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Appreciating Opera August 12, 2006

Posted by Tim in Science/Tech.

Internet Explorer 7 is currently in beta and slated to be released next year with Windows Vista. Looking at the specs on it though you have to wonder if anyone is expected to be impressed with it. Its “new features” are more like “features-which-we-didn’t-think-of-but-we’ll-call-them-new”.

If you’ve used Opera, or Mozilla Firefox – and you really should have – you’ll be nodding your head right now. In fact you probably couldn’t imagine using Internet Explorer ever again, and silently scream when you have to work or surf away on another computer and it only has IE installed.

I used FF first, and then switched to Opera, and I must say Opera is a whole new experience altogether. Let me see:

Tabbed browsing

Alright, FF has this too; IE6 doesn’t, of course. Opera keeps a step ahead by giving you previews of the page when you mouse over the tab, and you can easily close, duplicate, and rearrange tabs on the fly.

FF and IE don’t have this. You can save all your currently open pages as a “Session” to be reopened later. Very handy, especially for all the blog-addicts out there who simply must visit their friends’ sites each day.

On top of this, upon closing Opera the pages you were viewing are saved as a session, and you have the option of resuming your browsing the next time you fire up Opera.

Opera Sessions
At work, it’s a huge, huge convenience to be able to simply close my browser at the end of the day and just head off. Seeing as doing programming usually means you have many references, tutorials, or documentation pages open at one time, this simple feature means you don’t have to painstakingly go through every page to see if there’s anything you need to bookmark; just Alt-F4, see you tomorrow. Even better, this “memorization” happens in real-time. If your computer crashes or you have a blackout, Opera will still be waiting with your pages while the Mozilla and IE users beside you scream and have to hunt down their pages again.

Trash Can
Automatically stores any page you’ve closed in the current session so you can reopen it easily. Not too big a deal, but still convenient and saves time wading through your History folder.

Mouse Gestures
The reason why I checked Opera out in the first place and still its best feature. Opera takes shortcut keys a step further, and focuses on letting you surf one-handed. Holding down the right mouse button and moving the mouse in certain directions let you perform common actions. Down-> Right for example closes a page; Down opens a link in the background; Up -> Down refreshes a page; -> Left simulates the “Back” feature; -> Right the “Forward feature”, and many more. And it’s all customizable to boot! Never again do you have to let that itch on your head go unscratched while surfing, because you can go “look-ma-one-hand!” with Opera.

Read more about gestures here.

Built-in Rss Viewer
Half of you out there may not know what RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feeds are. Sites which support RSS (they’ll have an icon like this: somewhere on the page) can send headlines or small excerpts of new articles or features to your RSS program. This saves a lot of surfing time – try it, and you’ll see.

Opera Feeds 2
With most browsers (including IE of course ), you need an external RSS program to get the feeds from your sites, with Opera it’s all built-in, so you just click on the RSS link on your site of choice and you’re set to receive headlines in an email-like interface.

Great transfer handling
You can resume/restart transfers like in Firefox, but even better, you can perform operations on the file right in the Transfer history window, i.e. copy, open, delete, extract, etc. IE6 has…zilch.

Customizable search
Customizable search
Most other browsers only allow you to specify a preferred search engine. Opera allows you to add and customize search settings. By default, typing “g [search term]” will search Google; “n [search term]”, Google News; “o [search term]”, Opera Support; etc. With a bit of fiddling you can get assign your own prefixes to search through any site – I’ve configured mine, for example, to use “w [search term]” to search Wikipedia and “l [search term]” to search LowYat.net.

Customizable popup-blocker
Popup Blocker
You can right click on any offending ad in a page, and choose “Block Content” to automatically block it. That’s not all, either – you can specify the blocking level, e.g. http://ads.ign.com/advertisers/*, http://ads.ign.com/*, http://*.googlesyndication.com. Mucho better than IE’s (very annoying) popup blocker.

Syntax-highlighted “View Source”!
Simply awesome feature. In FF and IE “View Source” leaves you with an unending block of text in Notepad, Opera highlights everything for you.

Sweating the small stuff
Opera Context menu
Double- or triple-clicking any text on a page automatically highlights the word/paragraph and a pop-up menu immediately appears with the option to look it up in the Dictionary or Encyclopedia, copy it, search for the term, or translate it. Instead of just a “Paste” option when you want to paste a link to the address bar, you can choose “Paste and Go”.

It’s fast!
The best thing of course is that Opera does all this fast. “Fastest browser on Earth” is its tagline, and it lives up to it. To be fair to Firefox, it is open-source, and many of these Opera features can be added with FF extensions. However the extensions are a hassle to download, and usually add processing time. Opera does it all out of the box, and in a blink. It uses less RAM as well.

IE doesn’t have the features, and is *still* slow. To give you a simple example, try creating a page that consists of a 1×1 or 1×2 pixel image (something like this: tiled across the entire screen.

Load it with IE, then load it with FF or Opera. Tell me how IE does.

There are a lot of features I haven’t covered – Opera’s customizable interface, page scaling, Widgets, Bookmarklets, built-in Bittorrent support, a better adherenece to standards than IE, better security – the list goes on. But come on, the download is only 4+ MB and it’s time to sleep…



1. No More Grape-ing!! « think it out* - June 27, 2007

[…] you read my earlier (gushing) review of Opera you’ll know it’s freaking easy to zap any offending ad (along with all similar ads) in […]

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