Browser optimize

10 reasons why you should use the Opera browser

Despite its low profile, Opera offers a host of features that set it apart from the browser pack. According to Jack Wallen, Opera is fast and stable -- and it contains many features other browsers can't touch.

Despite its low profile, Opera offers a host of features that set it apart from the browser pack. According to Jack Wallen, Opera is fast and stable -- and it contains many features other browsers can't touch.


I have gone through many browsers in my lifetime of IT. From Lynx to Mosaic to Mozilla to Netscape to Firefox to Internet Explorer to Safari to Flock. But there's another browser that peeks its head in and out of that cycle -- Opera. Opera is a browser that gets little press in the battle for Internet supremacy. But it's a browser that is making huge waves in other arenas (Can you say "mobile"?) and is always a steady player in the browser market.

But why would you want to use a browser that gets little love in the market? I will give you 10 good reasons.

Note: This information is also available as a PDF download.

#1: Speed

It seems no matter how many leaps and bounds Firefox and Internet Explorer make, Opera is always able to render pages faster. In both cold and warm starts, Opera beats both Firefox and Internet explorer. We're not talking about a difference the naked eye is incapable of seeing. The speed difference is actually noticeable. So if you are a speed junky, and most of you are, you should be using Opera for this reason alone.

#2: Speed Dial

Speed Dial is one of those features that generally steals the show with browsers. It's basically a set of visual bookmarks on one page. To add a page to Speed Dial, you simply click on an empty slot in the Speed Dial page and enter the information.When you have a full page of Speed Dial bookmarks, you can quickly go to the page you want by clicking the related image. For even faster browsing, you can click the Ctrl + * key combination (Where * is the number 1-9 associated with your page as assigned in Speed Dial).

#3: Widgets

Opera Widgets are like Firefox extensions on steroids. Widgets are what the evolution of the Web is all about -- little Web-based applications you can run from inside (or, in some cases, outside) your browser. Some of the widgets are useful (such as the  Touch The Sky international weather applet) and some are just fun (such as the Sim Aquarium.) They are just as easy to install as Firefox extensions.

#4: Wand

Save form information and/or passwords with this handy tool. Every time you fill out a form or a password, the Wand will ask you if you want to save the information. When you save information (say a form), a yellow border will appear around the form. The next time you need to fill out that form, click on the Wand button or click Ctrl + Enter, and the information will automatically be filled out for you.

#5: Notes

Have you ever been browsing and wanted to take notes on a page or site (or about something totally unrelated to your Web browsing)? Opera comes complete with a small Notes application that allows you to jot down whatever you need to jot down. To access Note, click on the Tools menu and then click on Notes. The tool itself is incredibly simple to use and equally as handy.

#6: BitTorrent

Yes it is true, Opera has a built-in BitTorrent protocol. And the built-in BitTorrent client is simple to use: Click on a Torrent link, and a dialog will open asking you where you want to download the file. The Torrent client is enabled by default, so if your company doesn't allow Torrenting, you should probably disable this feature. Note: When downloading Torrents, you will continue to share content until you either stop the download or close the browser.

#7: Display modes

Another unique-to-Opera feature is its display modes, which allows you to quickly switch between Fit To Width and Full Screen mode. Fit To Width mode adjusts the page size to the available screen space while using flexible reformatting. Full Screen mode gives over the entire screen space to browsing. In this mode, you drop all menus and toolbars, leaving only context menus, mouse gestures, and keyboard shortcuts. The latter mode is especially good for smaller screens.

#8: Quick Preferences

The Quick Preferences menu is one of those features the power user will really appreciate. I am quite often using it to enable/disable various features, and not having to open up the Preferences window makes for a much quicker experience. From this menu, you can alter preferences for pop-ups, images, Java/JavaScript, plug-ins, cookies, and proxies. This is perfect when you are one of those users who block cookies all the time, until a site comes along where you want to enable cookies.

