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||Opera v. 9.1|
by Kristy Borowik
26. february 2007
Overall, Opera is a great choice for someone looking for an alternative to Internet Explorer, or casual users of any browser.
When I think of Web browsers, Opera is usually fourth on the list behind Firefox, IE and Safari. It has all the major features of the other three, but for some reason hasn’t caught on like Firefox has, despite having many features available before Firefox exploded onto the browser scene. Like nearly all modern PC browsers, it is free (although versions for mobile devices must be purchased).
Opera's installation is simple, and it will import favorites from several other browsers: IE, Firefox, Netscape and Konqueror. As always you have the option of making Opera the default browser. Opera follows all of the common browser conventions, so if you’ve been using another browser for a while there’s essentially no learning curve for the basics. Opera also looks a little slicker than Firefox and has a much better button layout than IE7, with all the important buttons in the upper left hand corner right above the top of the Web page and tabs on their own bar above that. Buttons and toolbars can be customized if desired.
Opera 9.10 is the latest version, and the download site lists over 40 features, many of which don’t come standard in one or more of the big three browsers:
- Built-in BitTorrent client
- Content blocker that allows removal of ads and images
- Improved rich text editing
- Thumbnail preview for tabbed browsing
- Mouse gestures to control Opera using mouse movements like keyboard shortcuts
- Fast Forward guesses the most likely next page and pre-loads it
- Sessions allow saving of open tabs and restores previous tabs when Opera is restarted
- Quick preferences by hitting F12
- Notes that can be linked to Web sites
- Voice recognition and text-to-speech
- Trash can for viewing blocked pop-ups and closed tabs
- Opera mail client for handling email, news and RSS feeds
- Internet Relay Chat (IRC) for chatting and filesharing
- Small screen mode for previewing a site on a mobile device
Opera's features mostly worked as advertised, but there were a few that were better or worse than they sounded:
Mouse gestures – Since Web browsing is primarily a mouse-centric activity, the mouse gestures made one-handed navigation easier and faster than ever. Holding down the right mouse button opens up the most useful features – drag right to go back one page, left to go forward, down to open a new page, up and down to refresh and roll the scroll wheel to select a different tab.
RSS Reader – Reading news feeds in a mail reader is nothing huge, but having it built in to the browser and available in a tab is.
Thumbnail preview – Since Opera doesn’t scroll the tab bar by default, the thumbnail preview is great for smaller screens or for people who like to open lots of tabs.
Trash can – Retrieving blocked pop-ups wasn’t that interesting, but getting back accidentally closed tabs is really nice.
Integrated search – Unlike Firefox, you can’t type a phrase into the Address bar and get a Google search automatically. Anything prefixed with a ‘g’ (as in ‘g search phrase’) will work, but it should be easy to choose a default engine and ditch that annoying requirement.
Widgets – Fine for fun and games, but the security and Web development widgets were either hard to find or non-existent.
Rich text editing – Opera's works the same as Firefox’s but with no spell check.
Surfing with Opera is fast and easy, and it seemed to be on par with Firefox in terms of memory usage and start time. I discovered only a few rendering problems on some Microsoft sites but otherwise had no trouble viewing pages.
Opera supports some proprietary IE functions in addition to all widely-recognized browser standards, which puts it ahead of the other major browsers in terms of consistently displaying sites.
Overall, Opera is a great choice for someone looking for an alternative to Internet Explorer, or casual users of any browser. Firefox power users will probably get hung up on Address bar searching and lack of serious add-ons, but in other respects Opera has some smarter features and is better looking. Removing Opera is as easy as installing it, but once you try it, the uninstaller may be the last thing on your mind.
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