HEY FIREFOX USERS! You smug, technologically elite types who make up the 10% of the market who now experience The Web, Reloaded. Your browser sucks and is lame. Don’t get caught up in the hype, Opera has been around for a decade and manages to trounce Firefox in damn near every conceivable aspect. It is developing at a much faster pace and while it has long eclipsed Firefox in functionality and usability the gap continues to widen in Opera’s favour . In light of the fact Opera is completely free with no advertising, I recommend you try out Opera and see how you like it - there’s a good chance you will find it far more efficient, fun to use and very adaptable to the way you browse.
So why is this page being written? The “” web browser Firefox is getting a lot of hype right now and it’s mostly undeserved. It’s bloated and slow, offers no real evolutionary features you’d expect from a modern browser, and has failed to produce any significant innovations since its inception a year or two ago. It is also under attack from several security exploits despite its marketing as being virtually invulnerable to hacking. However, it’s new, shiny, marketed as super secure and has had a huge million-dollar marketing push behind it. It’s also “better than Internet Explorer”. What I want to demonstrate here is that there’s a fantastic browser available that’s not just better than Internet Explorer, it sets the standards all other browsers follow years later. You might have heard of it, or tried it long ago and dismissed it, but I truly urge you to give it a shot and will explain why.
Opera does everything and more, “out of the box”.
Everything works together. Everything uses the same interface. Everything’s designed by the same people and works as you’d expect it. Unlike the often cluttered and inconsistent mess of the Firefox browser and its million extensions all developed by separate people (often with different beliefs on how to produce an interface), Opera’s very nature of development results in a suite of clean, polished, unified tools that work together as a whole.
- A full-featured mail and news client
- Integrated extensive RSS support
- A clean, usable IRC client
- A fully integrated Bittorrent client
- Mouse gestures, editable keyboard shortcuts, a persistent browsing session
- Desktop widget engine a la Konfabulator\Dashboard
- Full-featured download, notes, links and history manager.
These are just some of the features Opera offers out of the box that Firefox requires extensions and extras to accomplish. If you want to duplicate this on a Firefox system, you’d need to at least install Sage, Thunderbird, Chatzilla, the Bittorrent Plugin, SessionSaver, All-in-One Gestures, and there’s still about ten more to go before we get close to feature parity (but not quite). Firefox people can preach about how great it is to be able to find all these great extensions and download them and restart the browser and configure them and keep them updated and make sure new versions of Firefox don’t break them, but.. wouldn’t it be nice if you got all the important and useful ones built-in with no maintenance concerns? That’s what Opera does that Firefox never will, simply as a matter of philosophy.
It’s tiny, fast, and efficient.
Opera’s pretty impressive in that it offers more features than any other browser but at the same time is the smallest, fastest, cleanest proper browser available. Firefox might be dedicated to the goal of being slim and streamlined, but it is a larger download, larger after installation, has a slower renderer and uses significantly more CPU and RAM resources.
You see, Firefox is based on Mozilla, a huge pile of bloat, which was based on Netscape Navigator, an even bigger pile of bloat. It’s antiquated, crusty old code that does it best to be modernised - while Opera is clean, ultra-refined and designed to be truly portable (after all, Opera sell their browser for all kinds of handheld computers and phones.) You can hear zealots whine about how Gecko is a completely new rendering engine, XUL replacing the interface bloat of the Netscape days, blah blah blah.. but as it stands, Firefox, supposedly the slim, clean, snappy one of the bunch, really uses more RAM than any other browser, including IE! Go try testing them all.
Opera is also (generally) the fastest browser available. Here’s one extensive page that indicates Opera is pretty damn fast all round. Opera one-ups the competing browsers in just about every aspect. Lowendmac’s testing seems to indicate the same (they test Windows browsers too.) Opera wins the benchmarks. Opera “feels” faster to a user. Opera has smarter page rendering code that delivers readable content faster. It takes up less CPU time to perform tasks - it’s a lot more streamlined and efficient.
And as for being a bloated program: Firefox, after being installed, provides an initially basic, featureless browser with 14mb. Opera in comparison is a tiny 4.6mb and it does everything you want and more rather than requiring memory-hogging extensions and even a separate mail application!
It’s completely adaptable to the way you want to use it.
But nooo, you might whine, the reason I use Firefox is because I don’t want to use email and news and bittorrent in my browser! Even if Firefox is the fat, sweaty pig to Opera’s anorexic hummingbird, I remember Opera had an icky interface that was overwhelming and scary! And that’s okay, I understand why you’d think that - Opera 7.x was confusing and stupid by default. But did you know what Opera looks like now?
The UI is modularised - this is a default install without Mail, RSS, or IRC set up. Do you see anything useless or confusing lying around? Opera 8 really cleaned things up so that the interface is both more usable but not overwhelming.
But best of all? It’s by far the most adaptable browser around. If you want to rearrange or remove any buttons you can go and do that, or edit a sidebar, or move the tab list to the side, or add a panel listing, or any number of things! You can pick a huge amount of esoteric functions to make buttons or dropdown lists or checkboxes or whatever on the Opera Wiki’s custom buttons page, or even code your own.
