I have used many browsers. Firefox. Safari. Chrome. Rekonq. Arora. Konqueror. Epiphany. Dillo. Right down to Lynx and friends. All of their pros and cons, and some are more suited to specific purposes. However I did find a mostly unloved and underpresented browser underneath the big three (Firefox, Safari, Chrome) – and that browser is Opera. Soon Opera became my browser of choice and (suprisingly) haven’t been able to find fault with it until now. I wanted to quickly share exactly what makes Opera special, and why you should consider switching to it in this post. I hope it’s informative for those interested in what’s up with browser alternatives.
Opera is fast.
Blazing fast. Speed is a touchy topic as different benchmarks give different results, and at the end of the day most users (but of course, most reading this are going to be power users, so it most definitely will include you!) are going to find minimal impact with their browsing – but all the same there is a clear point to be made: Opera is fast. You might’ve heard that Chrome is fast, Opera is just as fast, if not faster. If you’re on Firefox and feeling its age, this is something that might lighten your day. Opera even has a “Turbo” mode on slow connections which compresses your pages on the fly to make them load faster.
Opera is innovative and cutting edge.
Despite being closed source, Opera is suprisingly cutting edge. Countless times have they been ahead of the others in producing new innovations (tabbed browsing? Even Firefox’s new design and tab groups were first created by Opera) only to have other browsers copy it and remarket it a while later. You can feel free to use the latest alpha quality and chat with their very open community about bleeding edge updates and changes. A few examples off the top of my head are the integrated tab previews, reopen closed windows, inbuilt cloud tools which I will cover in a bit, and a very nifty UI, including a “fast forward” button which detects the “next” page on what you’re currently browsing.
Opera is feature-complete.
Although Opera also has Widgets (the equivalent of Firefox Addons), Opera is amazingly stuffed and crammed to the top with features already included. Don’t shout bloat yet, as these features are actually useful. Things like being able to completely reorganise your interface, built-in session control, note-taking, private tabs, address bar keywords, account manager, content-blocking, speed dial, tab/window undelete, mouse gestures (love it!), RSS reader, and even an email and IRC client are all builtin. Despite all of this, Opera still manages to load incredibly quickly and handle many tabs constantly (I use 30+ regularly) without slowdown. An even better “feature” is that if you don’t want to use all of this “bloat”, it hides itself away from you and you really won’t notice it’s there.
Opera embraces the cloud.
… and they do it the right way. Other than the previously mentioned Turbo mode which routes your traffic to other servers to compress them, Opera also comes with two very nifty cloud tools – Opera Link and Opera Unite. The former allows you to synchronise all your opera settings, speed dials, notes, history and bookmarks to an online service, and then retrieve it anywhere, or even on another Opera browser elsewhere. The latter, Unite, is an umbrella creation – a set of webapps (which you can add and remove even more available from their repo) which allow you to run your own cloud services and share files from your home computer. Things like web proxies (such as dyndns), web servers (just set a directory and you’re on your way!), photo sharing, and even music sharing where you can access your home music from anywhere through Opera. There is even a messaging service, as well as filesharing (and receiving) services to allow people to immediately upload and download from your home computer. These are dead simple to set up and use, have privacy options, and I must say … they are elegant.
Opera loves developers.
Finally, Opera is cross-platform.
Opera runs on pretty much everything. Windows, Mac and Linux are covered. Mobile devices have two options – Opera Mini and Opera Mobile, where Mini is a simple smartphone browser and Mobile is a more advanced browser. Windows Mobile is covered. Android – sure, Opera Mobile is getting released for it tomorrow, no problem. iPhone’s have got Opera Mini, and most other phones are covered with Opera Mini. They don’t hold out on their mobile releases either – they’re every bit as faster than the competition as their desktop counterpart is, and still stuffed with features – speed dial and their implementation of tabs are truly amazing.
Well, I hope that short article enlightened you to that in-the-corner browser Opera. If you haven’t tried it out or are feeling the creaks on your current browser, check out their latest beta today – you won’t regret it.