We’ve all come to love our smartphone home screens as a place where we can individualize our device. Either by adding backgrounds, or with useful widgets that support our workflows and keep us informed. Android had widgets from the start, and iOS added them in 2020.
Many people don’t know this, but there is a few ways you can bring that same level of information to your browser’s ‘new’ tab page. So everytime you open a new tab – boom – your home screen opens.
The choices here are a little less straightforward, as there is only smaller vendors that offer such services. So in this post we’ve reviewed all the contenders so you can pick the one that best work for your needs.
This product can work as a stand-alone browser page, or through their Chrome extension, you can invoke this conveniently everytime you open a new tab. The dashboard looks good and comes with built-in widgets for RSS-based feeds, note taking, to dos, and a few more.
There is even a choice of highly specific widgets from their gallery, which includes work apps such as Google Analytics, Google Calendar, Google Tasks and stock charts.
With those, you could conceivably make multiple dashboards that cover different aspects of your work, for example a general one, one for your finance needs, and so on. While making 2 extra dashboards is free, any more – as well as – all widgets outside the basic ones require the optional Pro plan. Starting from $24 per year at the time of writing, this is however a very reasonable ask.
What’s not to like? Having started its life as a bookmarks manager, perhaps Start.me’s selection of external apps is on the small side.
This contender consists of different widget that are more like summary tiles of each of your apps. The widgets can be freely arranged on your dashboard and there is a list of all compatible apps in the App Directory (it’s upwards of 50).
There is no built-in note-taking or bookmarks manager, instead this product focuses very heavily on surfacing live 3rd party information on its widgets. Therefore you start with a pretty bare dashboard and have to work through connecting with your apps one-by-one. For some apps like Microsoft To Do, Hubspot or Google Calendar this process is very straight-forward, but for others like ServiceNow or Workday you’ll need to follow docs or step up to the Plus plan.
If you don’t need Plus apps, there is a free plan that gives you a certain number of widget refreshes each month — and more refreshes can be bought if you run out.
The undisputed party trick must be that widgets can be embedded into intranets, like Viva Connections or even ChatGPT.
Another popular contender is Productivity Tab which can be had as a ‘new tab’ extension (link) as well as a regular home page. Even though at first glance less appealing than Start.me, it’s actually a very usable format and utilizes its real estate well: Weather has big print temperature and icons, all the news have large sized thumbnails, etc.
The widgets you can add here include your usual suspects like stocks, to-dos, a calculator, etc. Other external business apps are pretty much limited to LinkedIn, Google Analytics and Gmail and Calendar.
Sometimes the execution of these integrations is a little unpolished, but on the flipside the tool offers generic widgets like HTML, IFrame or RSS that could be used to make your own widgets with little to no effort.
All widgets are included, but the product itself displays ads which can be switched off for $30 a year.
This is visually the most impressive product in this lineup. Using subtle blurs gives most widgets a glass-like appearance and there are more than a few clever apps suited to work applications, such as Google and Outlook Calendar or Github. You can even configure your own widgets using IFrames and the entire experience is all-around very pleasant. There’s even built-in notifications that give you a nice bell chime just before a meeting starts.
There are some areas that can be a little hard to read when a widget with a white background gets overlaid by the Dashy UI (notice the search bar on the bottom of the first screenshot).
Apart from that the Dashy website even has some decent docs for novice IFrame embedding users.
And the best part? It’s free. As the product was just launched in 2023, there’s likely going to be a paid or ad-supported option in the future, but for now it’s free. Great stuff that makes Dashy a definite candidate for your shortlist.
Although billed as a personal dashboard this is really a bookmark manager with a pretty background. Advertised features like notes, to dos and more apps are all hidden in a popup window you need to manually open by clicking the Hub button. This extra click means the background is pretty clean but this comes at the expense of not having those things right at your fingertips.
A heavy hitter for news and RSS feeds, Protopage is a very no-frills dashboard that is suitable for proper information junkies. Starting your own start page is as easy as going to protopage.com and boom – you’re done. The companion Chrome extension doesn’t technically take over your new tab, but it can at least be set to appear everytime you open the browser.
If you read a lot of news, you’ll be pleased to learn that Protopage is free. But if you’re looking for something a bit more geared towards work applications, then perhaps you could be better served by other offerings.
Inspiration from China?
You may or may not remember iGoogle, Google’s first iteration of a personalized home page from the 2000s.
So you may be surprised to hear that this idea has recently been injected new momentum from an unexpected region – China.
There’s a few incredibly polished bookmark managers from Asia, such as iTab New Tab (Edge only) or New Tab with ChatGPT (available for Chrome). The level of visual finesse makes these pretty much indistinguishable from an iPhone home screen, and no doubt served as an inspiration for the visually also polished ‘Dashy New Tab’ extension we looked at above.
For the purposes of this blog post I’d have to stop short of recommending either, as they don’t have any first party integration for typical work apps – but if you’re wanting to find out where things are headed in this space, then do look East. 😉
There you have it, our reviews of the best new tab Chrome and Edge browser extensions. Are you using one of the products here or have you got a better suggestions? Let us know in the comments below.