Opera: The Best Worst Browser?

Category: Browsers

The Opera web browser is an unsung hero of the Internet. It's been around since 1994. Opera is the source of many innovations that competing browsers have copied. Yet many users have never heard of Opera, let alone tried it. Opera ranks dead last among the five major browsers in terms of market share, and yet it has a lot going for it. Should you switch? Let's take a deeper look...

Opera Browser - Should You Switch?

Fans of the Opera web browser will tell you all day long that it's the best. But browser stats show it has less than a 2% global market share, and the needle hasn't moved for years. So how can the least popular browser be the best? Opera's focus has always been on speed, standards and innovation. The first time you try Opera, you will notice how quickly it loads compared to much larger browsers. It consumes significantly less memory and other resources than Internet Explorer or Firefox. Opera also renders Web pages noticeably faster than most browsers, while remaining standards-compliant.

The Turbo mode introduced in Opera 11 is unique. When enabled, Turbo routes most of the Web pages you request through Opera's servers, where they are compressed before being delivered to you. That means pages arrive faster even over slow connections. When you have a fast connection again, Turbo switches off automatically. For your security and privacy, no SSL connections (pages whose address begin with "https") are routed through Turbo. When you connect to your bank or a shopping site secured by SSL, you are connected directly to the site.
Is Opera Browser the Best Browser?

Opera Unite is another feature unique to Opera. It allows multiple Web services to be hosted from the user's computer instead of relying on remote servers. For example, you can share a gallery of photos with friends directly instead of uploading the pics to Photobucket or a similar site. You can also stream media and create a chat room for your acquaintances.

Opera has a built-in email client that can import messages and settings from other popular clients. It also include a Bittorrent client for peer-to-peer sharing, and an IRC chat client. A security badge system tells you at a glance whether a link leads to a site that is trusted by the Opera community. To check a site's reputation, click on the gray "Web" globe icon to the left of the address bar. A green light means the URL is "verified safe," while a yellow light indicates caution.

Another jewel in Opera's crown is attention the needs of the disabled. Nearly every function can be performed via keyboard shortcuts. Opera also supports mouse gestures - combinations of mouse button clicks and actions that can trigger browser actions such as "back" and "refresh". Page zooming can make text, graphics, and embedded videos bigger to aid the visually impaired.

Widgets are small Opera programs that can be used outside of the browser. Examples include an e-book reader, a Twitter client, and games. Extensions, new to Opera 11, are programs that extend the functionality of the Opera browser. Some of the first extensions written include a Gmail notifier, a multilingual translator, and a weather forecast client.

A Bit of History

Opera has a long history of innovation, and many of these useful features have been copied by other modern browsers. Some things that we can reasonably claim as Opera innovations are proportional page scaling/zooming, the ability to save and restore sessions when restarting the browser, a tool to clear history, cookies & cache, mouse gestures, integrated web search, and popup blocking.

One innovation that some Opera fans claim as their own is the concept of tabbed browsing. It's true that Opera had a "multiple document interface" as early as 1994, which allowed for more than one web page to be open in a single window. But alas, there were no tabs. NetCaptor (now defunct) was the first web browser to have a true tabbed interface.

The lack of extensions (called add-ons in some other browsers) is one big reason why Opera never gained more traction. But the people behind Opera have made a few stumbles over the years that could also account for this. Opera began as trialware, requiring a paid license after the trial period. From 2000 to 2005, they offered the option to pay $39 or put up with banner ads on the browser window. Neither Internet Explorer nor Firefox had either or those annoyances, so Opera was handicapped. Since dropping the paid license and banner ads, Opera makes money through revenue sharing with search and mobile partners.

Opera is multi-platform, with versions for Windows, Mac and Linux. You can also download a portable version of Opera that runs on a USB flash drive. This lets you run Opera on any other computer (without installing it) just by plugging in your USB drive. Mobile phone versions known as Opera Mini and Opera Mobile (http://m.opera.com) are also available, on the Android, iPhone, Blackberry, Windows Mobile and Symbian (Nokia) platforms.

Opera is a venerable, high-quality browser that has had a strong, positive influence on Internet software. It's definitely worth a try, especially if you've never ventured outside the Internet Explorer fold. I've tried all the popular browsers, IE, Chrome, Firefox, Safari and Opera. I hesitate to say that any of them is the "best," because they all work well, and have their own unique strong points. Bottom line: web browsers are like shoes -- you have to try them on, walk around a bit, and see which fits the best.

Do you love (or hate) Opera? Tell us why! Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "Opera: The Best Worst Browser?"

(See all 60 comments for this article.)

Posted by:

17 Jan 2012

I have also used Opera from its inception. Well, if you consider the speed it is the best in the market, specially with low speed connections and slower machines with low memory it is the best. As for the mobile apps with slower processor speeds it is the best.

