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.

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#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.