The much awaited Opera v 9.0 is here. Currently, Opera’s desktop market share is very small, compared to Internet Explorer, Firefox or even Safari. With v9 Opera hopes to turn things around. With the release of v8.50 on September 20th, 2005 Opera got rid of the tag “Ad-Supported Freeware”. Since then it has been downloaded by millions of users, yet there has been no significant increase in the market share. According to Daniel Goldman Opera is gearing up for a serious marketing campaign. Hopefully, it will make some headway.
Opera has always been an innovator. Each of it’s previous builds were ahead of it’s time, and had something to offer that none of it’s competitors had. You can have a look at the comprehensive list of Opera’s Innovations over here . Version 9 also maintains that tradition. Lets have a look at the major new features that has been introduced in this version.
i ) Torrent Support : Many novice users find the concept of torrents confusing. Terms like torrent client, tracker, seeders only baffle them more. Opera has tried to simplify torrents for them through it’s torrent dowloader. It makes downloading torrents as simple as downloading a .exe file. However, it is not intended to replace a full fledged torrent client. So advanced users will probably give this feature a miss.
iv) Content Blocker : In it’s simplest form it is just an image blocker (ad/vulgarity blocker). Opera provides a very simple interface to block unwanted content. However, it fails to work on embedded flash content, which is very disappointing. Content blocker can be used to block any type of content, but you will need to find out it’s url from the source viewer.
v ) Search engine editor : This is another feature that was due for a long time. Now, adding new search engines to the search tab is a matter of few clicks. All you have to do is to right click in the search box and select “Create Search” option (don’t forget to add a keyword ). A simple yet functional UI is provided for managing the search.ini file.
vi) opera:config : In an attempt to simplify the user interface for a new users, Opera has removed all not so frequently used options from it’s preferences. Instead it has put them in he opera:config ( you need to type that in the address bar to access them ). This feature is obviously inspired by Firefox, but Opera’s one looks prettier.
vii) Thumbnail Preview of Tabs : If you hover your mouse pointer over the tabs, a thumbnail preview of that page will pop-up. This is a nice feature, but hasn’t been executed very well. The thumbnails are rather small and the preview pop-up is cluttered by unnecessary information like Encoding and MIME Type.
Opera has added another small feature to it’s tabs. You can now lock tabs, so that you don’t accidentally close them.
viii) Source Viewer : Opera has added an internal source viewer which highlights known syntaxes. One very weird thing is that if you switch to the Source viewer, Edit–>Find option becomes unavailable. You have to use Ctrl+F to bring up the Search Box.
Other Small Changes :
* ‘Find in page’ feature now highlights all matches when searching for text on the page.
* Save as HTML file with images” now behaves like other browsers i.e. stores the associated files in a folder called filename_folder . ( Phew!! Finally!)
* Improved History Panel. Sites are now grouped by date ( like in Ie ).
* Support for importing and exporting news feed lists in OPML format has been added.
* Opera now passes the acid2 test.
* Support for Webforms 2.0 has been added.
* Default useragent string is now Opera ( that’s a smart move ).
* Now if you save an image the Transfer Tab will pop-up. This is a controversial change. To me it is an annoyance, as the transfer tab is opened as the active tab rather than as a background tab. However, this can be changed. It would be better if Opera adjusts it’s default settings.
* Links url’s are now not shown as tooltips if the status bar is enabled. I could not find a way to display link url as tooltips while the status bar is enabled ( if there is a way to do so, please let me know ). While this change may benefit a lot of people, this affects me adversely. That’s because I use the status bar to store opera buttons. So I need to have the status bar enabled. Where as the tooltips help in detecting phishy emails.
* Opera now uses MSI installer. 30 Language packs are included with the international build. However, this has significantly increased opera’s size. The size has jumped up from 3.66mb to 6.17mb, even after removing Macromedia Flash Player from the installer. On top of that Opera still hasn’t included an update manager, that will download and update the newer files when an update is released. This will make things difficult for dial-up users.
* Some objects now needs to be clicked once to be activated. for eg. the flash menu bar in Studiotwentyeight website becomes activated only after being clicked once. Again this is something which I find annoying.
* Find on Page’ now highlights all matches found in that page.
There are a few old annoyances that hasn’t been fixed even in this version.
Offline Mode :Opera’s offline mode simply sucks. Unlike in ie or other browsers, you can’t browse pages from your history while being offline.
Loading Images : This is a major problem with opera. It has been there for ages and it still exists. If an image is partially loaded and scroll down (so that the image is now not in the screen), and then scroll back up the image vanishes. This is terribly annoying for dial-up users.
Absence of support for native interface in Mac.
Of course the major issue with Opera as always is site incompatibility. Most of the time it isn’t Opera’s fault. However, the fact remains that Firefox which is younger than Opera manages to render more websites correctly compared to Opera. I am currently using Firefox to write this article as Writely fails to work with Opera.
In spite of all these shortcomings Opera v9 is an excellent browser. It is fast, it is secure and it provides a heck of a lot of functionality. Opera provides a very smooth browsing experience which can not be matched by its competitors. However, it falls behind Firefox and Maxthon when it comes to customizability. Opera is fairly customizable however, it often involves manually editing the .ini files etc and will probably scare novice users away. It is impossible for Opera software to add all the requested functionalities to their browser, hence releasing an API ( Application programming interface ) or SDK ( Software Development Kit ) is a necessity. Although, Opera provides a host of features it still doesn’t have an automatic form filler, there is nothing similar to stumble upon in opera, there is no ftp add-on available for opera, there is no Snapper for Opera!! The absence of these will probably prevent a Firefox user from switching over to Opera, although overall Opera does provide a better browsing experience. However, if Opera gets its marketing campaign right it should be able to win over current Internet Explorer users.
My Rating : 8/10