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Why I love Opera

The Opera mascot: The Puffin.

Motivation

Why this post? Well, after Firefox 1.0 was released two weeks ago there was a real hype about it. That’s actually good since it sharpens awareness on the need for good standard support (which Firefox surely provides in a more general way than damned Internet Explorer ever will), security and less vulnerability.

I fear, though, that in all that hype another great browser will be somewhat overseen. .

Having compared Firefox’s press-release features with Opera’s it’s now time to tell you why I love Opera and why I am sure it’s the best browser currently available.

For this purpose I’ve collected a list of features. If you feel overwhelmed or confused by all this – never mind – Opera will take good care of you by default.

Mouse gestures

Soon after having installed Opera for the first time I stumbled over mouse gestures. This is a very convenient feature: Press the right mouse button and drag your mouse around to perform differntiated actions. E.g. drag your mouse down and to the left to close the current tab. Move your mouse to a link, press the right button and move your mouse down and up to open that page in another tab. Move back in history by pressing and moving to the left. Move foreward by pressing and moving to the right. Etc..

As almost every thing in Opera mouse gestures are customizable, too. You could even put several commands into a single gesture.

Opera seems to have been the first browser implementing this feature and grew to be the best implementation.

I sometimes find myself doing mouse gestures in other applications which most of the times don’t support them. What a pity.

Fast

I’ve never run a comparison between Opera and some other browser myself, I have to admit. But Opera provides several options that surely provide some possibilities in improving speed. There are namely the network-settings (how many connections overall, to a single server) and caching-options (RAM, harddisk, frequency of checking for changes in documents).

Over at BenchJS one could test the JavaScript-performance of one’s browser. There’s a summary on the results of all the testers. Opera fills the top 10. Alone. The average duration of a test-run with Opera (7.6x) is 11 secs. It’s 25 secs with Firefox (1.x). And 32 with IE (6.x). Gotcha.

Presto, Opera’s rendering engine, is designed to display the text of a page as soon as possible. You can test this behavior on Browser Content Load-Time Example. I’ve got 6000ms for IE 6.0, 5000ms for Firefox 1.0 and 350ms for Opera 7.54. Thanks.

It’s possible to switch off the display of images to speed up page loading even more. It’s very fast to brows in pages already cached, i.e. moving forth and back in the history is quite quick.

Surely users connecting to the internet via a modem must like these features. Surfing the with fast connection lines and Opera is just like riding a flash.

Opera is by far the quickest browser on Windows, leaving Explorer and Mozilla to eat its dust.

Peter-Paul Koch @ quirksmode.org

High features-to-size ratio

Pardon? What I mean is that Opera is a browser suite with lots of features. It got mail (you too? ;-)), it got a RSS-aggregator, it got mouse-gestures, it got a chat-client. Everything is shipped in – guess! – only 3.5 megs. Note that Firefox as a barebone browser (no mail, no chat, most features included in separately downloadabe extensions) weights 4.5 megs. Period.

To me this is a sure sign that Opera is very well coded. This is craftsmanship.

Customizable

I’ve already mentioned that mouse gestures could be customized. But it does not stop there. To begin with the ’simple‘ things: There are currently 73 skins for the latest main version of Opera. I’ve counted around 180 in total. My favorite is some version of Breeze since this would give maximum screen real estate.

You can create your own keyboard-mapping quite comfortable. You can customize the toolbars by simply dragging and dropping buttons and some such things. There are many hardcore customizer out there that put up their customizations publically that go much deeper. E.g. there’s the WebDevToolbar that adds very handy entries to the toolbar. You can drag buttons from webpages to your toolbar, too. There’s webBMs and Miscellaneous Bookmarklets providing some interesting functionality.

You can change Opera’s appearence with CSS-Stylesheets (called User Stylesheets). That’s quite convenient for people with web-development experience since CSS get’s used widely on the web. Moose over at literarymoose.info has a bunch of these stylesheets.

