Old habits die hard. Once we get used to something, we tend to stick with it. Maybe that’s a human trait. Maybe it has something to do with loyalty. How else would you explain that Safari is the Mac’s most popular browser?
Is it? Yes. By far. It’s the default browser for Mac, iPhone, and iPad, and even mighty Google hasn’t been able to unseat Apple’s Safari. After all, what compelling reasons are there to switch from Safari to anything else? All browsers are good, most are free, and they all do mostly the same thing the same way. Why switch?
The browser landscape for Mac users is akin to the Golden Age of Browsers. Features and usability may vary somewhat, but browsers are like cars. You can hop from one car to another to make it to the grocery store because the steering wheel, brakes, accelerator, turn signals, and ignition are in familiar locations. Browsers are the same.
What would get you out of your car and into another? What would get you to switch from Safari to something else? Google is the most popular browser in the world. Firefox has all those geeky extensions. The three, including Safari, make up about 95-percent of Mac browser usage. What’s next? It’s the one I switched to this week. Opera.
What? I switched? Yep. The latest Opera is just that good and comes with a number of built-in options that make it worth taking for a test drive (it’s not like it’s difficult to switch back to Safari) if I get bored or it stalls dead on the information superhighway, right?
Opera’s newest version i s familiar and different at the same time.
The newest Opera is based on Google’s Chromium project, so if you like Chrome, you’ll be right at home with Opera. By using Chromium as the basis of Opera, developers can focus effort and attention on add-on functionality. Here’s my list:
Ad Blocker – this one is built in. A click turns it on. Try it. Suddenly the browsing experience is amazingly fast because you are not being followed by advertisers, trackers, and analytics trackers. It’s as if no one else is on the information superhighway but you. Yes, if you prefer to whitelist sites that block ad blockers, that’s an easy couple of clicks.
Social Media – we spend so much time using our iPhones for social media– Facebook, et al– that we sometimes forget they can be accessed within a browser window. Opera comes with Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and Telegram built-in to the narrow and convenient sidebar. One click, you’re connected. Securely, too.
Themes – this is kinda sort nice. Light theme, meets dark theme, but there’s an option to customize the start page which offers one-click access to sites you frequent without the baggage of using bookmarks.
Settings – Chrome users will recognize the Preferences settings as they open in a browser tab and they’re straightforward to apply. The Preferences icon will display at the bottom of the slender lefthand sidebar which features the social media icons, too. In the far right upper corner, more settings are available, including Enable Dark Theme, Speed Dial to add a website, the Search box, and Wallpapers.
VPN – that’s right, a VPN is built in to Opera. That gives you a level of instant privacy that you won’t get without a third party app. Two clicks and it’s done. Opera also deletes browser history, cached pages and data, and cookies when you close the Private windows. Sweet.
Oddly, Opera has what appears to be an annoyance but can be beneficial.
Opera wants to use your confidential information stored in “Opera Safe Storage” in your Keychain.
At least you can control your Mac’s Keychain.
I miss a few items, though. Apple’s Reader function is an easy way to reduce screen clutter to vanilla text, but the ad blocker makes up for it. DuckDuckGo, Yahoo!, Amazon, Bing, and Wikipedia can be set as the default search engines.
All things considered, especially the price tag and overall webpage loading speed, Opera has become a first class citizen on the Mac. No, Apple has nothing to fear. Safari will reign as king for many years. But it’s good to have competitive choices.