The Favorite Start Page

A browser start page with all your internet bookmarks

Please note: This software has not been updated for over 10 years and may not work with modern browsers

Introduction »

The Favorite Start Page is a handy browser start page in dynamic HTML. It shows your favorites in a structure of expandable boxes which can be navigated without mouse clicks. You can drag and drop favorites to move or delete them, and you can make your most commonly used favorites permanently visible.

Your favorites are stored together with the whole program in a single, self-contained HTML file on your local hard disk. The page loads quickly whether you are online or offline. You can back up or transfer all your favorites by copying this single file, because the page can restore all your favorites by exporting them.

The page can be viewed with almost any browser, so if you put the page on the internet you will be able to access it from any online computer, or share it with other people. Internet Explorer 5.5, Opera 7, Firefox 1.0 or higher will display the page as dynamic, interactive menus, while other browsers simply show a long list of favorites.

Other features include customizable buttons for searching search engines directly from the page. You can search for a favorite on the page. You can select online CSS skins or create your own skin from within the page. It has a graphics cache which can improve icon load times in Internet Explorer itself. You can exclude specific folders and customize many aspects of the page.

Features »
•  Build a personal start page with your favorites »
Click the sync button to build the page with your Internet Explorer favorites. Since the page is a single HTML file stored on your hard disk, it loads quickly whether you are offline or online.

By default, icons will be cached to a folder called graphics in the same folder as the start.html file. If you turn off the cache or delete this folder, the icons will simply be loaded from the web instead.

•  It's easy to find a favorite on the page »
You can search for a favorite on the page with the find button, or you can navigate to it by moving the mouse pointer over the relevant box and sub-folder names. This navigation is easier and faster than Internet Explorer's Favorite menus.

Each box on the page corresponds to a folder in your Internet Explorer favorites, and it has the same sub-folders as that folder. When boxes are closed, only a certain number of favorites is shown (specified in the settings on the help page).

When you move the mouse pointer over the title of a box or sub-folder, it will open and display all favorites within. Move the mouse pointer out from the box to close it. Clicking on the background around the boxes will close everything, including the help page if it is open.

You can make your most commonly used favorites permanently visible by dragging and dropping them into good positions. You can also rearrange the order of boxes. To delete links, drop them in the Recycle Box (this box appears when you start to move a link).

Moving or deleting links will affect both the start.html file and your Internet Explorer favorites when you click sync and save changes. The order of links and boxes is only stored in the start.html file itself and is not necessarily the same order as in the Favorites Menu. Sub-folders are ordered by size for efficient navigation.

•  Back up, transfer or share your favorites by copying a single file »
When you build the page, all your favorites will be stored in the start.html file. (This file actually contains the whole program as well.) Simply make a copy of this file to back up your favorites, or to transport them to another computer. You can make this page available on the internet in order to share your favorites with other people.

To restore your favorites later using the start.html file, click on the sync button and select export. Links that already exist in your Internet Explorer favorites will not be overwritten unless you check the Replace existing favorites checkbox, and favorites will not be deleted unless you check the Delete favorites not on this page checkbox.

•  It has buttons for searching search engines directly »
There are customizable search buttons that let you search directly in most search engines or online databases. You can configure the buttons to search your favorite search engine, your local phone directory, the bus timetable or other useful services. Click here for more information on how to configure the buttons.
•  Nice skins available online »
Click the help button and click on Skins to see the list of the online skins available. Click on a skin to select it. When you click sync and save changes, the skin will be stored in the same start.html file that also contains the program and all your favorites.

Use the new and copy buttons below the skin table to create or modify skins. When you press either button, a new skin will be added to the skin table. Check the checkbox on the right hand side of this row to see the CSS text in a row just below. This text defines all skin properties.

With the edit checkbox checked, this text is editable, and changes take effect in real time. Manually editing CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) can be a little tricky if you've never done it before. Take a look at the other skins for inspiration and to see which class names and elements are available. (To open another skin without selecting it, hold down the Ctrl key and click its name.)

When you have created or updated a skin and want to share it, click the share button. This button is only enabled for skins created with either the copy or the new button. Enter a user name and password so that you can make updated versions of the skin later. Click OK to upload it to the web server.

The skin will now appear as unverified in your list of skins, and only you and an administrator can see the skin at this time. When the skin is given a rating other than zero by an administrator, it immediately becomes available for all to see and use. You have to reload the page to see that change.

