Operating systems: Cross-platform Web-based tool that works with Apple Macintosh OS X / Linux / Microsoft Windows / BlackBerry telephones and more
  • Browser support: Apple Safari, Mozilla Firefox, Microsoft Internet Explorer
  • Additional information: iGoogle
  • Price: Free

Who's it for?

Traveling employees, consultants, mobile users, staff working from multiple or branch offices and other business professionals all can leverage iGoogle's ability to connect them to their e-mail, to-do lists, contacts and other critical news and information while away from their offices. Even non-traveling professionals seeking to centralize critical business tools — including calendars, e-mail and tasks — from a variety of sources within a single Web page will find iGoogle a capable solution.

What problem does it solve?

Users can configure iGoogle to collect a very wide range of gadgets — both official Google-powered utilities such as Gmail and Google Maps — to widgets from a range of other providers — such as task lists, stock prices, weather alerts, flight information and more. The ability to access e-mail (such as with Gmail), task lists (Google Tasks, Todoist, Remember the Milk, etc.), contacts, shared documents and a host of other critical business information saves traveling staff time, keeps distributed organizations connected and collaborating, and increases productivity.

Often, especially when traveling, important follow up communications are frequently squeezed into spare moments. Whether these moments are stolen from hectic schedules while waiting to board airplanes or check out of hotels, being able to quickly (within minutes) access such wide-ranging critical information, and respond in a moment, using a single portal can prove critical in winning business deals, maintaining client satisfaction and capitalizing on sales opportunities.

Standout features

  • Customizable - The sheer number of Google API-compatible gadgets is mind numbing. From stock tickers, to mapping tools, to task lists, from flight information to hotel reservation tools, if there's a widget a business user needs, it is likely someone's made an iGoogle plug-in to handle it. As a result, users can collect a variety of e-mail, calendaring, task list, contact management and other tools within a single Web portal, even if the e-mail, calendar and other tools are powered by different companies using different domains.
  • Compatible - iGoogle works whether the users are working on Windows, Linux or Apple computers. Further many mobile users will be able to find an iGoogle platform tailored to their specific handset, as versions are available for BlackBerry, iPhone and Android users, among others.
  • Reliable - Google takes iGoogle uptime seriously. Users will rarely experience any prolonged iGoogle downtime. It's more likely the corporate e-mail servers users rely upon iGoogle to access will have more outages than Google's iGoogle Web site.
  • Minimal infrastructure requirements - iGoogle attracts users from a variety of industries and organizations. Whether a user works for a global multinational corporation or a small charity, iGoogle levels the playing field. Even in the absence of a BlackBerry Enterprise Server or Exchange infrastructure, iGoogle extends to all users the benefits of large-scale technology integration. Because iGoogle enables users to collaborate (using Google Docs), share calendars (using Google Calendar, for example) and access e-mail (using Gmail, among other gadgets), even small businesses receive features and capabilities typically associated with larger organizations, but with minimal infrastructure requirements. In fact, all iGoogle users really need is Internet access.
  • Price - iGoogle is free. Users need not pay for common collaborative features, either, including Google Docs, Google Calendar, Gmail and other services, that seamlessly integrate with the iGoogle portal.

What's wrong?

  • Web-based portal requires Internet access - iGoogle is essentially useless without an Internet connection. Users without Web access will find themselves unable to leverage the personalized Web portal and the features, gadgets and widgets with which they populate their iGoogle page. That said, Web-based applications everywhere suffer the same fate, so even large organizations dependent upon Web-based CRM portals, Intranets and other networks will find themselves in the same boat when Internet connections fail or prove unavailable.
  • Some assembly required - iGoogle's power arises from its customizability. Users must be willing to explore various gadget offerings, experiment with different page layouts and test various configurations before inevitably discovering the set up that works best for them. In short, there's no simple out-of-the box setting that will maximize iGoogle's features and capabilities for all users.

Competitive products

Bottom line for business

iGoogle delivers an infinitely customizable Web-based portal busy professionals can personalize as they require. With a broad range of available Google API-compatible plug-ins, fueled by application vendors' desire to leverage Web 2.0-trends, business users will find thousands of iGoogle-compatible gadgets and widgets that can be used to manage important business communications and tasks. Whether business users travel frequently or must collect a variety of critical tools from multiple companies or sources, including e-mail, calendars and task lists, within a single Web-portal, iGoogle meets the challenge. The only real drawback is users must be willing to invest sufficient time exploring and configuring their own ideal portal page.

User rating

Have you encountered the iGoogle Customizable Web Portal? If so, what do you think? Rate the unit and compare the results to what other TechRepublic members think. Give your own personal review of iGoogle in the TechRepublic Community Forums or let us know if you think we left anything out in our review above.

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About

Erik Eckel owns and operates two technology companies. As a managing partner with Louisville Geek, he works daily as an IT consultant to assist small businesses in overcoming technology challenges and maximizing IT investments. He is also president o...

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