It’s innovative and is pushed by a company not nearly as egotistical as Mozilla.
It’s more secure.
And most importantly..
But what’s wrong with Firefox? I like it.
Except for it being bloated and slow, surely? Opera loads up far quicker than Firefox and offers snappier navigation to the internet with its sophisticated page caching system. It also steals less system resources while running.
What about the mess of extensions and extension settings you have to keep updated in addition to the browser? Wouldn’t it be nicer to have all those features integrated into the browser with a consistent interface, no separate update path, and no security\stability risks related to running badly or maliciously coded extensions? Did you ever stop to check just how much RAM Firefox needs to run all those extensions alongside the browser itself?
How about the bland IE-clone interface last updated in 1998? Sure, it’s comfortable and familiar, but haven’t they come up with something better now? What’s more, why can’t you put what you want where you want in the browser? Perhaps Opera’s innovations such as the Start Bar (a small set of frequently-used links that can appear when you click the address bar) and a smart, re-arrangeable MDI interface to view all sorts of information at the same time within the same window appeals to you? The idea of operating the web using “Fast Forward” and “Rewind” functions to jump from page to page using Opera’s smart interpretation of the webpage currently loaded? Or simply just the underlying concept that you can pull out, rearrange, and create just about any function you like in any part of the interface?
Isn’t that whole concept of pointing and clicking on links and buttons to do everything a bit outdated? Opera has the best keyboard navigation of any browser that lets you jump from link to link with the cursor keys and toggle images on and off with a keypress. And that’s completely customisable with an easy interface, too. Or what about mouse gestures - why can’t you easily flip back and forward without moving your hand from the mouse? Close tabs and navigate windows with a simple flick of your wrist?
Firefox is okay for something simplistic that operates pretty well on the web. If that works well enough for you, that’s great. But if you use your internet browser a lot and can wrap your head around the idea that things might be even better if you explore your options a little, I feel Opera will offer you a lot more than the jump from IE to Firefox ever did. And if you’re still stuck on IE - check out a browser that actually offers a decent list ofactual features to switch for
However, there are some things wrong with it.
Some sites fail to work with it, some of the more eccentric functionality of extensions cannot be reproduced, it needs some brief setting up.
Opera does have its shortcomings and yes, Firefox has its strengths. It’s worth mentioning that, for example, Firefox has a great selection of extensions. Yes, these bloat up the browser over time and you sure do need a lot of extensions to emulate a lot of Opera’s useful functionality, but there are a couple of useful features offered by extensions that Opera doesn’t have right now. The most notable is Adblock, which does a pretty good job of filtering out advertisements from webpages. However Opera’s multitude of features not available in Firefox more than compensate for the few extensions not immediately available in the Opera download.
However, ad blocking in Opera is not at all impossible or even very difficult. While you can always take the route of additional software like Privoxy, The Proxomitron or the awesome, underappreciated and pay-only Ad Muncher, there is a simple and effective CSS stylesheet you can use to block ads in Opera. It doesn’t get everything, but it will clean up 80% of ads and is simple to do.. even easier than Firefox and Adblock! This ad-blocking CSS file works seamlessly in Opera and can help other browsers block ads too! To set it up in Opera:
- Download the CSS file to a directory it can feel safe in like C:\Program Files\Opera\ in Windows or ~/Library/Preferences/Opera Preferences/ on MacOS.
- Go to Preferences->Advanced->Content->Style Options.
- Choose it in the “My style sheet” field , then enable the “My style sheet” checkbox for Author mode.
Done! I do agree that Opera needs an inbuilt ad blocker one day, however the stylesheet for blocking ads works quite effectively on most sites and combined with Opera’s popup blocking functionality shall do a great job for you until then.
Opera like all applications has flaws, but generally the only issues you’ll find in Opera are a result of your expectations being higher - why can’t buttons be arranged on the side of the Personal bar, or why doesn’t Opera implement site preferences like Omniweb? While Opera could be improved in many areas, there are very few flaws in Opera that are not present in other browsers.
If you switch to Opera, all your wildest dreams will come true.
Opera is the only sensible choice for a modern web browser on Windows. It stomps all over Firefox in just about every area possible and I hope that this page at least motivates you to download Opera and check it out. There’s no serious problem with Opera these days unless you have weird obsessive open-source loyalties - it’s faster, cleaner and better than all the competition.
Want some specific reasons to give Opera a shot before you’re convinced? Here’s a few.
- There’s an interface you can customise to do whatever you like. It might not sound like much now, but spend some time tweaking the browser to work how you want it and you might not be able to go back.
- Medium-screen rendering. Ever viewed a non-wrapped .txt file in a web browser? More than enough reason to try it.
- A zoom that actually works properly. Leaning back away from the monitor? Hold Ctrl and flick the mouse wheel up a bit - things look smooth and pages become far easier to read.
