I’m an adulterous browser user. Of course I love Safari. Fast. Clean. Elegant. Free. But I stray from time to time.
Camino is the best looking. Firefox is good for a quickie. OmniWeb is stacked with features. But Opera? There’s something about a browser from Europe that makes me swoon.
Even Shiira’s dual personality can be attractive, like a blonde in a brunette wig. But Safari is what I use most, though I admit Opera is growing on me.
Opera made it to version 9.x with a new beta release, and this rendition of the now-free browser is worth a look. Why? Fast. Loaded with features. And widgets.
Widgets? Aren’t there enough Widgets on your Mac already? Yes, plenty to choose from, few that are screen worthy, and many looking for a problem to solve.
Opera comes with widgets, but not what you think. Shiira has a browser Widget, though, for the life of me, I can’t figure out why. Maybe it’s just “because we can.”
Remarkably, among all the cool new features in Opera, the one that stood out is the one that may get the least use. Widgets. Opera has it’s own widget platform.
Click on the floating Opera widget tab, and the whole screen changes just as if you’d invoked Apple’s Dashboard. Except there’s no widgets to be found, just the darkened screen as if you were looking at Dashboard with no Widgets.
If Firefox can have extensions, why can’t Opera have their own widget platform?
Of course, this is a beta version, so there’s not exactly a gazillion Opera widgets available. I haven’t found one yet, though your mileage may vary.
Does the Mac need another widget window that’s not related to the Dashboard Widgets? Possibly. My 23-inch Apple Cinema Display is full already, so having yet another Dashboard layer to hold more Widgets would be nice.
But widgets that belong only to Opera? That’s another story. Frankly, I find the whole idea confusing, but I’ve been wrong before. That’s why I’m married with children.
Opera doesn’t give us much detail on widgets other than to say, “Widgets are small Web applications that live outside the Opera window. Press F6 to enter widgets mode.” Or, click the widget tab. Same thing.
Remarkably, going from version 8.5.x to 9 did bring the user a few more featurs. After all, what would you expect for free?
Content blocking. This, I like. Married with children, right? Opera implements content blocking in a very specific way. Browse to a page you don’t want your kids to see. Right click. Select content blocking.
That’s it? Well, there are more features you can select, but life on a browser must be different for kids in Europe vs. those in the US (sorry, I’m being Midwest centric today; it’s a curse).
I don’t want to have to visit each site I want to block. It’s more important to block, say, all web sites with images of cleavage, acts of what sex would be like in a dream, and anything Gothic in nature. Or, all game sites.
Opera implements BitTorrent, which may help to speed up downloading of large files during your illegal downloading sessions. Or not.
There’s also a nifty feature added to tabs that I truly like. It’s a thumbnail of the page in the tab. If you’re like me, you love tabs. Any window in my Safari is likely to have half a dozen or more tabs open.
The problem with tabs is remembering what’s on the page before you click the tab. The more tabs, the smaller the visual cue. Opera’s thumbnail displays, well, a thumbnail of the web site when you roll your point across the tab. That’s sweet.
There’s plenty more under the hood of Opera 9. In fact, the list of new feature additions and enhancements is rather long.
There’s more and different keyboard shortcuts. Long overdue is the new Bookmarks. The pop-up ad blocker has been improved.
Regardless, there’s really just a few things we want in a browser these days. A stack of features longer than my arm is not on my short list of browser requirements.
First, speed. I want web pages to load with a snap. Once, Safari was as fast as any. No longer. Opera blazes through most sites, though with a bit of a pause at the beginning of each site. Still, in my tests Safari was not as fast at loading most pages as Opera.
Second, stability. Safari is not the king of stable browsers. I’ve had better success with Camino, more so than Firefox (figure that one out). Opera has always struck me as klunky to view, klunky to use.
The new version, though still a beta, seems quite stable. After a day of solid use, not one crash. That’s a good sign.
Third on my list is “comfortable feel.” If it’s twice as fast as the speed of light, it may not matter if Opera doesn’t “feel” as good as, say, Safari, or Camino. Previous versions had a klunky feel; as though something was out of place.
Version 9’s beta feels less klunky but not yet elegant. Yes, that’s all subjective, so, again, your mileage may vary. Perhaps it’s just too much time with Safari. It can’t be the price of admission.
Is Opera finally a better browser than Safari? In speed, yes. In a list of features, there’s more with Opera. In terms of getting more use? I keep going back to Safari.