#9: Mouse Gestures

This feature tends to  bother most keyboard junkies (those who can't stand to move their fingers from the keyboard.) But Mouse Gestures is a built-in feature that applies certain actions to specific mouse movements (or actions). For example, you can go back a page by holding down the right mouse button and clicking the left mouse button. This is pretty handy on a laptop, where using the track pad can take more time than you probably want to spend on navigation. But even for those who prefer to keep their hands on the keys and not the mouse, the feature can still save time. Instead of having to get to the mouse, move the mouse to the toolbar, and click a button, you simply have to get your hands to the mouse and make the gesture for the action to take place. Of course, this does require the memorization of the gestures.

#10: Session saving

I love this feature. All too many times, I have needed to close a browser window but didn't want to lose a page. To keep from losing the page, I would keep a temporary bookmark file where I could house these bookmarks. But with Opera, that's history. If you have a page (or number of pages) you want to save, you just go to the File menu and then the Sessions submenu and click Save This Session. The next time you open Opera, the same tabs will open. You can also manage your saved sessions so that you can save multiple sessions and delete selected sessions.

The upshot

With just the above list, you can see how easily Opera separates itself from the rest of the crowd. It's a different beast in the Web browsing space. It's fast, stable, and cross platform, and it contains many features other browsers can't touch.

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

91 comments
r1zen187
r1zen187

Just a great browser overall, period.

yman25
yman25

Tabbed browsing, Quick Find, fraud protection, saved sessions, Speed Dial, notes and the trash make from Opera Browser, a browser more better than it was. Significant speed allow you to spend more time online. I installed it, it works very well and i got it from here: Opera Browser

ibrahimo
ibrahimo

I tried/used the following since they launched and til their latest beta: IE, Opera, Safari, Google Chrome, Firefox, Flock, K-Meleon, OCRA. And I can say the following: Either this article was written last year or this post is paid by Opera. The reasons and the way it is being stated is just so sad. At first I laughed thinking he was trying to actually joke and make fun of Opera. Anyway, Opera is good, I used it and still do. But to have a REAL alternative to IE and by only using one browser rather than 2 or 3, you should use Firefox, everything he stated here is available as an addon to firefox. I never use IE, so when I am facing a web page that has activex in it I open it using the addon IETab in Firefox, so it load it in firefox using IE. This is the simplest example to give. And the issue with it having Bittorent.. I actually hate that.. I rather have my bittorent software seperate...

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

The first think I noticed was I couldn't figure out how to get the focus to shift to a new tab when I middle-clicked a link. The second thing I noticed was that I didn't like the RSS utility as much as the RSS Feedbar plug-in for FF, and that I couldn't find a corresponding plug-in for Opera. The third thing I noticed is repeated proxy server login prompts, over a dozen at a time when I started the app. Fourth, it seemed to load TR slower than FF does. Fifth, it makes up for the above by uninstalling quickly. Maybe it fits the way the some of you surf, and that's great. It just didn't happen to fit my way of hitting the web.

natarpr
natarpr

Opera is my favorite browser and I have installed it on both my work and home computers. It was the best browser when I first used in in 1999 and remains the pack leader till date. Good article - great to see a neglected browser get its share of kudos.

kenney_yennek
kenney_yennek

Those features are all great. I've used opera quite a bit in the past and I agree with you but when you have to keep switching browsers to view web pages it becomes a painful experience. Like someone said already, this isn't necessarily a fault of operas, but its still something thats annoying enough to warrant using a different browser until web applications are more standards compliant.

mikifinaz1
mikifinaz1

They will screw it up like the other browsers.

james.hare
james.hare

I am another long-time Opera user - for at least four or five years. It seems quicker than IE v6, But I haven't used FF enough to compare. Speed Dial is nice, and I like the ability to have even more rows/columns than the default nine. The wand is great, mouse gestures save time, the panels on the left are nice, and the + and - zoom keys are a tremendous help. However, rogue web pages sometimes do not load correctly in Opera, and I HATE the fact that some sites check your browser and tell you that they only work right in IE and Firefox, when they seem to be just fine in Opera. Yes, I know you can configure Opera to announce that it's IE but that seems to just encourage them..