I almost forgot: You can swap in shipped-with stylesheets by hitting some menu-entry. These are in contrast to the author-stylesheets, the ones the designer of the site intended her site to be displayed with, and override those. You can make a site look like some C64 screen shot. Or you can hide all the tables. Or you can increase contrast. Or you can mix these. And much more.

Tweak by Rijk is a blog theming – well – tweaks for Opera. Rijk also maintaines a site: Customizing Opera. The Opera7Wiki by Nontroppo has also lots of useful tipps and hints.

Quick preferences

Through F12 a pop-up menu is accessible which let’s you quickly change some (customizable) settings. Popup-Blocking can be controlled here. Java, JavaScript, Plugins, animated gifs, sounds, cookies, referrer logging and proxies can be switched on and off here, too.
I use this mainly for enabling or disabling JavaScript and Sounds (some webpages are quite bugging).

Zoom

Speaking of contrast. Some people with visual impairment might like the possibility to zoom into a page. Sometimes this is quite handy when a designer overdid and made his font 8px high.

Automatic reload

You can Opera command to reload a page on a regular basis. This is handy if you want to stay in touch with frequent changes but don’t want to reload the page by hand. Frankly: If you are lazy. Right-click the page. The ‚reload every‘-entry in the context-menu will give you the options.

Bookmarks

One can add a description to a bookmark. But even better: One can add a nickname to a bookmark. Entering that nickname in the adress-field will open that page. One can even give a nickname to a folder. This will open all the pages in the folder. E.g. I have a folder nicknamed go which will open all the Go-server I regularly visit.

Hit SHIFT + F2 for an input-field that waits for a nichname and opens the according page.

Search

One can perform a quick search or an inline search on a page by hitting . and typing the text to search for. Hitting , will search through the links in a page.

One can quick search the bookmarks, content and subject of emails.

With the Opera Search.ini Editor (aka Opsed) you can conveniently add ’nicknames‘ to searches. Opera maps by default g to google. So typing g Opera customization into the address-bar will open a search with google on these keywords.

I’ve edited my installation with this editor. e is mapped to leo.dict.org, typing e customization will open up the results for how to translate ‚customization‘ into german. w is mapped to wikipedia.org, so w konrad zuse will open up the entry for Konrad Zuse on wikipedia.

I think you’ve got the idea.

Standards compliancy

As tantalized web-developer I’ve found Opera’s support of Web-Standards supperior. It implements almost all CSS of version 2 and most of version 2.1. It supports real XHTML – sent as application/xhtml+xml, full ECMAScript and most of DOM. More on Web Specifications Supported in Opera 7.

Advanced Download-Manager

Opera has a download-manager built in. You can pause downloads and resume them again. If you cannot download a file in one session simply resume downloading in your next (if the remote server allows).

Opera starts downloading a file at once. So even while you are busy choosing a place for the file to be saved to, Opera already downloads that file. Smaller downloads are already finished when a new home is found.

Tabbed browsing

First: What’s so cool about tabbed browsing? It does not clutter the taskbar. You have 40 pages open. Only one instance of Opera (or Firefox for that matter) show up on the taskbar.

To my knowledge the guys from Opera had that feature in their browser first, too. It’s a bit different to the tabs in Firefox. In Opera the tabs are references to full windows. This has some advantages. If you close a tab you could get it back by hitting CTRL + z. Actually you can get back any number of closed tabs that way. These tabs will have their history restored, too.

With Opera’s way of doing tabbed browsing it is possible to maximize or minimaze single tabs. Firefox won’t do that. This makes the difference quite clear. In Opera tabs are windows in a window. In Firefox it’s – ehm – tabs.

That’s the interface mode I prefer and got accustomed to. In the latest version 7.60 there are several other options: one could disable tabbing (sometimes called MDI) all together. Or have tabbing similar to the one from Firefox.

There is much more on Opera’s MDI over at Day Eight: Windows Panel.
A glimpse on the power of tabbed browsing can be obtained over at On blogging technique and better tabbed browsing

Sessions

Ok, you’ve got lot’s of tabs open but not the time to read them all in one session. No problem. After telling Opera to continue from last time you can close Opera with all the unread tabs open. The next time you start Opera all those tabs will be opened again. Their history restored. This makes bookmarking pages ‚almost‘ unnecessary.

