I’ve been an ardent fan of Opera since its release 6. It fascinated me at that time because it was the only browser at that time that featured tabbed browsing. It had a very technical interface at that time and even the most common websites looked ugly while viewing in Opera 6. But things improved with Opera 7. They made it nearly as good as Netscape and Mozilla. Further enhancements were made in Opera 7.5. Voice command and similar features were added in Opera 8. Support for RSS feeds was also added this time. This looked like the coolest browser on earth. It justified their claim of being the fastest browser in the world.
When Opera prompted me to update the browser, I promptly updated it and started using Opera 8.54. It supported some of the skins that were designed for Opera 6 and 7. I particularly liked a blue coloured skin that blended well with the background of my desktop. While I never liked the email client of Opera and always preferred Mozilla Thunderbird, its IRC chat client was reasonably good. Plus of course I loved its tabbed browsing technology.
Things have changed a lot ever since Opera 9 beta was released. For old timers like me, it comes as a big change from releases 7 and 8. What’s the difference between Opera 9 and its previous versions, one may ask? On the face of it, Opera has added two new components – the content advisor (similar to the one that is functional in IE) and a Bittorrent search and download client. While I can’t say anything about the capabilities of both since I hardly use bittorrent for downloading stuff or the content advisor to censor whatever I browser, I can still say that the overall features of Opera have taken a downturn. Let’s see how.
With the addition of these two new components, the browser has become a bit slower to load. For an average user it takes longer to open up. I do not know why. Opera 8.54 used up nearly 37MB of memory at a given time while release 9 beta uses just 16 MB of memory. Yet it takes longer to load. I am not sure why.
The new beta release does not support some of the older skins. I wrote above about the blue coloured skin (XP-Blue 2003) but it is not available for this release. They have also tried to make it more trendy and photogenic in the sense that some of the icons have been replaced with new, more colourful icons. For instance the blue coloured RSS logo that you used to see in the address bar of version 8.54 has been changed to orange, signifying a live bookmark akin to FireFox.
One thing that really pissed me off was that the version 9 beta release failed to import the RSS feeds, bookmarks and cookies from Opera 8.54 from my previous installation. I had to manually import them, rather set them up all by myself and it was a tedious process to fix up more than 20 plus RSS feeds in the new browser. Some bookmarks were indeed imported but it was not good enough. I had to set up the bookmarks manually too and even arrange them in the order I had kept in the older version. It was an hour long exercise that gave me a headache.
They have added a new component called Opera Widgets in this beta release. It is something that can be akin to the extensions that are easily downloadable in FireFox. It looks cool on screen and are implement able immediately on download but the downside is that these widgets cover the entire screen at a time and do not allow you to use the browser window behind it at the same time. That’s a big turn off for me.
Then they have also changed some of the keyboard shortcuts. I am one of those rare geeks who rely heavily on keyboard shortcuts. In fact I do not even touch the mouse except when I have to click on some links on a webpage. But their new shortcuts are totally messed up. For instance, Ctrl-N used to open a new tab in the old version but it opens a new window in Opera 9. To open a new tab, we have to use Ctrl-T which incidentally was the shortcut for saving a bookmark in the older version. To save a bookmark in Opera 9, you will now have to use Ctrl-D.
Another thing that I have noticed is that Opera 8.54 had its own installer while Opera 9 beta comes with the windows .msi installer. Whether this is good or bad, I really don’t know.
The most important thing about Opera is its speed. Opera works on an algorithm that downloads the text content of the webpage before the multimedia content. This is the secret of Opera’s speed and success. But I have noticed that their claim to fame has taken a beating in this release. I noticed that most of the web pages that I usually view were taking a longer time to download. The difference may have been marginal at times but at other times it was glaringly slow, despite the fact that I am using a broadband connection. I also noticed that the browser crashed sometimes when I opened multiple tabs, something that never occurred in its previous releases.
For the moment I have shifted my loyalties to FireFox. What is cool about firefox is the unending number of extensions available for it. Firefox takes the cake here because I can install the entire Google toolbar in it while I cannot add any plugin to Opera. Yes Opera does have its own search capabilities directly linked to Google, Yahoo, etc but the features of their toolbars cannot be exploited in Opera. Maybe Opera should work on this where firefox has gained substantial ground against it as well as IE.
Soon I will download IE7 and review it. Although I am sure that it will not even be close to the functionalities offered by FireFox and Opera but still let’s see what changes Microsoft has made in their browser.
© Crime Master Gogo