CyberNotes
Web Browser Wednesday




I’ve been addicted to sidebars ever since I bought my first widescreen monitor. Sidebars have the ability to provide a lot of information inside a very small space, and it wasn’t until recently that I fully started to utilize them. It all started when I put the Tab-Bar on the side in both my Firefox and Opera installations (video on customizing Opera), and then seeing how Start++ handled the implementation of mobile sites capped it off.

So what I’m going to show you today is my top 10 favorite sites to put in your browser’s sidebar. Most of the sites mentioned were created for mobile devices, which means they load at least twice as fast as the normal site. This makes it even more appealing to me.

Both Opera and Firefox support this kind of feature, so I’ll get started by showing you how to do it in each of those browsers.

–Firefox–

Having a site open in the sidebar is pretty easy in Firefox:

  1. Right-click on one of the URL’s that we provide below, and then bookmark it.
    Firefox Sidebar Instructions
  2. After you have saved the bookmark, go back to the Bookmarks Menu and right-click on the bookmark. Choose the Properties option.
    Firefox Sidebar Instructions
  3. Now check the box that says Load this bookmark in the sidebar:
    Firefox Sidebar Instructions
  4. The next time you open that bookmark it will popup in the sidebar!

–Opera–

Opera is actually a little easier when it comes to placing sites in the sidebar, and they have more features as well. One thing that you should know is that Opera refers to the sidebar as “panels,” and here is how you add a bookmark to a panel:

  1. Right-click on a URL to bookmark it. Then click the button labeled Details, and then check the box that says Show in panel:
    Opera Sidebar Instructions
  2. Now you’ll notice that the bookmark was also added to your list of panels. Note: If the Panel’s bar takes up too much room read our tutorial on making it smaller.

Opera’s additional sidebar features come in handy for displaying sites. When you’re viewing a site in one of the panels, you can adjust the zoom so that the text is bigger or smaller, or you can have the site optimized for small screen display (removes most images, etc…). I recommend that you try out the small screen rendering on all of the sites, and you’ll notice that some of them look better that way:

Opera Sidebar Instructions

–Top 10 Sidebar Sites–

Alright, on to the sites! I’ve gone through dozens of different mobile sites (including ones made for the iPhone) and were able to pick 10 of them that look and work well in the sidebar. So without further ado, here are my favorites in no particular order:

Tip: The site titles are hyperlinked to their mobile sites, and all you have to do is follow the instructions given above for bookmarking them in your browser.

  1. Weather Underground
    What you’ll want to do with this site is visit the URL in your browser first, enter in your Zipcode, and then bookmark that address. Then you won’t have to worry about putting in that information each time. If you’re using Opera I recommend enabling the small screen rendering that I mentioned above.
    Weather in the Sidebar
  2. goMovies
    Just like the previous one, you’ll want to visit the URL, enter in your Zipcode, and then bookmark that address. Then each time you pull up your movie listings, it will automatically retrieve them for the theaters in your area. Opera users should probably set the zoom a little lower (I use about 80%).
    Movies in the Sidebar
  3. Gmail
    The mobile Gmail site not only looks good, but gives you fast access to all of your emails. Using it you can read and compose emails, which makes it an amazing time saver! I’ve been using this for most of my mail needs since it is so much faster than the actual Gmail interface.
  4. Google Calendar
    This gives you a quick overview of your upcoming events, but the best part is that you add items to your calendar from here.
    Google Calendar in the Sidebar
  5. Remember the Milk
    My favorite task manager now has the ability to sit inside of my sidebar. You can add new tasks and see what’s due. I’ve found myself using the service a lot more now that it is so condensed and easily accessible.
  6. Google Notebook
    You can manage your entire Google Notebook from your sidebar.
  7. Digg
    If you’re a Digg addict then I think this is a must. The mobile version of the Digg site gives you a fast-loading alternative to view the news. It’s nice when it only takes a second to load instead of 30-seconds like the normal site does sometimes!
    Digg in the Sidebar
  8. Google Talk
    Chat it up with all your friends with this handy little Flash app.
  9. Facebook
    I know that a lot of you are addicted to Facebook, and so I thought this would fit right in. It displays recent events from your news feed, upcoming events, and lets you change your status.
    Facebook in the Sidebar
  10. Twitter
    This is a really handy site for anyone that uses Twitter. You can update your status, and view recent entries from your friends. The small screen rendering in Opera is also really nice for this one.
    Twitter in the Sidebar

–Overview–

I’m finding myself using sites in the sidebar more and more these days, especially since they often reduce the number of extensions you need to install. If you come across any sites that work well in the sidebar, let us know in the comments below. I’m sure there are a bunch of great ones out there, and I just wanted to get the ball rolling by listing off my top 10!