Opera 8 Review
I've just installed the new Opera 8 browser. Though I quite loved the earlier Opera 7.x versions, Opera 8 tops them. I've completely switched, but not without some tweaks.
Note: while I think of Opera as a seriously great browser — with fairly excellent support of Web Standards — the free version displays a banner ad (or used to). This may turn some people off, but note that purchasing Opera not only supports the company, but the ads going away speed up an already-fast browser dramatically.
Toolsbars. Opera's toolbars (the File/Edit bar and every other bar) can be turned off and on easily. Buttons on those bars can also be deleted and/or moved around, and the page request display can be displayed within the address bar, permitting the removal of yet another bar without a decrease in functionality. I use this feature to strip the browser down to basics: the File/View menu bar and a second menu bar containing Forward/Back/Reload buttons, the address and progress bars, and resize and search boxes.
Skins. Opera has by default a couple of skins (skins change the look of the browser window, drop-downs and other features). While Opera skins have been available since at least version 7.x, O8's Tools/Appearance/popup window allows you to scan through available skins and, like 7.x versions, skins can be "tried on" (applied to your browser) before you're prompted to accept or reject. Nice.
RSS. Opera 8 really handles RSS feeds well — there's even a "Feeds" button in the top File/Edit menu bar, sparing you from poking around through multiple menu dropdowns looking for it. After all, you might just want to use this thing.
Visit a website that has an RSS feed and O8 displays a blue RSS button next to the URL in the address bar. Delightfully, it's clickable, and allows you to choose from that site's RSS feeds and add them to your subscribed feeds — which will be visible within Opera on your machine. How clever and usable is that? But there's more: the File/Edit menu bar now incudes a "Feeds" button (which appears after you accept the first feed); click athe button to see your subscribed feeds, and read them within Opera. The Feeds menu also has a "Manage Feeds" button from which to delete feeds, or edit them to specify how often you'd like Opera to check for new posts. Dandy.
As if all that weren't enough, Opera retrieves posts from your subscribed feeds sites on the schedule you've chosen for each (remember the "Manage Feeds" option?) and, when new post(s) have been downloaded from those feeds, a little notification slides up from bottom right to let you know which feeds have been downloaded. A few days of this and I wondered how I ever got along without it.
Popup Blocker. Many browsers allow you to block popups, and Opera 8 does too. But set it to block popups and visit a website that has popups, and a notification slides up from the bottom of the browser window advising you that a popup has been blocked — and allowing you to click there to open it. Handy.
Finding the Maximize/Minimize Buttons. At its default settings, Opera 8 puts a close window ("X") button on each window's tab, which means two things: it's easy to close a window when trying to select it, and the maximize, minimize and resize window buttons are nowhere to be found. A little searching around in the Opera forums found the solution:
Tools> Preferences> General> Uncheck "show close button on each tab"
This removes the handy-but-dangerous X button on each tab, and the maximize, minimize and resize window buttons appear at the top right of the windows.
Trash Bin. A trash bin icon at bottom right of Opera's browser window holds all URLs visited in that session. Select one and you're taken to that page — at the precise place where you left off. This is an elegant and useful feature.
Bookmark Manager. Opera's handling of bookmarks is similarly convenient; simply go to Bookmarks>Manage Bookmarks and find all your bookmarks laid out in the familiar folder tree fashion. The top folder — which is a subfolder of the main bookmarks folder — will be selected. To add a new folder to the top level, Ctrl + Click unselects the selected folder and then you can add a new one at the same level. The same thing will enable you to view bookmarks in the main folder
At any rate, I've only used Opera 8 for a few days. I've managed to clear off most of the toolbars, and find its new features just too handy and fantastic to use anything else. It's immense customizability alone guarantees that.
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