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.
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).
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.
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.
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.