Opera is the third most popular browser in use at the time of writing1, the latest versions comes with an e-mail client & a news reader; it is available for machines using MS Windows, BEOS, MAC OS, LINUX, Solaris, QNX, OS/2 and Symbian OS. It is almost unique these days in being a paid for browser unlike its free competition (although a ‘free’ advert supported mode is available for some of the operating systems supported). Opera also has an intensely loyal following2.
How, Where, Why ?
It all started back in 1994 when Jon S. von Tetzchner and Geir Ivarsøy were commissioned by Norwegian telecommunications company Telenor to develop a Web browser, in 1995 they left Telenor takeing the project with them & set up Opera Software ASA in Norway.
In 1996 the Opera 2.1 (the first public release) for MS Windows is made available as shareware over the internet, in 1998 Opera 3 is released going on to win several awards, work is also started on porting Opera to other Operating Systems.
By 1999 browsers that supported HTML 4 were becoming the norm & Opera which only supported up to HTML 3 was looking a bit tired but Opera came back with a bang 2000, first with Opera 4 and then with the advert supported Opera 5 which had over two million downloads in its first month of public release.
At the end of 2001 Opera 6 is released for MS Windows & LINUX.
Why is Opera Special ?
Its fast, the program is smaller & thus faster than its rivals, Opera has also always strived to 100% meet World Wide Web Consortium standards. It has excellent cookie management & is very customisable in look & feel. Its use of a Multi Document Interface3 makes ideal for h2g2 addicts. It is also available in over 25 languages from Afrikaans to Welsh. Version 6 also includes a handy pop-up killer to get rid of annoying adverts.
It also features
- Mouse gestures: These are mouse generated shortcuts that lets you go ´back´ and ´forward´ from page to page by simply right-clicking and sliding left or right, or just open a new page by right-clicking and sliding down.
- Continuity of Browsing: There are two ways to do this; either ´save windows´ before exiting or by specifying ´continue browsing where I left off last time´ in the Preferences menu of Opera.
- Integrated Search Engine: Opera features an integrated search box, the default setting is ´Google´ but there is a wide choice of search engines that can specified.
- Hotclick: This enables the user to find information related to research a certain paragraph or word with a one-two Hotclick. Just highlight the word or paragraph and right-click to translate it or find its specific meaning.
- Keyboard shortcuts: These are simple keyboard commands for many routine browsing tasks.
- Built in ICQ client: For those of us that like to chat while browsing.
What´s bad about it ?
Plug-ins, you know the type of thing, Macromedia Flash, QuickTime etc; Opera uses Netscape plug-ins BUT only a few plug-in suppliers support Opera so a lot of the time you have to manually install the plug-in (you can find instructions on how to do this for most popular plug-ins on the Opera web site).
It can also be quite fussy over badly written HTML/XHTML code, and if you opt for the free version you have to put up with a small but to some irritating advert in the top left corner of the browser.
Although it has excellent tools for filtering cookies once you have accepted a cookie, it can be difficult to get rid of. Unlike other browsers that store cookies as individual text files Opera stores all cookies in a singe file 4 but third party tools are available that give you access to this file in order to delete individual cookies.
The e-mail & newsreader sections of Opera are relatively new additions to the program & although they work well they do lack some of the more advanced features you would find in a standalone program.
Is Opera for you ?
For many Opera offers a quicker easier browsing experience BUT to install some of the plug-ins you may need, dose require a certain level of technical competence5. How ever when all is said & done it comes down to a simple question "do you want to try something a little different?"