As I mentioned in my previous post, I'm on a hunt to find the "one tool" or tools to help my "lifestyle management" of being able to check e-mail, facebook, twitter, and more without having tons of applications or browser windows open. The first stop in my hunt is a tool I'm very familiar with, Netvibes.
Netvibes has the motto "Dashboard Everything" and they live up to that promise. If you go to the site right now, and sample their default dashboard, you get something like this:
It's really slick. This is the tip of the iceberg. There are widgets for nearly everything out there, from some of your favorite news sources, to your favorite diversions (LOL Cats anyone?). There are lots of ways to customize the layout as well. You can have up to 4 columns of varying widths/layouts and each widget comes with various presentation formats, from a simple list to a magazine style.
In addition to the widget layout you see above, Netvibes also features a "Reader Mode" which functions a lot like some of the classic RSS readers you may be familiar with. I've actually been using Netvibes in reader mode for a long time now. It provides a great way to see what is recent, allows me to view all the posts for a given category, or for an individual blog. There are handy links to view the article on the original site, and to mark all posts as read. The site updates automatically and quickly. I can easily rack my unread articles up to 3000+ if unattended for a day, and Netvibes doesn't blink.
When it comes to Mail/Facebook/Twitter integration, there are widgets to cover those too. Both the Facebook and Twitter widgets allow you to respond to direct messages and like/dislike without having to log in itself. I chalk this up to the benefits of having an API. The mail widgets only serve only to show you what is in your Inbox. Clicking an e-mail link sends you on to your e-mail provider of choice for you to view/interact with. You can get a preview of the e-mail, depending on your provider. Gmail provides a preview, Hotmail doesn't. There may be more "official" widgets in Netvibes that has more features, but I haven't found them yet.
My initial impressions are very favorable with Netvibes. I still like the "reader mode", but viewing all the feeds in "widget mode" sometimes looks a little overwhelming, no to mention organizing all the widget boxes to have the layout I want. There is currently a bug that does not refresh any tabs except for the current one, but I know they are working on it. At the moment the biggest hangup for me is not being able to directly interact with the e-mails, but that could just be me being spoiled. Having a combined Twitter and Facebook feed would really be nice, and there might be one out there. There's still a little more digging to do in their "ecosystem".
If you're looking for an all purpose system, it's hard to beat Netvibes. You should give it a peek sometime.