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A Firefox User’s Review of Opera 9.22 on Ubuntu

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.

23 replies on “A Firefox User’s Review of Opera 9.22 on Ubuntu”

I like Opera, but it’s not going to be my primary browser anytime soon for the same reason it’s not included in Ubuntu: it’s not free as in freedom. I only resort to non-free software when there are no suitable FLOSS options, and Firefox is a VERY good option (as is Konqueror, my second favourite browser, to which I might migrate someday).

I like Konqueror better than Opera, and preffer using Konqueror over Firefox on Kubuntu, as it has many of the features Opera has, integrates well, and Kicks Opera’s butt for rendering CSS and HTML running on Kubuntu. I should also state that I’m willing to use an inferior alternative to closed software if that’s all there is (although this is definitely not the case with Konqueror).

Something else that’s interesting that there has been talk that Epiphany might switch to using webkit (similar to KHTML). This means much faster rendering than Gecko, better Gnome integration, and something like Safari for Linux. This might be a better alternative for people who want a faster browsing experience than with Firefox. Personally, browsing speed makes absolutely no difference to me, unless the difference is actually perceivable by humans :).

Just a quick comment I wanted to add. There’s my two cents, don’t spend it all in one place :) (I have a strange sense of humor).

I play with Opera, being a web dev, many a day. In my opinion, it as a far better browser than Firefox. It’s snappy, solid, and lean. Yet, it doesn’t have the valuable extensions and there is no built-in spell checking.

I am so displeased with Firefox, and its inability to manage resources correctly, that I am currently looking at new options. Seamonkey seems to be a viable contender.

>”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.”

Or you can just middle-click (like in Firefox)

>”Every time I close a tab, it’ll keep returning to the one I’d left open for later.”

I actually like that, but I can see how it can be annoying to some people. When I want to do what you do, I just press the “2” key, which will cycle through my tabs, to the right (“1” to the left, and “4”, for previously opened tab)

>”Opera has an annoying system tray icon that won’t go away.”

Yes, it does, although it’s weird, because I remember in Windows, it would only appear if you minimized there (CTRL+H, which also works in Linux)

>”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.”

Before Opera 9, you couldn’t even add search engines “normally”, you had to either read something on how to edit the search.ini file, or use a program called “opsed” (now discontinued). I think that right clicking on the search box and choose “add search engine” works pretty well, but yeah, I agree that when they first launched this, they talked about it more, now they are kind of assuming you already now that from previous versions. (Nonetheless I still prefer the way opsed does it, so on the very very rare occasions, I just use it under wine and do it)

I personally don’t care for the e-mail client, the widgets nor the speed dial, but some tab features I can’t do without are
-It doesn’t matter how many tabs you have open, Opera will shrink them so you can see all of them, since I have always an enormous number of tabs open, I really like this (when I do this in Firefox, I’m always lost, looking for all the tabs)
-Whenever you open something new, Opera will always open it in a new tab, in the same window, I really hate when I click on something on Firefox, and it opens a new window, the idea of tabbed browsing, is that I don’t need more than one window opened if I don’t want to

Lastly, a feature you may or not like (I rarely remember it’s even there), if you put your cursor on top of a tab, and wait a second, you’ll be able to see a thumbnail of the whole page, without going over to it

On a final note, I’m not an Opera fan-boy or anything, I just got used to it while using Windows, because of features such as the “when restarting the browser, open my windows from last time” (Firefox lacked this feature then), among others. But I still use it pretty regularly when I just want to go to a single page (and use Opera to have all the pages I will come back to, later), or when I want to use the Screengrab! plugin, because although I really like how Opera saves pages as PDFs, sometimes I prefer just having a single image of it

Forgot one under “tab features I can’t do without”
The ability to reopen closed tabs, I really hate when I close a tab on Firefox (by mystake or not) and then I can’t recover it, because I got there coming from another website, so I don’t know the URL

>-Whenever you open something new, Opera will always open it >in a new tab, in the same window, I really hate when I >click on something on Firefox, and it opens a new window, >the idea of tabbed browsing, is that I don’t need more than >one window opened if I don’t want to

That’s Firefox’s default behavior too. For some reason, the Ubuntu build comes configured differently, but you can edit that in about:config

I know about middle-clicking. I just can’t do that with my laptop. So the Control-click thing actually matters.

As for the annoying Firefox behaviors, Tab Mix Plus pretty much takes care of everything for me. My two essential Firefox extensions are Tab Mix Plus and Adblock.

The system tray icon is useful… Often I just hide the browser instead of closing it, saves time and ressources…

As for QT-on-GTK, have you tried using the Tango theme for Opera?

Hiding for me means minimizing. Since I occasionally use IceWM instead of Gnome, I can minimize any application to the system tray, but I don’t like the application strong-arming me into having another system tray icon.

And I have tried the Tango theme for Opera. It still doesn’t feel right to me. Glad it works for a lot of other people, though.

I have to agree with you, ubuntucat. I occasionally go to Opera when I get fed up with Firefox. Don’t get me wrong, I love Firefox! However, I hate every memory leak it does. I have also analyzed the RAM usage in Opera. Looks the same.

I am excited for when FF 3.0 comes out. I looked up the planning for it and it said it would have a better way of organizing tabs. I’m all for that!

There is also something you left out of your summary. The look. I sorta like the smooth look of Opera better than Firefox.

Tabs also look… Nicer under Opera. Much more MDI-centric; might be a put-off to some people, but I like being able to cycle through my tabs with 1 and 2, split the window vertically/horizontally, hit 5 to shrink a tab halfway, etc.

One thing I really hate, though, but I don’t think its Opera’s fault, is the fact that when I run it with XMMS… Ugh. All the menus look choppy when I pass my mouse over them, messed up colours show up… Just horrible.

I thought you were a kubuntu user? I have been considering switching for various reasons. The tab thing drives me crazy in opera but it’s liveable. What I don’t like is that it doesn’t deal well with google homepage. Deal killer for me.

I’ve been a just about everything user at one point or another in Ubuntu-land.

I was a Kubuntu user around Breezy. Now I’m mainly a Ubuntu user (Gnome) and occasionally dabble in IceWM.

Actually, the fuss about Opera’s mouse gestures is for good reasons. You can do pretty much all your navigation without keyboard or icons in the GUI. For example, opening a new tab in the background:

On link, click down the rightside button and move mouse down and up.

In fact, once you get used to the mouse gestures, you’ll start missing them on any other application.

There are also solid mouse gestures extensions in FF. I don’t use gestures extensively but I use them to close/open and navigate left/right tabs with quick motions.

You fix the tray problem by running this in Ubuntu
opera -notrayicon %u

Best feature:
ctl – scroll up / down to zoom in out everything , pictures, text , videos etc

“The tab-closing behavior”

yea, its so annoying.
i’m sure many people who are used to tabs for a long time now like ot spawn many links in a search for results. its more efficient to go down a search list and spawn off potential interests and then systematically work through the spawned tabs to see which yields results. opera stupidly goes back to the original search tab like it assumes you only spawn one tab at a time:P you might as well just use two separate windows if you are gonna search like that. its inefficient.

To block just the images you want, hold shift and click on the image. When you click on an image without holding shift, Opera will block all images in that directory on the site. I wish it was the other way around.

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