ellery-newcomer
ellery-newcomer

I have both FF and Opera on my laptop (fc8). Usually, I use FF because I like the benefits that come from the extensibility paradigm. Last I checked, Opera's widgets were relatively few in number. Also, Opera tends to be pickier than FF concerning the html, javascript, etc that it will display, which is an issue for general browsing. However, FF refuses to display java applets. Opera doesn't. Though I wasn't aware any speed difference. Guess I'll have to give Opera another look.

putrantos
putrantos

I was first introduced to Opera back in the late nineties, probably the earliest version of Opera browser. From then on I knew this is going to be "it". This is the browser that people should use. Unlike Firefox and IE, this is made-in-europe browser. Many people (probably or mostly American) keep saying that Firefox is the best etc etc. Yes Firefox is fast and good but not the fastest and not the best. Opera is simple and clear, and once you start using it, you get this wonderful feeling that the geeks at Opera are trying to deliver you the fastest and the best browser on earth to your machine. From 1 to 10, the reason I use Opera, because I feel comfortable and good when using Opera.

registracija
registracija

Have you ever tried to open facebook or linkedin in opera? This is such a big minus for opera. This sites are displayed normally in FF but in opera every now and then freezes. They have huge problems with flash.

chiragc
chiragc

Chirag gives Top 10 Reasons to Use Firefox 3

dallen-t_republic
dallen-t_republic

Opera's Personal Bar preceded Speed Dial, which IMO is redundant, and simply an option in Clt-N for a new tab. I can fit over 20 favorite urls invoked with a single click. Another nice feature is the easy left margin one-click instant toggling of the pane containing Bookmarks, Notes, History and more. Finally, my absolute favorite is the Zoom feature pioneered in Opera and still, by far, the easiest to use - just smack that fat + or just-above - key on the key pad and you can easily size things up or down which is great for instatnly blowing up photos or anything else (and a single press of - to return to 100%). IE - and later the other browsers eventually copied this; however, for the life of me, I dont understand why they inisted on requiring the Ctrl key be pressed simulatneously. My two "complaints" about Opera: it doesn't do as good a job as I would like in spoofing IE, and while it laudibaly adhere's to web standards, it does not anticipate the funky non-statndard IE features which many sites insist on using - an intentional MS 'feature - so one occasionally has to revert to IE for those instances. I have an open mind on browsers and have tried them all (*$k@* FF will commandier your OS causing all sorts of havoc) and I would switch in a heart-beat if something better came along; but so far it has not. Opera user for 6 years

kraterz
kraterz

You can browser without ever having to use the mouse, and in a very convenient way with single-key shortcuts (no Ctrl-Shift-Alt-something). This is the absolute killer feature that's kept me with opera since their 3.xx days.

the_pry
the_pry

make that 9 reasons, Opera's Bittorrent client is basically useless. I have disabled that "feature" and stick to my preferred Bittorrent client, utorrent

jeje
jeje

Firefox has all of those features and more. And it is owned by all of us by being open source.

OnTheRopes
OnTheRopes

Different complaints but I was pleased that I could get rid of it easy enough.

natarpr
natarpr

Opera is my favorite browser and I have installed it on both my work and home computers. It was the best browser when I first used in in 1999 and remains the pack leader till date. Good article - great to see a neglected browser get its share of kudos.

remus
remus

The most important thing about a browser is the security on microsoft platform (that why iExplorer is so bad, whatever the version). None of these 10 arguments relate what it should be the number 1 priority. So yes, OPERA WILL CRASH AS SOON IT WILL BECOME POPULAR or they have to change big times the way to promote the advantage because optimisation of the code is one thing and the internet connection, the computer itself is another thing that can play way more on the internet speed experience.