You could have several such settings, save them and restore them selectively.

M2 – Opera’s mail-client

That mail-client is one of the most convenient clients I’ve ever used (there were Pegasus, Eudora, Outlook and Netscape’s old mail client (in reverse order)).

What I like most with M2 is it’s powerful filtering, it’s spam-control and the fast search.

There are two ways filters can be set up. First, one can filter by defining rules manually. This is what every good mail-client allows. The other possibility is to use learning filters. The filter learns by adding and removing mails from it. In the same way the spam-filter can be learned. Together with the spam-filter of my mail-provider (GMX), this hardly let’s spam get through to my unread-view.

View – another interesting concept used in M2. Instead of copying a mail to appear in different folders the mail is physically present with one instance only. Adding this mail to another (additional) folder opens up another view (so to speak) on that instance but does not copy it actually. This keeps space needed for storage ‚low‘.

It’s possible to quick search (’search as you type‘) your emails (body, header). Which is quite fast.

Oh, and you can put labels on emails. There is a folder for each label. So maybe you label an email ‚mail back‘ or ‚important‘ or ‚funny‘. Additionally to that mails are filtered automatically according to the types of attachment they’ve got. Remember the views? A single email can be in several folders. So maybe I label an email as ‚important‘ additionally to M2 adding it to the ‚image attached‘-view. So that mail is now in three folders: ‚received‘, ‚important‘ and ‚image‘.

Maybe this sounds complicated. But it is actually not. Mark Schenk has put up a nice and in depth tutorial on M2. A quick and short introduction can be found at Opera’s site Opera Mail – A Smarter Approach To E-mail.

Built-in RSS-aggregator

Starting with some 7.x version Opera included a RSS-aggregator. Now that’s really cool. You can subsribe to feeds and have Opera pull new entries every 5 minutes, every 30, hour, and so on. Simply click one of those RSS-links or buttons that are so wide-spread nowadays. Sometimes the feed is not recognized immediately. Hit F5 to let Opera know what you want. 😉

Unlike Firefox’s Live Bookmarks Opera pulls all the text in the feed. So you can browse the text first and decide whether it’s worthwhile to visit the page. I do that a lot. After I decided to have a look at an entry’s web-page I use a mouse gesture (the down and up thing) on the link that is most of the times provided with the textual representation of a feed to load it in the background in a new tab.

By default each feed gets an own view (did I mention that the aggregator is bundled with M2). If you want to have all the feeds collected in a single view – I found this to be quite handy – you can do so.
Set up a filter with a rule that filters rss.opera.com on any header field. Done. I use this to quickly scan the latest entries and open those I am interested in in separate tabs.

With the new version 7.60 of Opera a small icon will be displayed for pages that provide RSS-feeds. Clicking it opens the options for subscription.

Some information on this feature can be found at RSS Newsfeeds In Opera Mail.

If you don’t want RSS and M2 or you want to use M2 but not Opera – no problem – you can separate the two. Hugin and Munin explains how. Simple.
Munin is to Hugin what Firefox is to Thunderbird. It’s that easy. 😉

Ad blocking

I’ve already described this there – heck, I like Purple Numbers. 😉

Security

The guys at Opera’s try to fix security problems as soon as possible (in contrast to Microsoft). It also provides much less possible vulnerabilities innately. E.g. Opera does not support ActiveX which is one of the main security leaks in IE.

Opera provides a wealth of options to control the handling of cookies, security protocols and certificates. There is much more over at Opera and Security.

To anyone concerned with security in the information society, Bruce Schneier might (should?) be a name heard. He is author of Applied Cryptography, The Electronic Privacy Papers, and Secrets and Lies amongst other books.
Here’s what he has to say about Opera:

These days, it’s anything but Internet Explorer. It’s less a matter of security features, and more the lack of insecurity features. Personally, I use Opera. I like the fact that it seems to be designed with the best interests of the user in mind, and not the best interests of large corporate websites.

