On the PC, I’ve used Netscape, IE, Opera, Mozilla, Firefox in various versions – and some more browsers on other platforms. I’ve used all of them for months and years, but I’ve always come back to Opera, no matter how how different it has been in use from the others. Why?
I started out by trying AWeb, Voyager and iBrowse, and bought the latter one. (Yes, bought.) This was on the Amiga, so Netscape or IE were not an option in any case – but I did get used to pages that didn’t work, many times unnecessary. At work, there was IE3 and Netscape – I changed between both but used mostly Netscape. When I read about Opera – version 3 I believe – I had to try it, out of curiosity. It was… Different. I could open several browser windows inside the browser – reminded me of Windows 3 and how that worked.
I wasn’t totally sold on Opera, and switched between that and Netscape for a long time. It was nice though, that I could turn off support for frames in Opera – made it easy to check that the sites I made with frames (I had to) worked without frames support. And – well, there was something about the browser, but still – I must admit Netscape was used more often.
Time passed. Browsers were updated. The browser that introduced me to tabs as we know them today, was iBrowse (what year was that? I don’t remember.) I didn’t use Opera seriously until version 5 – at that time I had bought my own PC in addition to the Amiga, and could use the programs I wanted. And I downloaded the new browsers as they arrived, trying them out, replacing the older versions. But now, Opera was the favourite.
With each version, Opera just got better and better, while Netscape stopped being, and IE grew fat and stale. The new alternative Mozilla arrived, but didn’t offer me enough. It spawned Firefox, which is a very nice browser, but it still lacks the little extra that Opera has spoilt me with. And now when Opera 8 here, I’m a really spoilt child – I’m not satisfied with just anything; I crave for the best.
So far Opera 8 is the browser in that category. What is it Opera offer, that makes it the best?
It’s fast! Measured speed, perceived speed – none comes close. And when I’m visiting my parents and have to use a modem to get online, it’s so easy to turn off the graphics, preventing them from being downloaded. Perfect.
Being skinable is nice, and I’ve tried out many different ones. But one feature I learned to appreciate was the one that confused me at first, by looking so different from what I was used to: Everything is configurable. Adding and removing buttons, status bar, address field ans search field – rearranging the whole user interface just the way I want it – it’s so easy. And I can save the arrangements and quickly switch between them at any point.
The concept of having a start page sounds silly to me now – Opera start up where it left off when it was closed down. That way I can have my favourite pages up at any time, or a set of pages I’ve searched for and use for different projects. I can save and load these sessions. True, I can get most of the functionality with Firefox – but not as stable, not the same quality, it just is inferior to Opera in that way. (And I really tried Firefox, not touching Opera for half a year or so.)
I also enjoy the way Opera handles RSS and Atom feeds; being able to read the feeds or just glance through them all in one place, it’s quick and comfortable. I didn’t like Firefox’s way to do it. I’ve also tried separate programs for reading feeds, and using web based solutions. The latter never worked for me. Using a separate program for feed reading worked very nice, and I didn’t think I would abandon it in favour of Operas built in feed reader – but I did. Even though that program (FeedDemon, I think it was called) offer nice features I miss and would like to see in Opera. But having it in Opera makes it even easier to read them – in that I don’t have to switch to another program (I’m lazy ;-)) – and maybe easier to start reading/trying feeds at all?
I also download files from the net, and Opera is an often used sworn partner in these cases. Having a good download manager then is a must – and Opera just gives me just what I need, no fuss, no problems, no waiting. As soon as I say I want to download something, Opera starts downloading, without waiting for me to tell where I want it saved. Or I can use a quick download command, where a predefined place is downloaded to.
Bookmarks? Sure, every browser gives you that. Opera offer more, though. Opera gives you the notebook, where you can write notes, of course, but there’s more. If I find an interesting page, I can highlight some of the text, and use Copy to note. Not only does this gives you the text in the notebook – if you double click the note, it opens the page where you got it from. A perfect companion when you research, whether it is for school or recipes to try out. Or anything else, like writing down ideas you have when browsing (or reading mail, or feeds.) I appreciate this one much.
Some pages try too much to look nice, making it difficult to see the links. No problem – just open the links panel, where all the links on the page is listed nicely. It may also work for badly written menu scripts, that just doesn’t work. It’s a feature that has helped me.
Password manager? It’s a kind of magic… The wand works perfect for me. Click the wand and the fields are filled out – or it presents you with a choice if there’s more than one possibility (such as two different mail accounts?)
The personal information is nice, too – in the preferences you fill out the fields with the values you often use in forms – your name, web site, email, blog, whatever. When you have a form to fill out, right click in the fields to choose, or start typing and use the arrow keys to select among the suggestions that pop up. Easy and time saving – and you don’t have to worry about getting things correct. As long as you’ve written it correctly in the preferences, that is.
The mail client. Well – I haven’t really used that one. OK, I have set it up so I can use it when I’m visiting my parents, and it works very nice. I’ve also set it up here now, to use my gmail account with it. Will play around with it more, but it shouldn’t be too different from the web interface for gmail, which works nice. If I’m satisfied, maybe I switch from Eudora for mail.
There are of course many features I don’t use – many of them simply because I haven’t learned everything there is to learn yet. But one thing many people praise, is the mouse gestures. I don’t use them. Not because they’re bad – the reason is simple: I don’t use a mouse at all. Except for some games.
Those are the features I like the most with Opera, and the browser I look at as the most serious alternative – Firefox – just don’t offer me the same; not in quality, not in functionality.