Ukitin
Ukitin

I open Shockwave.com in Opera and I NEVER had any problems. I also open neopets.com, youtube.com, *tube.com and many others. And I never had a problem. So I don't think it's applicable to everyone. Try re-installing or better yet try downloading a new copy of the installer then re-install :)

rhomp2002
rhomp2002

There are several web pages I use all the time and Opera just does not bring them up right at all. One group, an MLS listing group used by 3 realtor boards, will bring up the title at the top of the page but the whole body of the page is not rendered. In Firefox and Konqueror it comes up perfectly. Other than that I find Opera works very well. I also like the Opera Community pages where you get a form of social networking and a place to put photos you want to share where everybody can easily see them. Very nice option to see some fabulous photos.

eward
eward

I agree completely. The keyboard shortcuts are the best, I'm always frusterated when using another browser (*firefox*) that I have to hit three keys to move through my tabs. I also find it to be faster in my experience (though that's such a subjective matter, fanboys will alwys think their browser is faster.) The other things mentioned in this article are mostly fluff if ou ask me, though I do appreciate speed dial. PS- Voice Commands are availavle in the linux version too, if you know how to install them. I think theres an article in the Ubuntu wiki which details that.

tech10171968
tech10171968

You can also browse without even having to touch the keyboard, thanks to Opera's voice command capability. This feature is only in their Windows version (I think).

jeje
jeje

This is the only good argument I've ever heard for using Opera. Thanks man.

OnTheRopes
OnTheRopes

I'm just curious as to why you say that. Doesn't it work?

gppfraser
gppfraser

Many in the Technical field expect everything for free. I am tired of this model. Shouldn't companies be able to make a profit if they provide something of value. Usually what you get for free is what it is worth.

OnTheRopes
OnTheRopes

Being open source negate any of the features of Opera.

tech10171968
tech10171968

Yup, most of the beloved extensions in Firefox didn't come about until someone saw them in Opera first. Ever notice how, to match the feature set of an out-of-the-box Opera install, you have to install something like 12 or 13 extensions in FF (and Opera still has a smaller size than FF)? I'm not saying that Firefox is inferior; I'm just saying that Opera isn't quite as inferior as you make it out to be. In fact, Opera's PR problem kind of reminds me of Linux: most of the people really bashing it have either used it for a maximum of 5 minutes a few years ago, or haven't ever tried it at all.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Chrome lasted less than half a day; I looked at Opera for a couple. In it's defense, Chrome is a beta while Opera is a finished product. On the other hand, nothing from Google ever gets out of beta, so why bother?

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

someone who would public admit his browser doesn't have a problem loading neopets.com.

uberjew
uberjew

I agree, I have to open IE for some web pages that Opera won't display correctly. But the reason behind this is that Opera is less tolerant of non-standard web pages than IE or Firefox. Opera keeps up with the newest web standards and conforms to them. It is usually the web programmers fault, not Opera's.

tech10171968
tech10171968

He probably said that because the Bitttorrent client in Opera is a simple one, no frills. I've got it disabled in mine as well (Opera 9.60 beta 1) but only because I already use a seperate, full-featured Bittorrent application which does the job very nicely. It has a few (IMHO) "must have" features which aren't in Opera's client.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Just because some people chose to give their work away doesn't mean it's required. The open source model requires you to make the source code available, but you can chose to charge for an application if you desire.

wollombi
wollombi

I have to disagree on a couple of fronts: First, it quite possible to make a profit in the open source model. There are many ways to do this, but many companies opt to offer support packages (hint: closed source companies do this too). Crossover Office also sells their software while still complying with open source licensing. There are a number of ways to make a profit in this area and it is limited only by your imagination. Rejecting open source because you are tired of it, or "can't profit" off it is a cheap excuse for lazy. Second, there are many open source applications that offer better functionality than comparable closed software apps. This is not hype or a myth. That being said, there are still some closed programs that don't have viable alternatives yet, and I recognize that. It still doesn't diminish the quality of the ones that do exist. Personally and professionally, I am going to use or offer to clients what works best, regardless of if it is open or closed source, or whether I get a "cut" for selling it. Clients want a problem or need solved, not a software package, and personally I want what works best for my computing/data needs. If you are so down on open source because you don't think you can sell it (and you can in various situations), and would instead offer me something that profits you better but doesn't meet my or my company's needs, why would I do business with such a consultant? There are plenty of others out there with more integrity.

jeje
jeje

But sometimes new models appear. What a pity.