•  It's free »
This program may be freely used, distributed and/or modified under the terms of the GNU General Public License. Let me know if you make any interesting modifications.
Try it — version 1.78 out now »
Click here for an example. These links are just an example, taken from the built-in bookmarks in an early Opera version. If you are not using Opera 7, Firefox 1.0, Internet Explorer 5.5 or higher, you can take a look at this screenshot. To try all the different skins, click the help button in the top right corner and then click skins. Two skins I personally like are Thin air and Easy Green. (I like that tiny font, but you can adjust the font size on the help page).
Download »
•  Executable installer (118 kB)
•  Download the start.html file manually »
If you do not want to use the installer, open start.html (188 kB) and choose View source. Save the contents as a file called start.html or similar anywhere on your hard disk, but remember where.

Please note: Do not right-click the page and choose Save Target As..., and also do not choose Save As... from the File menu, because Internet Explorer modifies the file slightly if you do that. You can download it as a zipped file (50 kB) to avoid these issues.

Once you have downloaded the start.html file, just double-click on it to open it in Internet Explorer. You can then set it as your start page by selecting Internet Options on the Tools menu in Internet Explorer and clicking the Use Current button.

To upgrade form an earlier version, do as follows:

  1. Make a backup of (or rename) the existing start.html file.
  2. Download the new start.html file and open it.
  3. Check the box marked Upgrade from a previous file and select the file you backed up earlier.
  4. If you get the message “There are format differences” and click OK, then the page will be based on your current Internet Explorer favorites only, but if possible with the item order stored in the previous file. You should check whether the previous file contains links that you have not yet added to your Internet Explorer favorites. The only way that could happen is if you have copied the file from another computer or deleted any favorites. If that is the case and you want to keep these links, you must open the previous file and add these links to your favorites by clicking on the sync button and selecting export.
•  German version »
I've gotten help with translating The Favorite Start Page to other languages. At the moment, there is a German version which was translated by Cyb10101. Download it here as a zipped file, or open this start.DE.html file and choose View Source to and save the contents to your hard drive.
Ratings »
The Favorite Start Page has been rated by several websites. There have been 150941 downloads/accesses of the installer, the zipped file and start.html since February 2003. There were 256 unique visitors last week.

Rated 5 of 5 stars at Rated 3 of 5 cows at Rated 5 of 5 stars at Listed at Rated 5 of 5 stars at Rated 5 of 5 stars at Rated 5 of 6 points at Freeware Pro Editors Choice Award Editor's Pick at

