The Opera Browser Revisited

Update: DrLaunch mentioned a good link which compares the Top 150 Firefox extensions to Opera’s widgets, here.

I’ve been a Firefox user for a long time. In fact, I think I was there from the very beginning, back when it was still called Phoenix (in alpha stage). It’s been my browser of preference for years and it’s most unlikely I’ll ever switch to anything else. Although, lately some issues with Firefox 2 have been cropping up, like frequent crashes under Windows Vista and lagging performance in Ubuntu (7.10). Naturally, let us not forget the memory leakage galore.

Opera

Why would someone still hang on to something like this? I guess I’m just set in my ways when about web browsing. And so are so many others with Internet Explorer, I reckon. Opera, on the other hand, has always triggered my curiosity. It’s seems so underexposed, while it does look like a solid piece of software. I’ve tried using it in the past, but dismissed it because of the embedded ads. Recently, the application was made ad-free, hoping to attract more users.

I’ve tested the latest stable build of Opera (version 9.24) on Ubuntu Gutsy Gibbon (7.10).

Installation

Opera Ubuntu Install 4

The nice thing about Ubuntu Linux is that it allows you to install applications from its central repository, excluding the need to look for an installer-file on the internet. If you wanted to do this, of course, you could. I just picked the easy way out and installed it via the Synaptic package manager. It didn’t take much to install Opera, of course, so it was up and running quickly.

At first glance

The compact layout of the UI leaves a lot of room for actual browsing and might give the wrong impression. Opera is an impressive browser and includes: tabbed browsing (Opera was the pioneer in the field), integrated search, extensions, bittorrent-support and many less significant – yet nice to have – features.

Slow AJAX. CPU hog?

Opera claims its browser is the fastest around, but frankly, I wasn’t able to measure any substantial difference. It didn’t load web pages significantly faster, nor did it slower. I did find it to run AJAX a heck of a lot slower than Firefox or even Internet Explorer. Flickr.com’s “Organize”-pages executed nastily slowly. In the end I close the whole shebang down and went back to Firefox in order to get my album organized on Flickr.

While the laptop I’m testing this on is fairly recent and decent (Dell XPS M1710 — September 2007), I started noticing heavy CPU loads (50% and more) after a few minutes for no apparent reason.
Customization

In contrast with Firefox’ infinite supply of extensions, Opera is gravely lacking. To remedy this, Opera put in the effort of implementing something called Widgets. Yes, like OS X’ and even Vista’s Gadgets — but tailored for web browsing. I’m not sure anyone needs even more gadgets, for I doubt their usefulness in the long run.

Widgets are the only means of customization and Opera’s Community site for Widgets offers counterparts to many of Firefox’ popular extensions. Yet, in my opinion, they’re lacking due to their form-factor: floating about on your desktop like.. widgets. Only at reduced window size would you be able to utilize the gadgets, for they would otherwise obstruct your view on what’s happening on the webpages. They just don’t seem to do what you’d expect them to.

Opera 11

The high resolution (1920 * 1200) on my screen enables me to scale down the browsing window and display widgets side-by-side. I’m pretty comfortable working this way, but I know many people prefer full-screen browsing or just aren’t equipped with enough screen real-estate. Bummer (I like Firefox’ extensions better).

Extra tab functionality (see figure above)

Apart from it being laden with keyboard shortcuts, it’s also got a nifty feature called the “Speed Dial”. It works like the similarly named function on a cellphone: assign a number to a certain site and use a keyboard shortcut to access it quickly in a new tab (mapped to CTRL+[number] by default). Neat.

Sadly enough, due to Opera’s crippled AJAX support, pre-fetching of websites is snail-paced (as seen in picture above). I couldn’t even get Google Reader to work from the speed dial.

Just the average browser after all

All in all, Opera’s Browser is a decent one that’ll do the job just like IE and Firefox will. While I must admit some issues may be Linux-based (I didn’t perform any tests on Windows), 50% CPU load for a mere browser is unacceptable to me. Don’t get me wrong though: I like Opera. I just can’t part with Firefox (yet?).

Opera is a power-user browser — to some extent. A real power user wants extensions, though.

Opera Website

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8 thoughts on “The Opera Browser Revisited

  1. I can’t remember having that much trouble with Opera before. I can’t remember AJAX being particularily slow in Opera. I don’t know about earlier versions but flickr’s organizer works like a charm and is pretty fast with Opera 9.50 Beta 2 build 1709 on Ubuntu 7.10 ( http://my.opera.com/desktopteam/ ). I don’t think the slowness is normal. Try asking in the Opera forums about it ( http://my.opera.com/community/forums/ ) . You can also get lots of help to tailor Opera to your needs there. You should also check out alternatives to the top 150 Firefox extensions in Opera: http://my.opera.com/Rijk/homes/blog/extensions.htmlIf the widget has a “rolled up”/minimized mode, right click it and select Always on top. Or leave it in your task bar and click it when you need it.Opera displays images in speed dial after it’s done loading the speed dial preview. If something starts loading after opera assumes the page is done loading, it’s not going to be updated in the preview image.