jeje
jeje

Even if you're not a programmer (I am), you will reap the benefits of avoiding vendor lock-in. If you don't think vendor lock-in is a problem, you haven't been around long enough.

tech10171968
tech10171968

More than half the people complaining about Opera not being open source aren't even programmers and couldn't even read (let alone understand) the source code in the first place; they just use the open source issue as a straw-man argument. So your question ("And if you don't program where's the advantage?") is a good one indeed; if you don't program then there's hardly any advantage in using one over the other.

wollombi
wollombi

I've read a lot for years about who was first between Opera and Firefox on various matters. My question is, "who cares?" I'm not really interested in furthering the Opera vs. Mozilla spat that seems to erupt periodically between the two organizations....I think it's pretty retarded. I used Opera for years, and eventually switched to Firefox. Opera was/is a great, fast, and capable browser in many ways. Why did I switch? At the time, there were still pages that Opera had problems rendering that FF handled without issue. For someone who wants to use IE as little as possible (i.e. never is ideal), this is a big deal. I also liked how FF is extensible. This is an idea that Opera seems to have decided not to embrace, and I respect that, but it's more of an iPhone approach to quality, where FF is more of a Linux approach. Beyond that, I don't like ads in my software. It's annoying, even when it's as minimal as in Opera (yes, I use gmail, but I mostly use client software to access it, so I don't see the ads, and FF has an extension that keeps them from displaying). To do that I purchased Opera, but had to keep purchasing every time a new version was released if I wanted the updated feature set without the ads. I mean, come on. I got tired of it and switched to Firefox, which has served me extremely well, and I have all the features I liked in Opera via a couple of extensions.

jeje
jeje

Software has always been inspired by other software. Otherwise I agree.

Ukitin
Ukitin

Yeah, it takes more courage admiting something, others don't like admitting :) OPERA USERS UNITE!!!

Ukitin
Ukitin

lol. You're right.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

We're back to the same old bone of contention. Should one use a browser that adheres to standards and pay the price of being unable to access non-compliant sites? Or should one compromise one's principles by using a non-compliant browser? Depends on how much it matters to you. Me, I'm going to use the tool that does the job best, regardless of whether that tool meets an arbitrary standard.

OnTheRopes
OnTheRopes

I don't use Bittorrent so I wouldn't know. I'll take your word for it.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

" 'Intelligence' is lame anyways, unless you can define it..." So is 'cool'. Maybe you'd care to define it for us. Can you be 'cool' if you have to tell people you are? While you're at it, maybe you can explain what shoes and shoemaker's have to do with this. I'm not intelligent enough to understand how they fit in this context. Thanks.

jeje
jeje

What have you written that is of such a superior intelligence that you feel you are in the position to judge me? "Intelligence" is lame anyways, unless you can define it, which you can not. Go back to your shoes old man.

The Truth
The Truth

..but nothing intelligent. Pity...

seanferd
seanferd

or how these features could cause a dependency. Any browser developer, or for that matter, an add-on developer, could switch to a paid model. OS integration with IE is, support for ActiveX, etc., is an entirely different ball game. While I'm not a big fan of the business models of some proprietary software houses, I think you overstate the risks of using a browser like Opera. Pardon the late reply.

OnTheRopes
OnTheRopes

I never considered that angle. You're right. Cloud-computing is the new in-thing to be considering.

wollombi
wollombi

@OTR - As more and more applications are becoming web-based (or "in the cloud", or Software As A Service, or whatever else one wishes to call it), browsers are becoming more and more important to both consumers and businesses. This is one of the things that has spurred Google (which offers a number of free and commercial services via the web) to create the Chrome browser in an attempt to spur more innovations in browsers in general. So, yes, in a way, browsers are quickly becoming "mission critical" in a sense, and will only continue to do so. That being said, Jeje's argument in this case makes little sense to me. If a company adheres to standards in their browser-accessed applications, then browser features would generally have little chance of becoming something that is depended on. In the rare cases that it might, open source has the advantage of the code being accessible and tweak-able by your company, but for most consumers this is a non-issue, and highly unlikely even in the corporate space with proper analysis and planning.