History »
VersionDateWhat's new
1.002003-02-06First release with import and export
1.132003-02-13Links can be moved and deleted. Added save/undo/redo buttons
1.152003-02-15Added Show icons checkbox
1.162003-02-19Ctrl-click on a link now hides or shows its icon
1.172003-02-25Added information to the save dialog
1.182003-03-01Made the import function slightly more robust
1.222003-03-18Boxes can now be rearranged by drag-and-drop
1.432003-06-19Customizable skins and improved browser compatibility »
  • You can download CSS skins, or you can make your own and share them.
  • There are now settings for font size and number of lines per box.
  • Automatic scrolling when you move the mouse close to the top or bottom of the screen.
  • Opera 7 can now animate the boxes correctly.
  • Other browsers get a pop-up warning and see the page as a long list of links.
  • IE 5.5+ is still required in order to import, export or edit.
  • Errors should now cause a pop-up window to appear and ask if you want to report a bug.
1.442003-06-28Slightly improved browser compatibility »
  • Changed the CSS class names for use with skins (Opera 5 doesn't like underscores).
  • Fixed small bugs with Internet Explorer 5.0 and Opera 5.
  • No pop-up warning about incompatible browsers anymore (happened with other browsers than IE 5.5+ and Opera 7).
1.532003-07-12Graphics cache and improved icon handling »
  • The graphics cache should solve all download problems for icons and skin images.
  • Option to have icons always visible, which works well now that icons are cached.
  • Internet Explorer can use the graphics cache for its icons, speeding things up.
  • New setting: New window for opening each link in a new browser window.
  • Status window when importing, exporting or saving.
  • Errors and bugs are now handled “gracefully” by a pop-up window that can show you the FAQ.
  • Bugs fixed:
    • Bug since 1.00: Some URLs without “http://” mistaken for local URLs when importing.
    • Bug since 1.13: Rare drag-and-drop bug.
    • Bug since 1.13: IE5.5 would in some cases not export icons.
  • Easy font size adjustment just above the skins — click and roll the mouse wheel. (1.52)
  • Boxes now close when you move the mouse pointer out from them. (1.53)
1.552003-07-21Bugfixes and new program settings »
  • New help page text about opening boxes and on how to close the help page.
  • The Escape key now toggles the help page on or off.
  • All ratings and comments on all versions of a skin are now shown below the skin table.
  • New setting: Leave box for whether a box should close when you click a link.
  • New setting: Force icons for more aggressive icon downloads (disabled by default).
  • Bugs fixed:
    • Bug since 1.53: Occasional errors in the description of changes to be saved (“3 items moved” etc).
    • Bug since 1.53: Boxes in the Blue XP skin did not open perfectly.
    • Bug since 1.53: The default icons in 1.53 did not download very well.
    • Bug since 1.53: Caching icons from hosts with names beginning with aux, com, lpt or prn caused a “File not found” error. (1.55)
  • New setting: Sort boxes replaces Auto arrange and allows alphabetical sorting. (1.55)
1.612003-09-04Buttons for searching directly in search engines »
  • Customizable buttons for searching directly in almost any search engine.
  • Button for finding a link on the start.html page itself.
  • Opera 7 now displays the icons correctly (and it doesn't have the black icon problem).
  • The Hide bad icons setting now checks that icons can be correctly displayed, not just that they are successfully downloaded.
  • Skin ratings now go from 1 to 5 instead of 0 to 4.
  • Bugs fixed:
    • Bug since 1.53: Another drag-and-drop bug.
    • Bug since 1.53: A browser warning appeared when displaying icons from web sites with invalid security certificates.
  • New setting: Auto scroll to control the automatic scrolling.
  • New setting: Show buttons — uncheck to hide all buttons (press Escape to see the help page).
  • New setting: Reload icons for checking for a new version of all icons.
  • New setting: Allow unicode (enabled by default) handles practically every language in the world.
1.632003-09-21Synchronization wizard »
  • A synchronization wizard now handles importing and exporting favorites.
  • A button called sync replaces the import, export and save buttons.
  • The URLs for the search buttons may contain multiple parameters.
  • The installer does not delete start_backup_XXX.html files and deletes the graphics folder only if it contains graphics files. And it's a little smarter when detecting previously installed versions.
  • Bugs fixed:
    • Bug since 1.61: Installer did not understand Unicode files.
    • Bug since 1.61: Sometimes Unicode was used without it being necessary.
    • Bug since 1.61: The Leave box settings had some minor issues. (1.63)
  • New option: Delete favorites not on this page when exporting.
  • New setting: Show search makes it possible to show the search buttons but not the help and sync buttons, and vice versa.
  • New setting: Skip folders makes it possible to exclude folders from the page.
  • New page Notice on Security Alerts in the synchronization wizard. (1.63)
1.642003-09-29New help section: How to use »
  • New section: How to use replaces the About sections on the help page.
  • Bugs fixed:
    • Bug since 1.61: Opera displayed all icons, even those which were supposed to be hidden.
    • Bug since 1.61: The new Opera version 7.20 did not display the page correctly.
  • Better upgrade information in the installation wizard and the synchronization wizard.
1.652003-10-04New option: Skip empty folders »
  • New option: Skip empty folders available in the synchronization wizard.
  • Bugs fixed:
    • Bug since 1.53: Very minor bug concerning icons which failed to download.
1.662003-11-16Bug fixed: The Unicode setting did not work in all countries »
  • Bugs fixed:
    • Bug since 1.61: The Unicode setting did not work in all countries (thanks to the Greek users who reported this).
1.672003-12-29Bug fixed: Error message when sharing or rating skins »
  • Tool-tips on sub-folder names
  • Bugs fixed:
    • Bug since 1.63: An error message appeared when sharing or rating skins. Sharing and rating still worked, however. (Quite a silly bug.)
1.682004-01-18Minor bugs fixed »
  • Warning message when trying to share skins with local images.
  • Bugs fixed:
    • Bug since 1.61: MyIE2 could not cache icons.
    • Bug since 1.61: The New window option opened a blank page when clicking in an empty part of a box.
    • Bug since 1.53: Only one image per skin was cached (which was never a problem until recently).
1.692004-10-28Installer improvements »
  • Installer improvements:
    • Start Menu folder can be specified
    • ActiveX and scripting security settings can be adjusted if necessary
    • Windows XP Service Pack 2 restrictions can be removed
    • These security settings can be restored when uninstalling
1.712004-12-05Compatibility improvements and new features »
  • After installation, the page now maintains two versions of itself: The normal (HTML) format which your browser uses, and the HTML Application (HTA) format which Windows grants more security permissions. So if your security settings ever prevent you from building the page, just open the page as an Application. There is a shortcut on the start menu for that.
  • Installer improvement: If the program is already installed, it displays a page with upgrade/uninstall options.
  • New settings: Box Width and Button Width. Many people have requested those.
  • The search button definitions now use $1, $2 etc for the search query words — the old method did not allow some sites (including DogPile) to be searched with the buttons.
  • The page is now much more compatible with Opera 7 and Firefox 1.0. Both browsers can display the page, however they still can't synchronize. Compatibility is a "gradual" thing, meaning that newer versions of Opera 7 display the page better.
  • It is now possible to specify the location of the Favorites folder when building or exporting. This means the program is no longer dependent on the WScript.Shell component, which is blocked by some very zealous anti-spyware programs.
  • New option to display sub-folders in boxes. Normally, only top-level folders get their own box, but this way you can make deep folders a little more accessible.
1.722004-12-07Bugfixes »
  • Bugfixes:
    • Bug since 1.71: Favorites in the Recycle Box were not deleted
    • Bug since 1.71: Bug which prevented the exporting of favorites
1.742006-12-03IE7 compatibility »
  • Bugfixes:
    • “Invalid Argument on line 2051” in IE7
    • Malformed URL beginning with http://mailto: causes error in IE7 (Thanks, China)
1.752008-03-22Compatibility fixes and improvements »
  • Fixed for IE8, Firefox 3, Safari 3.1 and Opera 9.50 (but like before, only IE can build the page)
  • Uninstaller now works correctly on Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008 (installer and uninstaller do not require administrator privileges)
  • Location of Favorites Folder preserved when building the page (lets you make a page just for a subfolder)
  • Buttons without search parameters now work when the search box is empty
  • Error message when writing icons now includes the name of the icon file
1.762008-07-03Fixed error in FireFox 3 »
  • Removed bug causing error window to pop up in FireFox 3
1.772008-10-26Minor bugfix »
  • Bugfixes:
    • Rare bug causing “Syntax error on line 4513”
1.782011-03-24Fixed error in Firefox 4 »
  • Fixed javascript error in FireFox 4
General »
Look under Features on the top of this page (click on each bulleted line). There is also some information under How to use on the help page of the program. Click the help button in the top right corner of the program.
Basically, all browsers I know about can display the page. If you are using Opera 7, Firefox 1.0, Internet Explorer 5.5 or higher, then you will see the page with dynamic, interactive "menus" representing your favorites. This is also true for compatible browsers like Maxthon (formerly MyIE2) and Avant Browser. Other browsers simply display the page as a long list of favorites.

