For Linux distributions, Firefox seems to be the web browser of choice. It also is the most popular non-Internet Explorer web browser for Windows users. Sometimes people gripe about Firefox, though. It’s slow. It’s a RAM hog. It crashes.
Well, I hear a lot of hype about Opera (a closed source web browser that is W3C-compliant), and I thought I’d give it a go. Here’s what I found.
What I like in Opera:
- It’s fast, undeniably much faster than Firefox in initial load, in page rendering, in browsing back to previous pages.
- Cookie management is better. I like the ability (as in Galeon and Konqueror, too) to accept or reject every cookie as it comes and make decisions about sites to blacklist or whitelist as I’m visiting those sites.
- I like having an integrated email client and web browser. And Opera’s email client also has a universal inbox (like Mac OS X’s Mail and unlike Thunderbird), which is a great thing for people like me who have four or five accounts we check regularly.
- Key letter searches. I love the “I’m Feeling Lucky” search in Firefox, but it’s also cool to be able to do searches with key letters. That way, I can do multiple searches from the address bar without needing to have a separate seach window with a whole bunch of search engine icons to scroll through.
- Theme installation and preview is easier. I can install themes and see how they look without restarting the web browser.
As you can see, Opera has a lot going for it.
What I’m lukewarm about in Opera
Some features may appeal to others, but they didn’t mean much to me—Speed Dial and Widgets, for example. I don’t dislike those features, but I’m not impressed by them either. Speed Dial offers me nothing over bookmarks, and widgets just confuse me, since they are not like extensions. They appear to exist outside the browser. And some people make a big deal about mouse gestures. I tried them once, and I don’t see what the hoopla’s about.
What I dislike in Opera:
- I’m now a Gnome user, and Opera is a QT application and doesn’t integrate well. And, even though it is a QT app, it still suffers from the same inability to preview images in the file upload dialogue that Firefox suffers from.
- The tab-closing behavior doesn’t jive with my browsing method. I often keep a link open that I’ll get back to later, and I open other links and browse those. In Firefox, I can do this. In Opera, I can’t. Every time I close a tab, it’ll keep returning to the one I’d left open for later. And, yes, I’ve tried all the different options.
- Opera has an annoying system tray icon that won’t go away.
- If I do Control-click in Firefox, the link will open in a new tab in the background. In order to get the link to open in a new tab in the background in Opera, I have to Control-Shift-click. Since opening tabs in the background is something I do quite often, the need for this extra keystroke is annoying.
- The built-in image blocker doesn’t allow you to block certain images. Not a big deal, since it gets most images, but I like the control of being able to block any image on the page, not just the ones Opera considers block-worthy.
- Even though I like the email client, I don’t like the way it’s visually integrated into Opera. I would love to have a tab that’s the full email client, including the list of mail folders. The way it is now, Opera includes the list of mail folders as part of the web browser sidebar. So if you have that sidebar open, it’ll be open for every tab you look at. And if you close the sidebar to get rid of the annoying sidebar icons, you also end up closing the folder list.
- I like the search by key letter function, but adding search engines isn’t intuitive. I had to do a search to find out how to do it.
My verdict: It’s pretty good, but I think I’ll stick with Firefox. It has more to do with personal habits than actual empirical deficiencies, but personal habits matter. After all, I’m the one using the web browser, so it should fit my needs. If I ever were to move away from Firefox, I think Seamonkey might be more to my liking than Opera. But if you’ve ever been curious about Opera, there hasn’t been a better time to try it. It is loaded with features.