OnTheRopes
OnTheRopes

Excuse my ignorance but aren't we just talking about a browser and not a mission critical application? A browser is nothing more than a tool to browse the Internet correct? Some people get by just fine with only text based browsers. Feel free to use FF even though I consider it to be a slower tool. Just fine with me. The cost being equal I think I'll use what I consider to be the better tool. Curious, are all of your computers that you're responsible for using Linux or some other open-source OS? Are they using OpenOffice? What other open-source applications do you use to avoid vendor lock-in? Are you moving in a total open-source direction or is your only gripe about a free browser?

jeje
jeje

If you should start to depend on Opera-specific features, they may charge money for it, or more importantly, stop maintaining it in the future.

jeje
jeje

First I was all like "yesss", but now I feel all empty inside.

seanferd
seanferd

Give us a big ol' clue now.

OnTheRopes
OnTheRopes

I didn't feel like using Google to find information on it. Thank you for the link. Dragonfly looks pretty advanced to me but it would as I'm clueless. :)

tech10171968
tech10171968

This serves the same function as the Firebug extension for Firefox. In the most recent editions of Opera this has been replaced by Dragonfly (http://dev.opera.com/articles/view/introduction-to-opera-dragonfly/ ). In other words it's there for the end user to utilize when doing a bit of web development. Of course, "jeje" probably thinks it's some nefarious, hidden malware (but any 14-year old kid who can use Google could've figured this out on his own).

OnTheRopes
OnTheRopes

What about Tools\Advanced\Developer Tools? What's that all about?

jeje
jeje

Internet Explorer is also a free browser, you have no clue.

tech10171968
tech10171968

Opera's not ad-supported anymore, and hasn't been for at least two or three years now. The desktop client really is free as in beer. Otherwise, your point about licensing issues and EULA traps is a very valid one; it's just too bad that, by the time the average user realizes how important this is, it's usually way too late.

wollombi
wollombi

One advantage you miss with open source is the licensing limitations. While many home/average users don't really pay much attention to the licensing restrictions, corporations have little choice if they wish to cover their backsides legally - as an IT department manager you should have seen this immediately. Yes, Opera sidesteps this by offering a free, ad-supported version, but generally speaking this is a huge advantage - install it and use it where, when and how you like. Distribute it if you want. Put it on as many machines as you have need or desire to. This is what I view as the true advantage of FOSS for non-developer types.

OnTheRopes
OnTheRopes

There is no advantage to having open-source programs if you're not going to make beneficial changes to the source code. Just having it and doing nothing else with it besides using it removes any 'advantage' for programmers too.

AlanGeek
AlanGeek

Opera got rid of the ads in the free version years ago, I'm pretty certain well before Firefox came out.

jesusjones
jesusjones

Get back to work, you lazy bastard. This all goes to show that some people have way too much time on their hands.

tech10171968
tech10171968

Thanks, 1bn0. That was the exact reason I mentioned Opera's innovations; half the features now taken for granted in other browsers (and even ones provided via Firefox extensions) started with Opera first. It's as if everyone else in the field is waiting to see what comes out of Norway next so they may have a new feature for their own products.

jeje
jeje

Reasonably famous, but a person is a bad analogy for a piece of software in any case. What do you care if a feature you use every day was "first" or "famous"? Opera is a cool and innovative company though, I'll give you that.

1bn0
1bn0

Nobody really remembers or cares. The point you are missing is Opera has always been at the forefront of Brwser feature development. That is why they remain in business as a BROWSER development company. Can you name any others??? And no, Chrome is not the main business of Google. I have been using Opera for years. 5? 7? Don't remember. Every new MAJOR announcement by IE, FireFox or any other browser has been nothing but a big YAAWWNN! to those of us who have been benefiting from the daily use of the so called NEW features for a long time before they were adopted by the other browsers. As for Chrome. I am encouraged by what Google is trying to do. The design goals of Chrome are exactly what the "browsers" needs to advance beyond their current state. Finally some competition to encourage the Opera developers to new heights!