  2. I can’t remember having that much trouble with Opera before.I can’t remember AJAX being particularily slow in Opera. I don’t know about earlier versions but flickr’s organizer works like a charm and is pretty fast with Opera 9.50 Beta 2 build 1709 on Ubuntu 7.10 ( http://my.opera.com/desktopteam/ ). I don’t think the slowness is normal. Try asking in the Opera forums about it ( http://my.opera.com/community/forums/ ) . You can also get lots of help to tailor Opera to your needs there. You should also check out alternatives to the top 150 Firefox extensions in Opera: http://my.opera.com/Rijk/homes/blog/extensions.htmlIf the widget has a “rolled up”/minimized mode, right click it and select Always on top. Or leave it in your task bar and click it when you need it.Opera displays images in speed dial after it’s done loading the speed dial preview. If something starts loading after opera assumes the page is done loading, it’s not going to be updated in the preview image.

  3. I like the main principles of Opera and would like to use it as my main browser, since Firefox seems to be failing on me lately. But the version I tested (9.24) seemed to have quite some issues with Linux. I remember trying Opera under Windows some time ago and I didn’t bump into the aforementioned issues. Perhaps it had something to do with my setup, I’ll need to check up on that later.Thanks for the interesting link on extensions. It seems they’ve got most counterparts covered, but I still can’t seem to get over the way widgets work. Maybe it’s due the fact that I’m so used to the way Firefox’ extensions work. Maybe I just don’t like the way widgets float around.I could try the Beta version you’re referring to, as well. Thanks for your advice! I’ll be sure to report my findings back after having tested the latest beta version.

  4. I like the main principles of Opera and would like to use it as my main browser, since Firefox seems to be failing on me lately. But the version I tested (9.24) seemed to have quite some issues with Linux. I remember trying Opera under Windows some time ago and I didn’t bump into the aforementioned issues. Perhaps it had something to do with my setup, I’ll need to check up on that later.Thanks for the interesting link on extensions. It seems they’ve got most counterparts covered, but I still can’t seem to get over the way widgets work. Maybe it’s due the fact that I’m so used to the way Firefox’ extensions work. Maybe I just don’t like the way widgets float around.I could try the Beta version you’re referring to, as well. Thanks for your advice! I’ll be sure to report my findings back after having tested the latest beta version.

  5. I’ve been running Opera 9.24 on Ubuntu 7.10 for a while now. I’m not experiencing the lagging issues you’ve described, although I don’t use AJAX much that I’m aware of. My experience is that it’s been just as fast as Firefox, hasn’t demonstrated any memory leakage, and is running very nicely on an older system with 512MB RAM. Reviews I’ve read of the upcoming 9.25 update have been largely optimistic with regard to better memory usage and performance. Your Mileage May Vary, of course.

  6. I’ve been running Opera 9.24 on Ubuntu 7.10 for a while now. I’m not experiencing the lagging issues you’ve described, although I don’t use AJAX much that I’m aware of. My experience is that it’s been just as fast as Firefox, hasn’t demonstrated any memory leakage, and is running very nicely on an older system with 512MB RAM. Reviews I’ve read of the upcoming 9.25 update have been largely optimistic with regard to better memory usage and performance. Your Mileage May Vary, of course.

  7. “Widgets are the only means of customization”Although I don’t know what features were dropped from the Opera’s version for Ubuntu, Opera for Windows, is very customizable. Extensions are not the only mean by which something can be customized. There are skins(similar to Firefox themes), custom buttons that can add alot of functionality, ability to change all keyboard shortcuts(w/ interface), User Javascript (similar to Firefox’s Greasemonkey), ability to easily move/delete current buttons and toolbars, and Opera allows many of the files it comes with to be edited.I don’t actually consider Widgets as customization of Opera(they are mini applications that don’t directly affect Opera itself). I do consider the above as customization.

  8. “Widgets are the only means of customization”Although I don’t know what features were dropped from the Opera’s version for Ubuntu, Opera for Windows, is very customizable. Extensions are not the only mean by which something can be customized. There are skins(similar to Firefox themes), custom buttons that can add alot of functionality, ability to change all keyboard shortcuts(w/ interface), User Javascript (similar to Firefox’s Greasemonkey), ability to easily move/delete current buttons and toolbars, and Opera allows many of the files it comes with to be edited.I don’t actually consider Widgets as customization of Opera(they are mini applications that don’t directly affect Opera itself). I do consider the above as customization.

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