Bruce Schneier @ schneier.com

Wand password manager

On sites requiring identification it is sometimes handy to let the browser remember the password for you. Once entered Opera asks whether it should remember that password for this page, for the whole server or not at all. If it is allowed to remember, hitting CTRL + ENTER at the next login-request will enter username and password automatically and advance to the next page.
The existence of a password for the current server/page is indicated by a small icon in Opera’s toolbar. Hit CTRL + ENTER to use that password for login.

You can secure these passwords by setting a master password. Overall the password-encryption used by Opera is quite good (168bit 3-DES encryption) even without using a master passerword. Find more here.

Day Nineteen: Wand Magic will give some further, visual, information on that feature.

Supporting web-development

I’ve already mentioned the customized toolbars and menues. But Opera has more for supporting web-developers.

It’s very easy to debug JavaScript. Usually one uses alerts to output some value. This will break the flow of the script. Sometimes this might even break the script (e.g. when working with click-events), making debugging useless. You can use the function opera.postError to display some value or message in the JavaScript console. Et voila.

You can validate your markup by hitting CTRL + ALT + v. This will send the current page to validator.w3.org for online-validation.

Things not covered here

  • Spatial navigation – navigate links on a page according to their placement on the page, not in the document.
  • Voice – command your browser by speaking to it. Nifty. There’s a funny story on the new voice feature over at A Word of Caution.
  • Personal information – let Opera automatically fill in forms for you.
  • Small screen and full screen modes.
  • Panels – quick access to pages.
  • Fast Forward – let Opera find your way.
  • Delete private data
  • Opera Show – like PowerPoint. Just better. 😉 Hit F11. E.g. here.
  • Print preview by p. I’ll have to admit – printing is a bit buggy in Opera.
  • Browser spoofing – let the server think you are surfing IE. Or Mozilla. Why? Some pages are badly crafted.
  • Certainly quite a bunch more.

In the end…

Excuse my enthusiasm. I actually wanted to write a short introduction. I got carried away and still did not cover everything. There are other sites out there – some linked above – that take care of other aspects of Opera. Or in more depth.

Have fun with simply the best internet experience.

{ 8 } Comments

  1. Martin | 2004/12/13 at 03:07 | Permalink

    The URI for the German-English Dictionary is „http://dict.leo.org/“ and NOT „http://leo.dict.org“
    Otherwise: great article, agreeing 99.5% (the other 0.5 are the wrong link to LEO 🙂 )

  2. Spinal | 2004/12/21 at 10:44 | Permalink

    Great article, Opera certainly is the best internet experience 🙂

  3. saralk | 2005/1/17 at 12:24 | Permalink

    if you get breeze simplified, you can save even more space 🙂
    And is it just me, or is gmail a complete ripoff of m2?

  4. Steffen | 2005/1/17 at 12:31 | Permalink

    Hello saralk,

    actually I am using Breeze Simplified Micro 😉

    Don’t know about gmail – don’t have an account there…

  5. knobitobi | 2009/8/20 at 11:01 | Permalink

    amen to that 😀

  6. http://blogster.com/ | 2013/6/3 at 05:11 | Permalink

    Hey there would you mind stating which blog platform you’re working with? I’m
    planning to start my own blog in the near future but I’m having a hard time choosing between BlogEngine/Wordpress/B2evolution and Drupal. The reason I ask is because your design and style seems different then most blogs and I’m looking
    for something unique. P.S My apologies for being off-topic but I had to ask!

  7. Steffen | 2013/6/4 at 07:06 | Permalink

    Hi blogster, it’s WordPress with own modifications.

  8. Http://www. | 2013/7/26 at 04:31 | Permalink

    Pretty nice post. I simply stumbled upon your weblog and wanted to say that I’ve really loved surfing around your blog posts. In any case I will be subscribing to your feed and I hope you write again soon!

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