This means that you can be pretty sure that you'll be able to access your favorites from any computer if you put your start.html file on the internet.

To rebuild the page or export favorites, the page uses ActiveX, which for various reasons only works in Internet Explorer 5.5 and above (and compatible browsers like Avant and Maxthon). I don't see a way of doing this in Firefox — if you know a way to access the local file system with Firefox or Opera then please let me know.

If you are using Firefox or Opera and would like to avoid using Internet Explorer to synchronize the page then you can instead just open the page as an Application. After you install, there is a link on the Start Menu for opening the page as an Application. The caveat is that you can currently only build the page with the Internet Explorer favorites. I plan to let you build the page with the Firefox or Opera bookmarks too.

There are two issues to consider: The amount of programming required, and the code bloat (file size increase) this will cause. I will try to monitor browser development, and I will consider adding support for any browser which is so compatible with Internet Explorer that these issues are minimal. I'll be happy to assist anyone else who wants to try adding support, too.

With version 1.71, the program is compatible with Mozilla Firefox, although there still are a few bugs to iron out. I found a Firefox bug but I got around that using display:block and float:left. Still, I'm impressed with the Gecko rendering engine.

The things which are stopping me from making the page fully Opera and Firefox compatible at the moment are as follows. Please let me know if you know a way around these issues.

  1. These browsers can't access the local file system, and therefore most of the items on the help page are useless since you can't save any changes.
  2. These browsers can't edit content on the page, which is needed for the Settings section (they don't support the contentEditable attribute). I understand that FireFox has something called Midas, but only for editing the whole page.

The Favorite Start Page simply checks if the browser is IE5.5+ (or compatible), Opera 7 or Firefox when deciding whether to display itself with expandable boxes or just as a long list of favorites. Click here if you have a different browser and would like to see if it can display the page with expandable boxes. If it works, then make sure you tell me about it so that I can update the browser check. If you find any browser which can't display the page at all then please let me know too.

Yes, the program supports Unicode (two bytes per character) and automatically detects when it is necessary to use it. (As long as the setting Use Unicode is set to auto.)
The Favorite Start Page is completely free and does not contain any adware, spyware or similar.
In Windows XP Service Pack 2, Microsoft decided to block active content in local web pages by default. Their reasoning was that many attacks on a computer system happen when malicious code sneaks into this zone (the My Computer zone) and then gets executed.

The Favorite Start Page is a web page which runs in the My Computer zone, and therefore it is affected by these changes. To make it possible to use the program, I've added a checkbox to the installer with which the user can turn off this added security.

