05/07/2005

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.

Opera 8Skins. 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.

19 Comments to "Opera 8 Review"

  1. Opera 8 Revisited says:

    […] « posted in General May 12, 2005 Opera 8 Revisited Having used Opera 8 (my review) for about a week now, I have to say that the internal […]

  2. David Rossiter says:

    I can't thank you enough for showing me how to get the minimize/maximize buttons back! I thought that Opera had taken a turn for the Firefox (worse, in my opinion) but you've redeemed version 8 in my estimations. It will now be my browser of choice at last!

  3. DianeV says:

    You're so welcome. It's funny how such a seemingly small issue makes a difference in how usable the browser is (it was the same for me). I'm pleased to be able to use this most elegant browser as my browser of choice. Good to meet you, too.

  4. SMF says:

    Ive been using Opera since version 6

    I once installed version 3 lol
    here are some screen shots of version 1.0
    http://www.igd.fhg.de/archive/1995_www95/proceedings/posters/31/
    We have come a long way.
    I love Opera:)

  5. DianeV says:

    Opera 1! Wow; I think I started with v.4 or 5.

    I do, however, still have Netscape 2 — and the big wow of the time, Netscape Gold — on disk.

  6. Red says:

    Hi Diane V,

    Thanks for the informative review on Opera 8. I have looked in vain for a solution to this problem:

    In the 'Tools' menu, the first entry,'Mail and Chat accounts' is greyed out and not selectable. This makes the following instruction impossible, as you cannot select the menu item:
    "Mail and chat are hidden until an account is created. Go to Tools > Mail and chat accounts to create or manage accounts"

    Any suggestions would be gratefully welcomed.

    Thanks for your time,
    Red

  7. DianeV says:

    Hi Red. My pleasure to be of help.

    I've never used Opera's internal email, but know people who swear by it. It looks like it's similar somewhat to using Netscape or Thunderbird to retrieve/send email. And it looks like all you have to
    do is set it up to receive your email. I found this tutorial at Opera.com:
    Opera Mail Tutorial.

    Hope that helps.

  8. Darwin says:

    Thanks for the tip on the close-window "X" on the tab. Accidentally closed more than a few windows until I disabled that and ctrl-q for "close browser" … :)

    =darwin

  9. Courtney says:

    I've been using Opera since version 6 and despite the inclusion of Firefox, Opera still provides an overall better experience, imo (though firefox extensions are a huge advantage).

    What I don't hear often is the number one reason I cant live without Opera, its page caching system is hands down unbeatable. I'm always flipping back and forwards, and to do it lightning quick (with form fields still intact..huge bonus)is addictive and indispensable.

    *Though a better caching system is on the next firefox version's todo list….could get interesting….

  10. DianeV says:

    Welcome, Courtney. I know what you mean. Throw a five-button mouse into the mix (left- and right-side buttons are forward and back buttons) and one blazes along. :)

  11. jeff says:

    Thanks for the close-window X on tab fix as well. It was a major drawback to me, in what otherwise seems like a good upgrade.

    That said, my complaint was more with the disappearance of the minimise/maximise/close at top right, rather than addition of X on tabs.

    Personally, I'd like to be able to have both at once. Anyone know if this is possible?

    Thanks

  12. Alex says:

    Another handy feature in Opera 8 is too rearrange the tabs on the page bar. This comes in handy when you cutting and pasting from one page to the next…. I wish Windows XP would allow this on it's toolbar :(

  13. JoeMoe says:

    Hi Red,

    if "Mail and Chat accounts" button is greyed out, open opera6.ini in Operas installation dir and edit following:

    Show E-mail Client=1

    I assume that your opera6.ini is showing "Show E-mail Client=0"

    Regards,
    Joe

  14. Imran says:

    I'd say "this is the coolest, fastest, easiest browser to use". I love Opera.

    The most useful feature of Opera is that it protects me from filthy unwanted ActiveX stuff.

    Long live OPERA…

  15. Officer G Mitchell says:

    I would like to take opera 8 off my computer, but it will not go away. What do I need to do???

    Thanks

    Officer Mitchell

  16. Officer G Mitchell says:

    Please tell me what to do to get this program off my computer??

  17. DianeV says:

    Howdy. Since you're experiencing a problem removing Opera from your computer, why don't you tell us what operating system you have (Windows, Mac, etc.) and what steps you took to remove it?

    Usually, in Windows, it's:

    Control Panel > Add/Remove Programs
    Select the program you wish to remove
    Click Remove

  18. Ronbo Jin says:

    I like the X for closing because when you have a boatload of windows open it is easier to see what tab you are on. (Maybe they should change the active tab to red instead of making the tab slightly plumper.)

    If you mistakenly click the X and close a window, you can recover it by going up top to EDIT–>UNDO and it will bring the window back exactly where you were. (This also works in Windows Explorer for undoing file moves, etc.)

  19. Diane Vigil says:

    The skin I'm using (the Blue Button 1.1) does make the active tab obvious, but what you've described is another way to go, Ronbo Jin — and Edit->Undo is a great tip! Thanks.

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