This started as a quick evaluation of the Opera browser, to see if its a suitable candidate in my quest to replace Maxthon as my default browser… but it ended up being a lot longer, given that Opera is a lot more capable than I originally thought.
I’ve used it on the Nintendo Wii, my windows mobile “smart phone”, and on my XP PC. In each case, it seems Opera had customised the browser to suit its environment (which must have involved a huge amount of effort from the developers).
It passes my first test: the window border is the standard windows border width, which changes whenever the appropriate setting is changed in display properties.
The second test is its ability to be customised to suit my browsing style. Yep, I can add a pagerank “widget”… but its awkward to use… Maxthon had a plugin that automatically displayed pagerank and alexa rank whenever you visited a website…
Opera has a great and easy way of blocking adverts… just right-click somewhere on the page, select “block content”, then click on the ads you want to block… easy. I also added Flash Blocker, so I could also block any flash code, unless I specifically click on the flash logo to run it.
RSS feeds: it works (barely), but after installing the latest version of Opera (10.0), feeds work in a much easier way (there’s a feeds menu!)
If I type a URL in the address bar, I usually want it to open in a new tab (if I didn’t want the current tab, I would have closed it)… Instead, most browsers (Opera included) assume I want to move away from the currently active tab… wrong assumption, and I find it annoying. But I can get around it by entering the URL and then pressing ctrl-shift-Enter (instead of just the enter key)… unfortunately, the Enter key alone, cannot be “reprogrammed” to open a URL in a new tab 🙁
I soon discover that Opera can customise keys and mouse actions (tools -> preferences -> shortcuts)… But as you will see below, most actions I want to perform, cannot be done (or are not documented). The one nice thing I could program, was Ctrl right arrow, and ctrl left arrow to navigate the tabs.
I like to be able to double click to close a tab… But Opera cannot be configured to do this. The closest is to use ctrl-W … but that closes the currently active tab… not one I choose arbitrarily. And I hate closing tabs by playing “hit the target” with those small x’s. Note: after some more searching, I found that I can shift-click to close a tab… good enough for me.
I often find multiple links on a page, and I’d like to open them (each in a different tab), and then read through the content of each tabs I had opened:
This means when I right-click, then select “open in a new tab”, then I don’t want that new tab to “activate”, so that I can go and right-click on a few more links… but Opera (and many other browsers) like to make the new tab active… so then I need to go back to the previous tab, and then click on other links… time consuming, and I don’t like it.
But there is a workaround: Ctrl-Shift (left)Click will open a hyperlink without activating it, but again, this cannot be made the default behaviour for “open in a new tab” 🙁
Another nice feature of Opera 10.0: the undo button (its called “closed tabs”). This lets you re-open tabs that you might have (accidentally) closed recently. It would be nice if the history of closed tabs could survive a browser restart (the way Linux shell history does), but few applications seem to consider the simple task of maintaining a persistent “history” nowadays. Its often a case of “once the application shuts down, then erase all history”.
I like the built-in developer tools. For me, its very very useful in website development.
While editing this article, I noticed that Opera automatically detects text input boxes, then spellchecks words in the box, and underlines misspelt words. Right click on a misspelt word to correct it (or even to change the dictionary… its the UK dictionary for me!).
A minor omission is: no option to set Opera as the default browser… there is only an option to “check if opera is the default browser on startup”… which sometimes wouldn’t work… depending on what kind of startup options were selected (in my case: “continue saved sessions”).
A disappointment, is not being able to drag a highlighted url/link from a web page, and drop it into the tab bar, to open the link in a new tab. Maxthon has this feature really well organised (where you can just drag and drop it on the same page, and it still opens the URL in a different tab… very convenient!).
Another problem I’ve encountered (but it might be a google problem, rather than an Opera problem), is that I cannot login to gmail… but I can sidestep the problem by logging into google contacts, and then using the link at the top, to get to gmail.
After using Opera for about a week, I started noticing more websites that would not work. Most notable was Google Adwords… that website actually says: “We’re sorry, the new AdWords interface does not work with Opera”
I’d like to be able to create my own “favourites” toolbar, and place it next to the menu bar (to the right of the “help” menu), but but again, Opera is not that customisable. At least I can use the “personal bar” toolbar for my favourites/bookmarks, but not for widgets… Grrr.
Something in Operas favor, is its memory usage. It seems to have no memory “leaks”, and with 100 websites open, it doesn’t crash, and doesn’t seem to slow the computer much (obviously the slowdown you get depends on how much RAM you have… but Opera seems to use it more efficiently).
Maybe I’m expecting too much? Maybe I’m part of a minority of browser users who value function (and customisability) over form (like pretty buttons, colours, and “sexy” effects) ?
In summary: Opera has almost all the functionality I would want from a browser. Its the best browser I’ve evaluated so far… similar to Maxthon. The biggest disappointments were:
- A very limited number of widgets and plugins which might have allowed me to overcome the annoyances I encountered.
- Websites that just refuse to work with Opera (and I wasn’t interested making Opera “impersonate” another browser would solve the issue.
Next, I’ll take a look at firefox… does it deserve its huge popularity? Stay tuned…