Therefore, it could be argued that installing The Favorite Start Page with this checkbox checked poses a security risk to your computer system. However, it's not more risky than before Windows XP Service Pack 2, and the other reason which makes me sleep well at night is that the kind of people who are likely to use this program are reasonably competent computer users who are aware of security risks to their system, and who do not run content on their computer from sources they do not trust.

The program works fine in other browsers than Internet Explorer whether this setting is on or off, and also in all other operating systems than Windows XP with Service Pack 2.

The Favorite Start Page now has over 10.000 users, and I'm sure people use in a lot of different ways. I will keep this webpage and the downloads available for the foreseeable future, and make new versions whenever I have the time or when I get good ideas.

Some things currently on my TODO-list:

  • Allow favorites which link to Word documents etc.
  • Option to specify an folder where the start.html file is copied every time you synchronize. This is so that you can automatically copy it to a USB device or similar.
  • Option to specify a top-level folder which will be the "root" for the whole page. This will allow easy transportation of just the favorites in this folder between one computer and another.
  • Option to build the page using Opera and/or Firefox bookmarks instead of the IE favorites.
  • Improve cross-browser compatibility.
Errors, bugs and troubleshooting »
The Syncronization Wizard lets you build the page, save changes or export your favorites. To open it, click the sync button in the top right corner, just below the help button. However, in some cases this wizard just says that Your browser security settings do not allow synchronization. This means that it wasn't possible for the program to access the local file system, which is necessary in order to read your favorites and update the start.html file.

Below are some tips which may help you resolve this problem. If you still can't get it to work, then you must open the page as an Application. To do that, click the Windows Start button in the bottom left corner of the screen, then navigate to All Programs and The Favorite Start Page and click the Open (as Application) shortcut. If you have not used the installer, then you will not have this shortcut on your Start Menu and you must instead do this manually. »

You should make a copy of the start.html file and rename this copy to start.hta. The HTA extension means the file is regarded as an HTML Application, and these have more security rights. Otherwise it's just a normal web page.

The start.html file is by default located in a folder called The Favorite Start Page in the My Documents folder on your hard disk. To change the extension of a file, you have to turn off Hide extensions for known file types in the View tab in Folder Options on the Tools menu in Windows Explorer or My Computer (see this animated illustration). After renaming, double-click start.hta and run the Synchronization Wizard.

Whenever you rebuild the page, and you have both an HTML and an HTA version of the same file, the program will update both files. So after you have made this copy once, you can rebuild using the HTA version, and then the HTML version will be updated too. The installer creates both these files, and the Open (as Application) shortcut on the Start Menu simply points to the HTA version.

If you can't build the page even as an Application, then there is probably a problem with your computer, possibly with the ActiveX settings. I recommend reinstalling Windows Scripting (see one of the points below). I have never heard of anyone who could not get it to work at this point.

Only Internet Explorer 5.5 and higher (and compatible browsers like Avant and Maxthon) can synchronize the page from within the browser.
The installer for version 1.69 checks if your computer security settings are compatible with The Favorite Start Page and gives you the option to change them. The installer remembers you old settings and can restore them for you when you uninstall The Favorite Start Page. If you are unwilling or unable to run the installer, you can also do this manually. »
You have to set Active scripting, Run ActiveX Controls and plug-ins, Script ActiveX controls marked safe for scripting and Access data sources across domains to Enable and Initialize and script ActiveX controls not marked as safe to at least Prompt in the My Computer security zone. Also set Access data sources across domains to Enable in the Internet security zone. As far as I know, these are the default settings for these security zones.

These settings are located on the Security tab under Internet Options on the Tools menu in Internet Explorer. However, the My Computer zone is normally not visible here. You can make it visible by setting the registry key HKEY_CURRENT_USER\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Internet Settings\Zones\0\Flags to 1. Always make a backup of a registry key before editing it. Microsoft has a Knowledge Base article about related registry keys. If you don't like editing the registry, you can use the program Tweaki to make the My Computer zone visible.

If you are using a computer which is administrated by someone else, then the installer might not be able to set the security settings correctly. This can be the case also if the installer reports that everything went OK, because there could be effective security settings which the installer does not know about. In these cases, please talk to your system administrator.
You have to answer Yes to the ActiveX security question about access to the local file system. If you answer No, you will get the error “Automation server can't create object”. The question should look something like this:

In some cases the ActiveX security question appears but answering Yes still results in the error. In other cases the question does not appear, just the error. In this case, please take a look at the other suggestions.

