The Opera web browser has been around for a long while. Originally a shareware product, it went free a few years ago after raising enough money from purchases to become self-sustaining.
Since then, Opera have added a few more tools to its arsenal, including Unite, allowing you to share items directly from your computer, and Opera Turbo, which compresses pages on the way to you, to help make the most of slow connections. There’s also a nifty mobile version of Opera available as well, that incorporates the ducntionality from Opera Turbo to help you make the most of the sites that aren’t optimised for mobile.
But that’s not really Opera’s chief selling point. Yes, it’s a web browser, and really these days why should we care about browseres any more? Really the only thing that locks any of us into the browsers is the range of plugins that they support, and Google Chrome, Iron, Firefox and Internet Explorer are already ahead of Opera in those stakes.
Well, yes. Although Opera does come with some ad-blocking facilities built-in, of course, and with other capabilities that other browsers don’t, or require sophisticated plugins to achieve (referrer tracking has been able to be disabled in Opera since version 5, some seven years ago – and it’s something that even now Firefox is straining to achieve, although Internet Explorer is further down the road).
No, the main features of Opera are three fold. One is speed. It’s fast – blindingly so. Unfortunately this speed comes at the expense of memory – as I’m using a laptop with only 512MB, I was swapping heavily with a mere three tabs open (in Firefox I can comfortably work with up to ten, whereas in Internet Explorer it struggles to get beyond two). But speed wise, there’s really nothing to compare.
Two is “correctness”. Web devleopers and designers have long lauded Opera for its adherence to the standards. Generally speaking, if something works on Opera, then it’s right, and should work on IE and Firefox. In theory, of course: anyone seasoned will tell you that this is never the case…
The third is the features. Opera seems to be written twenty minutes into the future, and as such, there are always new facilities that other browsers haven’t yet got hold of. Opera even had its own sync tool before FoxMarks. (Sadly, of course, for those of us who like cross-browser synchronisation, there isn’t a vesion of FoxMarks available for it yet. But with FoxMarks having passed into the hands of new owners, maybe this will change soon.)
And, of course, Opera now own their own email services – FastMail – as well as the Opera blogging community, so it’s theperfect time to start looking at Opera and the facilities they offer.
Overall, I’d say Opera is almost a requirmeent for anyone who works seriously on the web. try it out – give it a spin. If sites don’t work – try masquerading as Firefox or Internet Explorer (an option avilable through the F12 “quick preferences” key) and you’ll be amazed how often those sites suddenly “start working”