I’ve always had a thing against Microsoft and their heavy, heavy applications, and Internet Explorer is no different. It takes ages to load, and running multiple windows can really start your system churning. Add to that the standard difficult to configure options and the lack of control over your information you’ve not got a poor browser indeed.
There are a number of others on the market, and recently the hype has turned to Firefox. What the people who shout it’s virtues on so many topics don’t realise is that these features are in Opera, and most have been for some time.
I’ve been using Opera for a long time now, both as a browser and news reader. I’ve steered clear of the mail since a test I carried out on a very early version. Plus my phone and Palm Pilot both sync with Outlook, so I keep mail separate.
However for browsing it is perfect. It loads very quickly and you can run multiple windows without any issue, and these can be run inside the main Opera window. This means one browser window showing in your Operating System, open that and within the application you will see all your separate browser windows. Much easier to handle and much cleaner.
It is also amazingly configurable. Want that information as a sidebar, or a topbar, or even a bottombar? Add or remove buttons to any of the toolbars, personalise the shortcut keys, even design an entirely new skin for it, or download someone else’s.
Plus, it’s free.
There is an excellent Panel system which I currently have sitting as a sidebar. It offers Searching, Bookmarks (including live feeds such as RSS, or even applications like Tetris!), Notes, Mail, News (including multiple feed types), Contacts, Chat, Transfers, Info, History, Links and Windows. All of which are themselves configurable and are actually useful, not just as nice addons.
The preferences offer a everything you would need to change and alter yourself, including a password and cookie manager. There is a drop down menu option for quick preferences, covering simple changes that a user might want to make immediately without opening the full preferences, searching, changing and applying.
There are some nice touches throughout the Opera applications like a simple zoom control, configurable search toolbar, spell check, import\export to multiple formats and control over single, multiple or all windows at once.
Downloads are extremely simple with the transfer system allowing multiple downloads to be monitored and managed from one point, not from multiple small pop up windows all over your desktop.
The best feature though is the ability to configure shortcuts and the mouse gestures. I can control Opera and the pages I’m browsing by simply pressing the right mouse button and making a shape with my mouse, e.g. “L” with the mouse button held closes a window, and these are also fully configurable.
Coming a close second is the restart option. Want to start from where you left off, browsing multiple pages? Simple, just choose the “continue from last time” option and you’re away. This is particularly useful after some annoying site crashes your browser (which I have to say happens way less than it does with IE.).
The whole application seems to have been created with real people in mind with simple and useful techniques to speed up the web experience as well as make a single portal for your Internet connection.
Without going into all the details of the browser, I would recommend it thoroughly. I’ve never used an application that shows such a high level of usability, and designed for users of all levels to access. Go and get it, and once you’re through any initial change of interface syndrome, you’ll love it.