You did not download by right-clicking on the link to start.html, but instead opened the page and chose Save As... from the File menu. Using the installer also works, of course.
Turn off your antivirus program for a short while and try again. If this works then please see if you can configure your antivirus program to allow The Favorite Start Page to operate properly.
Some anti-spyware programs go to extremes in their battle against spyware, and even disable selected browser features. For example, SpywareBlaster blocks the WScript.Shell component, which is used by The Favorite Start Page to find the location of your Favorites folder.
Download and install the latest version of Windows Scripting. It's a free download from Microsoft. Windows Scripting usually comes with Windows, but it can become corrupted. This download has solved the problem for many users.
If the error you get is reported as “Permission denied” then the user running the program has insufficient permissions. To build the page, the program needs permission to read your Internet Explorer favorites, which are files located in a folder called Favorites. It also needs permission to read and write the start.html file itself. To export, it needs permission to create files and folders inside the Favorites folder.

By default, all Windows user accounts have sufficient permissions to use The Favorite Start Page, and I've never actually heard of this error occurring.

If you recently upgraded to Windows XP Service Pack 2, you need to download and run the installer for version 1.69 or greater.
This happens when you do not have Windows Scripting 5.5 or higher installed. The latest version is available as a free download from Microsoft.
This is due to a bug in Firefox 1.0.3, as described here. It�s fixed in Firefox 1.0.4, which you can download from
You have to open the Options window, click on Ad Hunter in the tree and uncheck Block floating ADs.
Norton Antivirus 2003 and possibly other antivirus programs can detect web page scripts trying to access the local file system and will display an alert that the script contains malicious content. This message usually appears whenever a script is trying to read or write a file on the local file system.

It is necessary for The Favorite Start Page to access the local file system in order to update the start.html file and add links to your Internet Explorer Favorites. If you are using Norton Antivirus 2003 then just select Authorize this script from the pull-down menu in the alert to avoid seeing the alert again.

The Favorite Start Page does not contain any malicious content. Take my word for it, examine the code yourself using View Source or note the good ratings from reviewers.

To put things into perspective, every program you have ever run on your computer has had the ability to access the files without any warnings. The Favorite Start Page provokes warnings only because it runs from within Internet Explorer and is considered a web page.

Please notice that Norton AntiVirus does not regard the page as a virus, it just says that it's potentially malicious because it tries to access the local file system. In other words, it is potentially malicious in exactly the same way that every other Windows program is.

If you turn the graphics cache off then The Favorite Start Page will look for the icons on the web. However, Internet Explorer is a little lazy when it comes to showing online icons as graphics and it may actually skip some icons. The Force icons setting combats that by opening each of these icons in its own invisible document (an <iframe>).

This seems to give Internet Explorer a kick behind and usually makes it show the icon. However, if this is done with a non-existing or bad icon then it is possible that a web page is loaded instead of the icon. IE6 has more protection against this than IE55, but the possibility of annoying pop-up warnings exists for both. If you see those, try to guess which icon is causing it and Ctrl-click its link to hide the icon.

If you go to the history and try out versions 1.44 and older, you will probably see what I mean. These versions do not have a graphics cache and have Force icons always on. I don't check the icons in these versions anymore, so you will probably experience some annoyances if you open all boxes.

I am very grateful to everybody who has encountered errors and told me about them. Without you, this program would have a lot more bugs and weaknesses. However, sometimes it would be useful for me to have a file which actually contains the bug instead of just a description.

So if you find a bug, please go ahead and include your start.html file in your email. If it bothers you to send me a file containing private favorites then don't include it, or use the following procedure to make a start.html file without private favorites. (Just make sure you don't remove the bug as well :-)

  1. Download the zipped file and unzip the start.html file to a new folder.
  2. Double-click this start.html file and select Build this page using your current favorites.
  3. Verify that the bug is still there.
  4. Open your Favorites folder using Windows Explorer. See the FAQ question How do I make a backup of my favorites on how to do that.
  5. Create a new folder on your desktop to temporarily store your private favorites.
  6. Using Windows Explorer drag-and-drop or cut-and-paste, move each private favorite from the Favorites folder to the new folder on your desktop. You can also move whole sub-folders this way. Leave the Windows Explorer window open after you are finished.
  7. Open the start.html you unzipped earlier, click sync and build the page.
  8. If the bug is still there then please send me this start.html file.
  9. Restore your private favorites to their original position either by moving them manually or by using the Undo feature on the Edit menu in Windows Explorer (select Undo once for each favorite you moved).
Early 2011, several users reported this error:

    Error:'JSON' is undefined
    Program version: 1.77
    Line: 418

This error seems to be caused by a conflict with a DivX player which the affected users have installed as an Add-on to Internet Explorer.

