Killer apps. We all know them. We all love them. Spreadsheets. Word processors. Email. Browsers. Browsers?
Choice is good, but there might just be too many browsers on the planet. I use three on my Mac (Safari, Firefox, Chrome) and I’ve tried and used (many times) every Mac browser I could find. If there’s one browser that truly thinks different, acts different, and won’t go away, it’s this one.
Opera Is The Phantom
If I could choose only one browser to use on my Mac it would not be Opera. It’s the phantom browser. I’ve tried to use it for a dozen years. Despite the long list of attractive features, Opera is just too different in too many ways.
How many ways? Let me count the ways.
When it comes to handy, useful, practical, pragmatic features and unique functions, Opera easily tops Safari and Chrome, and competes (and wins) well against the feature laden Firefox.
All the basics are there to compete with the magic trio of Safari, Firefox, and Chrome. It’s fast. Very fast at rendering pages. Plenty of security functions are built in. Beyond the basics are a huge list of rather innovative functionality to improve your browsing experience.
12 Ways To Browse Different
#12 is Opera Turbo. Supposedly, Turbo speeds up browsing on slower internet connections by compressing entire web pages before you download them. In reality, it’s a sophisticated caching system which makes Opera appear faster than it is.
#11 is Mouse Gestures. This one I like, but it works best with Apple’s Magic Mouse or Magic Trackpad (or, a MacBook’s trackpad). Specific finger or mouse gestures can perform specific shortcuts, moving you back and forth through History, open documents, reload, go to home page, and so on.
#10 is Opera Link. This is a feature Apple should implement in Safari instead of charging $99 a year for MobileMe to sync bookmarks. It’s an account set up thing, but it works well between different Macs and PCs.
#9 is Opera Mail. This is thinking different because Opera Mail competes with whatever email you’re already using on your Mac. It’s built in to Opera and not as feature laden as Mail. Why bother? I guess it’s because the feature list of an app is not complete until it has email.
#8 is the integrated Web Search function. I like this. Search the web using the URL address field (similar to Chrome), or search using the built-in search field in the toolbar (but select different search engines). Apple should do this.
#7 is Opera’s built in Customization feature which basically lets you skin the browser and change the look and feel. Most of the available skins are uglier than Opera’s original look. Don’t bother. It’s a browser. Not a child that needs clothing.
#6 is Content Blocking and this function works in a similar manner to extensions available for Safari, Chrome, and Firefox—but is better.
#5 is Opera’s Widgets function. Think of Dashboard Widgets for your browser. It’s not as if the Opera interface is not cluttered up enough already. Is there a Widget that offers unique functionality that’s better than a Dashboard Widget in OS X? The Gallery has plenty, but sticking a Widget into a browser doesn’t make the browsing experience better.
#4 is Tabs. Most of us at Mac360 love tabs. Safari’s tabs are good. Chrome’s tabs are ugly. Firefox tabs look like Windows tabs. Opera’s tabs are unique. Mouse over a tab and get a nice pop up preview. Or, set a tab to be extra private and stealth-like while you browse.
#3 is a strangely named function called Speed Dial, which acts like a web page favorites collector. It’s a few extra steps to capture pages to launch, and it’s built in to the browser tab, but, overall it’s useful, though limited to a maximum of 25 sites. And something else to remember how to do. Bookmarks are faster and easier.
#2 is a Zoom button which lets you zoom into a web page using a neat slider—without having to zoom the whole screen. Safari’s zoom feature is in the View menu, but doesn’t give you a sliding control bar.
#1 is Opera Unite, a grab bag of extra functionality (that probably couldn’t fit anywhere else—if Opera is anything, it’s crowded). Ostensibly, Opera Unite lets you share things with other users, but it does much more. It’s a bunch of applications with Widget-like functionality you can install on your Mac.
Share files and photos with others on the web using File Sharing and Photo Sharing. Opera Unite also allows files to be uploaded to your Mac, stream audio and video media from your Mac, even chat, run a whiteboard, edit photos, play games, sync files, share bookmarks, run a web cam and much, much more.
Opera is everywhere.
Macs, Windows PCs, Linux PCs, smart phones, even Nintendo.
I just can’t bring myself to give Opera the respect it seems to deserve, considering it’s been around for so many years.
Opera thinks different with many innovative and useful features (and some, like Widgets and Unite apps, that just take up space). It is fast at displaying web pages (I can’t see that it’s faster than either Chrome or Safari). Web pages render well (but Opera can’t figure out that Mac360’s headlines are bold face type—even Internet Explorer knows that). The user interface isn’t cluttered at all (unless you want it to be); actually quite elegant. One final speed bump—Opera doesn’t work with 1Password, the Mac’s premiere username and password organizer.
Opera is used by barely 2-percent of browser users in the U.S and worldwide (perhaps more in Europe, home to Opera) so it isn’t just me that doesn’t give it respect. Maybe Opera is just trying too hard to be cool.