Posted by:

17 Jan 2012

Contrary to what was stated in the article, Opera never has been, and is not now, accessible to blind users. I don't doubt that it has a myriad of keyboard commands, but they are of no value if the web page itself is not presented in a manner that screen-readers can display in a useful manner. Opera may be a good browser for visually impaired, not blind, users if they can read the screen reasonably efficiently with sight. It is unuseable by blind users and as such, does not deserve a high accessibility rating.

I would strongly suggest that, before commenting on the accessibility of a program for blind users, that you contact reliable sources such as the NFB, National Federation of the Blind, ACB American Council of the Blind, or screen-reader designers such as Freedom Scientific (JAWS screen-reader) or G. W. Micro (Window-eyes screen-reader.) A program may appear accessible to the casual observer but may not be.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Did you read the article? I said it includes page zooming for visually impaired users. I never mentioned that it was "accessible to blind users."

Posted by:

17 Jan 2012

On my desktop (Windows OS) I use Chrome, IE & FireFox and lean toward FireFox. There are basicly because some websites that are still designed only for these 3.

On my cellphone I used Opera Mini on my Droid with much greater success than any other browser for speed as I am not going to the same sites that would have problems with this browser. I love this browser on my cell besides being fast it is more efficiently setup and easier to use on this platform in my opinion.

Posted by:

17 Jan 2012

After reading your glowing reports about the accessibility of Opera, I checked with people who were much wiser about such technology. I was very sad to hear that this product was not accessible. Hope you can be more accurate on other reviews.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Accessible to who? For what purpose? What I said was that it includes keyboard shortcuts for those who cannot use a mouse, and page zooming for the visually impaired. Clearly, both are true. If you have a semantic bone to pick, I'm not interested.

Posted by:

18 Jan 2012

I have used Opera since I first started using the BeOS and that was years ago. Still like it and use it most of the time.

Posted by:

18 Jan 2012

I have used Opera off and on for many years. I always seem to find some frustration with the browser after deciding to use it again. It is usually an issue with one of the Websites I enjoy visiting.

In the last six months, I started using Opera again as my main browser, and I have not had any problems with it. In fact, I discovered that if I do have an issue, I can change the way the browser identifies itself, and that usually fixes the problem. I love Opera Mini on my smartphone.

Posted by:

18 Jan 2012

Yes, I read the article. I wrote what I did in part because another blind person asked on an e-mail list of which I am a member if the program is accessible after reading your article.

The term "visually impaired" is often used as a euphomism because sighted people are uncomfortable using the word "blind." For that reason, using the term does not rule out that you are addressing blind users. Your comments on short cut keys also imply that you are saying that the browser is accessible for blind users. If someone is visually impaired and can still use the browser visually, they are probably using a mouse. therefore, comments about being able to carry out almost all commands from the keyboard would appear to be addressed to blind users. I don't know what your intent was. Whatever it was, it is perfectly reasonable to interpret your comments as implying that Opera is accessible for blind users.

Since you praised it's accessibility for visually impaired users, shouldn't it's lack of accessibility for blind users have been stated as a deficiency in the browser?

EDITOR'S NOTE: I'm not going to argue the point that Opera has no features specifically for blind users. But obviously page zooming would be of no value if you're truly blind. If you can't see, it doesn't matter how big the words are. However, there are plenty of visually impaired or low-vision users who do find the Page Zooming feature very helpful.

And just so you know, I didn't have blind users in mind when I mentioned keyboard shortcuts. Those who might benefit from this include users with carpal tunnel syndrome, Parkinson's, cerebral palsy or paralysis.

Posted by:

Robert Burns
18 Jan 2012

Might i add www.palemoon.com to the mix; i use it and love it because its not a clone of MS as others are; try it you might like it.

It avoids i.e. like its not real - later

Posted by:

19 Jan 2012

I HAVE BEEN USING OPERA SINCE 2006..its awesome...i tried IE,CHROME,FIREFOX,FLOCK,SAFARI etc bt i prefer opera now.I still have IE and chrome on my machine bt opera is way ahead in functionality.

kudos opera.

Posted by:

Eric K
24 Jan 2012

I have been using IE9 mostly. And IE10 in the Windows 8 Developers Preview. I have used Opera off and on for several years. With absolutely no trouble. And yes, Opera is very user friendly. My son does have cerebral palsy. It is easier for him. He has an on screen keyboard which works well. Opera Mini came installed on my phone and it works great. I think I might switch back on my PC for a while.

Posted by:

Eli Marcus
24 Jan 2012

I have used Opera now and again over the last 15 years ( I think I originally installed it from a PC Mag software sampler CD), but for some reason, I never found it to be comfortable enough to be my main browser. More than anything, I have been a loyal Mozilla/Netscape/Firefox user since the beginning of my internet experience, but I'm certainly ready to try out Opera again and see what it has to offer. Thank you for the review, Bob!