Users have managed to get rid of the error by disabling or uninstalling the IE addons "DivX HiQ" and "DivX Web Player Beta". To manage addons in Internet Explorer, open the Tools menu and select Manage Add-ons, as described under How To Manage already Installed Add-ons on this page.

Reinstalling IE8 has also been reported to work.

Advanced topics »
The start.html file, which contains both the program and all your favorites, is in the folder you specified when you installed the program. By default, it's in a folder called The Favorite Start Page in the My Documents folder.
The html part is called the file extension. Windows hides file extensions by default, and that's why you see it as just start. If you want to see the extension, turn off Hide extensions for known file types in the View tab in Folder Options on the Tools menu in Windows Explorer or My Computer. SnapFiles has a nice animated illustration.
Basically, each user needs his or her own start.html file. If we are talking about different Windows users with different login names, then just run the installer once for each user.
The main design criterion for The Favorite Start Page was quick access to the favorites. This was accomplished with a local HTML file with the favorites spread out over the page so that many favorites are always visible. For the favorites which do not fit on the page, the goal was to be able to reach them as quickly as possible.

This led to navigation without mouse clicks, and with no horizontal movement when selecting sub-folders. Unfortunately, this means that it's not possible to show sub-folders hierarchically (sub-folder levels three and below are shown with slashes in the folder name), and the folders within a box also have to be sorted by size.

If folders within a box were not sorted by size, there would be a problem when browsing through the folders. When you move the mouse pointer down to select the folder below, then the folder which is currently open will close, and the folder below will open. However, closing a folder makes will hide all the links within the folder and as a result all the folders below will move up on the screen. If the folder below contains fewer links than the folder above it, then what will happen is that the mouse pointer will end up not within that folder, but either outside the box or over the title of another folder further down, which will open instead.

This a little regrettable, but I guess you can't have everything. Besides, you can always use the standard Internet Explorer Favorites menu in situations where you really miss those features. If you have any good suggestions on how to improve this mechanism then please let me know.

Open the help page and click on settings and enter for example 130% in the Box Width field.
Internet Explorer shows around 10% of the favorite icons in black or with other distortions. This happens when the icon file has a format that Internet Explorer does not like (even though it can display it in the Favorites menu). I don't know exactly why, but it usually happens when only the first few colors of the palette are set, and 90% of the palette is black. A few icons look fine in 16x16 pixels but look bad when scaled down.

Let's hope that a patch for Internet Explorer fixes this. Until then, hold down Ctrl and click a link to hide an ugly icon. Opera 7 displays the icons just fine, by the way.

The graphics cache makes icons and skin graphics load much quicker, and you do not have to be online to see them. Graphics files are downloaded the first time you build the page, and while that may take several minutes, it only happens once. By default, the graphics cache is in a folder called graphics below the folder where start.html is stored. You can turn the cache off or specify another location under settings on the help page.

Icons and skin images that fail to download will get a size of zero. If the Hide bad icons checkbox under settings is checked, icons that cannot be displayed properly will be hidden. The program will not attempt to download the same icon the next time. To try to download a bad icon again, unhide the icon by Ctrl-clicking the link and then rebuilding the page. To check for new versions of all icons, select Update graphics cache: rebuild when you rebuild the page.

If you accidentally move or delete the graphics cache, icons will be downloaded from the web instead, and everything should still work fine. If you put your start.html file on the internet, you can copy the graphics folder too if you want. This will make the icons download from your web server as opposed to the web server that each favorite refers to.

Short answer: Click sync and choose to export, select Set icon locations: cache and check the Replace existing favorites checkbox. Read on for a detailed discussion.

When you create a new favorite by selecting Add to Favorites in Internet Explorer, that favorite is stored as an Internet Shortcut file on your hard disk. At this moment, Internet Explorer does a check to see if it can find an icon for this file. If it finds an icon, it stores the icon location inside the Internet Shortcut file.

The Favorite Start Page reads these files when you build the page and stores all data within the start.html file, including the icon location. If the graphics cache is on, which is the default, the icons will be downloaded to a folder on your hard disk.

Icons in the graphics cache load very quickly whether you are online or offline. The icons that Internet Explorer uses, on the other hand, are cached individually and not always very successfully. You may find that deleting your Temporary Internet Files will make icons disappear from the Favorites list in Internet Explorer, but they will not disappear from the graphics cache of The Favorite Start Page.

So why not make Internet Explorer use those icons instead? Icons will load quickly and never disappear, and there could be a slight privacy benefit in that nobody can detect that you are viewing the favorite icon on their website every so often. To achieve this, click sync and select export, then select Set icon locations: cache and check the Replace existing favorites checkbox. An icon must exist in the graphics cache for the icon location to be modified.