- Closed a tab by mistake? Hit Ctrl-Z. Closed the Opera application and rebooted, slept, whatever? When you come back, your pages are all there, back history, tab arrangement and all.
- Visit a few sites. Press back and forward a few times. Visit a message board and type a message. Go back as far as you like before returning to the message post page - Opera never reloads the pages so you can be assured your work stays there.
- Double click a non-hyperlinked URL and click “Go to URL”. Copy a URL to the clipboard and right-click the Address bar then “Paste and Go”.
- Got an eBay auction ending soon? Right click the item page and set a “reload every xx minutes” timer.
Those are just a bunch of things that you’ll probably enjoy while using Opera. It doesn’t do anything revolutionary and magical, of course, but it’s just polished in almost all areas, offering a more efficient, usable, interesting and enjoyable way to access the internet - seriously. You can do things faster and accomplish more with less effort - perhaps Firefox is “good enough”, but why not try it out and go one step further?
OKAY I WANT TO DOWNLOAD IT
Did I convince you? Opera’s download page should auto-detect your platform and give you a link to the small 4mb Opera installer. Have fun, and be sure to email me if you love it\hate it\feel indifferent about it and really need to tell somebody.
It’s a browser, not an ideology. Give it a fair try and try to work out what Mozilla features you can and can’t get in Opera, and vice versa. Then use whichever browser works better for you.
Mac and Linux users:
To Mac users, I personally use a MacBook with Opera and couldn’t live without it. Previous versions of Opera for MacOS were terrible (this has affected Opera’s reputation on Mac, sadly), but I urge you to give Opera 9 for Mac a chance as it’s quite snappy and well on par with Firefox’s port to MacOS, if not better. Safari has a slightly faster UI and still feels better integrated, yes, but Opera is still much smaller, far more customisable and has far more features than Safari, which remains a very plain and uninteresting browser for the most part. I can pretty much wholeheartedly recommend Opera over Safari for advanced users - however Safari is a capable, well-supported browser that basic users may be happy to keep, and more power to them! It’s great at being what it is.
To Linux users, get a decent OS. Oh, it’s not like you guys use anything closed source anyway.
Some links to stuff!
A few tips on how to initially set up Opera
Enabling ad blocking and UserJS support
- After Opera has opened for the first time, type “opera:about” in the address bar, and look for the path to the Preferences file. Locate this in your file browser. You should be in the “profile””.opera””Opera Preferences” directory.
- Create a new folder called “UserJS”. You’ll use it later.
- Download this Ad blocker stylesheet and save it in the same directory.
- Start up Opera!
- In the same “Content” section of the preferences, click on “Style options”. Locate your adblocker CSS under “My style sheet”, then under the “Presentation modes” check both boxes for “My style sheet”.
So, cool, now Opera blocks a lot of ads without you having to manually do it (did you try right clicking and going to “Block Content” yet?) but what is UserJS? It’s kinda like a Firefox extension but invisible and generally just modifies the pages you view. I now reccomend you visit UserJS.org and find cool things to install. Just download the .js file and put it in your UserJS, and Opera will use it next time it loads a page. Some suggestions (I use these!)
- Image preloader, which will preload all images on simple directory listing pages. Very useful, especially when used with fast forward!
- Clean URI, which strips the useless redirection stuff some sites (like Google) occasionally link you through.
- Linkify text files, which makes links in text files clickable.
- Ultimate highlighter, which will highlight search terms after you click on a page through Google.
These are just some suggestions. You will find more interesting scripts on UserJS.org that will make Opera work better for you.
Cleaning up the UI and otherwise making Opera work better
- Trawl through the preferences. Hit Ctrl-, to go to the Preferences menu. I personally turn off the widgets tab (under General), notification pop-ups (under Advanced->Notifications) and turn the “Double-click text to display context menu” feature on (under Advanced->Toolbars).
- Go through the Appearance panel. You’ll find it under Tools->Appearance. I personally enable only Notes, Transfers, History and Links, and place the panel on the right (Panels), and disable the Start bar (Toolbars).
- Customise your interface. Go back to Tools->Appearance, then the “Toolbars” tab, and you’ll notice that there’s an orange box that appears on the toolbars you click on. The orange box indicates that a particular toolbar is in focus, and its various options are modifiable in the Appearance window. There are only two things you must change, and they relate to the panel: click the vertical bar where Notes, Transfers, History etc are selectable and change its “Placement” to “Top”. Then select the weird heading strip thing that is now below it and change “Placement” to “Off”. This is the only stupid thing in Opera’s default interface right now, and you may simply want to keep things as they are otherwise. But go ahead and add buttons (check the “Buttons” tab), drag things around, and remove things (right click and “Remove from toolbar”).
I am done! Please consider Opera. It really is better. (And if you think this page was unfair, email me! I notice people mention I’m unfair in message board threads sometimes and I wanna do my best to avoid any exaggerations or mistruths despite my obvious agenda. I don’t believe any fact on this page is wrong, but I’m very open to corrections and amendments!)
You can go down a level to Soaringrabbit.com’s homepage if you want.