Posted by:

25 Jan 2012

I've tried Opera Mobile on my android. It does have trouble displaying some websites, so I'm using dolphin instead.

Posted by:

31 Jan 2012

I downloaded Opera (browser), hoping to get a faster browser instead what I did get were "spy bots and tracking cookies"!! If I wanted Opera to view my surfing I would have asked them to! BEWARE of Opera, if you use it make sure you have a good defense program to detect maleware, tracking cookies, spy bots, etc., that will detect them and delete them! This is how I found out about Opera.If you need a quick browser try Avant.com, also if you use Firefox there is a section at their web site called "fasterfox" and it will speed up the browser to the max. Good , safe,surfing to all.

Posted by:

19 Feb 2012

Dear Bob,
After reading your insightful article about Opera I decided to give it a try. Frankly i did not like it. Probably what puts me off is that i do not want to devote time to learn it.
Preferring Chrome's minimalistic view makes Opera feel too cluttered for me. I prefer to go beyond my browser to access services like Picasa than have similar and other services on the browser itself.
Re Opera link. If one forgets username or password there is no way to reset them. Or am i wrong about this?

Posted by:

10 Apr 2012

I don't know if opera is the 'best' browser, but of all the ones I've tried it suits me best.

I'm a writer and the thing I value most in all computer programmes is reliability. I've been using Opera since you had to pay for it, and some people told me I was an idiot when there were 'free' browsers around.

It was the first alternative I tried when I moved from an 8-bit CPM computer, which used LYNX as a text only browswer, to one of those 'new-fangled' 32 bit machines with Windows 95.

I dare say a certain amount of 'brand loyalty' comes into it after all these years. But it does everything I need from a browser

I still have an ancient copy of IE6 which gets pressed into use occasionally on sites which won't play nicely with Opera.

I regularly clean out the history etc and this keeps it zipping along.

For the person who said it gradually slows down over time my solution, apart from normally staying one step behind the upgrades to avoid any teething problems, is to delete and reinstall once a year. It works for me and is well worth the few minutes needed.

I tried Chrome and it hurt my eyes. Quite seriously. I realise I could have probably customised, but lacked the patience to experiment further when Opera suits me so well.

As with so many things in computing it's about what works for *you*, not jumping on the latest bandwagon just to be one of the 'in' crowd.


Posted by:

06 Jul 2012

Opera is a conundrum. Without a doubt, Opera has the best framework and programming behind its GUI. Personalizing your menu is extremely easy, and has very few limitations. I've personally rewritten the entire standard_menu.ini, standard_toolbar.ini, standard_keyboard.ini and have my own standard_skin.zip now.

Unlike Firefox that uses obtrusive XML sheets all buried underneath each other in an utter catastrophic mess. (In some cases, they don't even check their official "key assignments xml.") AND, you have to MANUALLY update these sheets for each version update, unlike Opera which will "fill in the blanks."

What the youts of this generation do not understand is that I don't NEED a GUI to modify Opera. I don't NEED to make things excessively complicated to perform simple alterations. While Firefox is completely open and acts like it means something, Opera is trying to create REAL standards to allow people to modify anything WITHOUT resorting to low level "browser hacking."

Posted by:

10 Aug 2012

I use Opera since started, in my computer and Android phone. Some minor issues with a few page structures.
I think is the best, thou

Posted by:

07 Jan 2013

First of all I am a frequent user of the internet but am not very knowledgeable overall.
I use Opera almost exclusively with which I am very happy.
Have used IE, Chrome, Firefox and for me Opera is far and away the best.
IE is too cluttered, Chrome I did not like and Firefox would work well for a period of time but then would continually crash or freeze.
Have not had any negative issues with Opera.

Posted by:

05 Feb 2017

can opera work with game sites, I use pogo.com and also can it be used with Java as some of the games on there use Java as well as flash embedded games.

please advise that is what is stopping me from getting it.

I have win 7 on here and only ie 11. nothing else. also can it be used with xp that is on my other old computer. also used for above game site. on the xp got the old ie 8 that still works somewhat and firefox. but as some on here say firefox does crash at times.

Posted by:

10 Aug 2018

An annoyance of Opera that I wish would get fixed is, when a page crashes, and there's a button on the opera's crashed page provided by opera that's labeled "Reload this page" that doesn't work.

If you click on opera's "Back" button, even though the page the back button is supposed to bring you to, is still there, you're still shown the "Crashed Page," no matter how many pages you should be able to click back through.

I used to use Firefox, but I got tired of "(Not Responding)" error in the titled bar and having to wait for it to finally respond. Things I've tried, hoping it would make things better are, new Harddrive with a fresh install of Windows, downloaded and installed the latest version of web browsers, anti-virus, anti-malware, etc. Still same problems.

I'm still using opera, hoping they'll fix the "Crashed page" problem.

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