Sunday, 19 October 2008

Opera 9.60 Review - Awesomeness, Great Features and a Few Annoying Crashes

I must say that I think Opera is doing a great job supporting its browser on Linux. Even though it's closed-source, it's still one of the most powerful web browsers out there, and each release comes with packages for every major distribution out there.

One of the differences I noticed between Opera and Firefox or Konqueror is how fast it scrolls web pages containing Flash content, and not only those. Scrolling does not lag behind how it lags on pages like with Konqueror 3.5.9 or YouTube with Firefox. At this chapter at least, Opera is way more fast, browsing and scrolling giving a real speed and a smooth impression over other browsers.

Opera 9.60

The interface didn't change much since the last stable release, 9.52. It's still black and in my opinion it looks just awesome. Opera is built in Qt 3.3.8b, the commercial edition.

The search bar

Opera's rendering engine, Presto, performs very well displaying fast and pretty accurate any web page I tested.

Among the new features this release comes are several improvements in Opera Link, which is a service which lets you synchronise bookmarks, speed dial, notes and other data from Opera with other computers or mobile phones. Version 9.60 also comes with several changes at the Opera Mail client, like the feed preview, which allows you to preview the RSS/Atom feed before you subscribe to it, or the low-bandwidth mode, for both IMAP and POP protocols.

Another new feature is the so-called 'Opera Scroll Marker', which if enabled, will show a scroll marker when you reach the end of a page to show you where to start to read. That is, from where you scrolled last time until you reached the end of the page. Below is a screenshot of how the scroll marker looks like:

The full changelog for the 9.60 release is available here.

One of the characteristics of Opera is that it handles everything in tabs: bookmarks, widgets, downloads, the about information, for each of them a new tab is opened. I find this very handy, fast and more useful than a new window which will steal focus from the primary browser window.

Taking a look at the new Google Chrome, which, although open-source, has yet to arrive natively on Linux, I think the big three for Linux still are Firefox, Konqueror and Opera.

The preferences editor can be opened typing opera:config in the address bar, and the tab which appears somewhat resembles the settings from the about:config variables in Firefox.

Preferences - the Browsing tab

Opera has another advantage over Firefox: it allows you to customise shortcuts via the Preferences dialogue, so you can change several shortcuts which do not work in your desktop environment (Ctrl + Tab in KDE 3.5.x for example).

Opera IRC client

Some great features Opera comes with are also: IRC and BitTorrent client, Widgets - which are great add-ons for making Opera look nicer and also show various information, and the already classic, well-known 'speed dial', which will allow you to preview in a single tab several web pages (depending on how you configure it, default is 9), from which you can enter the desired website.

Opera Speed Dial

Analog Clock widget on the desktop

Although I thought this would be an awesome release, the major problem with Opera are crashes. It crashed when I right-clicked the personal bar, then Show Searches -> Google, and it also crashed when I started the IRC the client for the first time without filling up any account data. I ran Opera in KDE 3.5.9, on Debian Lenny.

As always, Opera does a great job, putting up a pretty solid, fully-featured and powerful web browser, with great support for the Linux users. Although I'm an advocate for open-source, I really think this shiny new release deserves a top place among the Linux web browsers.

Official website
Download Opera


KronoZ said...

Another nice feature of Opera which is not specific to this release but is always nice to talk about is the right)click tab switcher.
That is : hold right mouse button then scroll your mouse wheel and you get a tab switcher pretty much like alt+tab does for windows switching.

Ihar Filipau said...

I'm a long term Mozilla user.

But as FireFox 3 is headed to nowhere (most dysfunctional release to date).

Opera largely remains "not my cup of tea" yet -darn- it is very functional and "Just Works" (something FireFox is slowly loosing).

George P. Burdell said...

Wow kronoz, thanks a lot. Been using Opera as my only browser for years and I was not aware of that feature.

To the crashes. I have not experienced many crashes, but when I have, the crashes almost to a one are always caused by Flash. This is an ongoing, but improving problem, since Opera has to do some pretty major backend mojo to get Flash (a GTK app and dependent on GTK calls) to run seemlessly in Opera (which is QT based).

wily said...

Did they bring back tab switching with '1' and '2' by default, yet?

*Installs to check*

Anonymous said...

What are you - in 3rd grade?

Awesome writing skilz, dood.