Before version 1.53 of The Favorite Start Page, I used to recommend that you use FavOrg from PC Magazine (here is a link to an old, but free, version). Like The Favorite Start Page, FavOrg downloads the icon images to a folder on your hard disk and sets the icon location in your Internet Explorer favorites to that folder. FavOrg also has some additional features and can sometimes find new icons for your favorites.

One problem with FavOrg is that it cannot easily undo its own actions by resetting the icon location to the original web location. That will be a problem if you ever want to move your favorites to another computer. The Favorite Start Page, on the other hand, can undo its own actions: Click sync and select export, then select Set icon locations: web and check the Replace existing favorites checkbox.

The Favorite Start Page can even restore the changes that FavOrg has made — before you export, open the help page and the settings, click the graphics cache browse button and select the same folder that FavOrg uses for its icons. The option Set icon locations: web will modify the location from the currently selected graphics cache folder to the original location on the web.

If you have a lot of favorites it's a good idea to check for dead links once in a while. You can only do that manually with The Favorite Start Page, so I recommend the program AM-DeadLink by Martin Aignesberger. It is free, fast and easy to use, which makes it a lot better than similar programs I have seen.
There are at least three ways:

  1. Use The Favorite Start Page and make a copy of the start.html file when it contains all your favorites. To restore the favorites later, simply open the copy of start.html, click sync and select export.

  2. Use a zip program. Your Internet Explorer Favorites consist of one internet shortcut file per favorite. These files are stored in a folder called Favorites. You need to open that folder in Windows Explorer. Either find the shortcut to Windows Explorer under Accessories on the Windows Start menu, or click Start -> Run and type explorer and press Enter.

    On Windows 2000 and XP, the Favorites folder is usually located at C:\Documents and Settings\Your user name\Favorites, while on windows ME, 98 and 95, it is usually at C:\Windows\Favorites. Navigate to that folder with Windows Explorer and check that you recognize the names of your favorites. When you have found the Favorites folder, right click on it and choose to zip it.

  3. Do it the hard way, which is to copy all internet shortcut files themselves. Open the Favorites folder with Windows Explorer as described above. Click on the background next to an item in the Favorites folder to make sure the focus is on that window, and press the Ctrl key and keep it down while pressing first the A key and then the C key. This will select all items and mark them for copying.

    Now you need a place to put the copies of your favorites. I usually make a new folder on the desktop so I remember where it is. To do that, right click on the desktop and select New -> Folder. A new folder will appear, and you can for example call it “Favorites Backup”. Double-click the folder to open it and then hold down the Ctrl key while pressing the V key to copy all your favorites here.

    Verify that your favorites were actually copied by comparing with the original Favorites folder. The less comfortable you are with this backup operation, the closer you should check that the two folders actually contain the same items. When they do, you have a backup of your favorites.

    To restore those favorites later you have to repeat this backup process, except that this time you should copy from the folder called “Favorites Backup” and to the original Favorites folder.

You can see the number of users of a skin by holding the mouse pointer over one of the red popularity bars (the bar length is logarithmic, by the way). These counters were started on 2003-06-19. The number of users is updated in real time — if you rebuild the page with a new skin, that skin gets +1 users and your previous skin gets -1.

To be counted in those statistics, two factors must be unique: Your ip address and the date when the page was built the first time. Thus, if you are a dial-up user who has a new ip address every time you change skin, you will only be counted once because the page date does not change. Also, if you build “for the first time” many times from the same ip address, you will only be counted once because the ip address does not change.

This means that the number of users per skin will be too low in cases where people share one ip address. On the other hand, the number will be too high in cases where people have tried out the program on a computer but stopped using it there, although such entries will be discarded after a while.

These statistics are completely anonymous, and I have neither the desire nor the ability to collect any personal information whatsoever about users of The Favorite Start Page.

There could be a problem with you skin. Select the skin and click on comments below the skin table. Skins normally get verified very quickly, say in a day at most.
It is possible to link from The Favorite Start Page to a local folder or file. A local file is no problem, just open it in Internet Explorer and add it as a favorite, and then rebuilt the page. A local folder is also possible, and the trick is to make it an internet shortcut with extension .url, instead of the default folder shortcut with extension .lnk (usually you don't see the extension of shortcuts, but they are there). The easiest way is to use Internet Explorer to open a document inside the folder you want to link to, and then make a favorite to that file. For example, create a file called test.html inside the folder on your hard drive that you want to link to. Open it in Internet Explorer and add it as a favorite. Then, open the Favorites list and right-click on this favorite and choose Properties. In the field called URL you must now remove test.html from the end of the line. That favorite will then point to the folder you wanted instead of the file called test.html.
The Author »
Copyright 2003 Gudbrand Eggen. I have also made some other software.