Life online moves in leaps and bounds and if you blink, you’ll quite likely forget that it ever existed – remember Myspace – Opera, however, is one of the long standing pillars of the Internet and has been with us now for over two decades. I’m not sure if Internet time can be counted in dog years but if it could Opera is almost celebrating its Sesquicentennial!
The new Opera seems to have moved on and left its battle with MSN in the past and its new desktop browser is a sleek and beautiful thing. With built in ad block, battery saver and VPN functionality it has some features that the others are never going to have.
Our rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
👍🏻 The good
- Built-in VPN
👎🏻 The bad
- Limited synchronization
What is Opera?
There are only four web browsers that people are really familiar with. You have (Google) Chrome, (Microsoft) Internet Explorer (IE), (Mozilla) Firefox and Opera. Now while Chrome is probably the acknowledged leader in terms of market share, Opera has had a long and fairly steady progression. It’s position as number four actually looks to be changing in recent years, not so much because it has done something better, but more because IE and Firefox look to be dropping further and further as they lose share to Chrome. Perhaps not too surprisingly, it has not been similarly impacted as while it does not have as large a user base, the base it has is extremely loyal and vociferous in its praise!
Launched in the late 1990’s Opera was one of the first browsers on the Internet and while it was never able to truly challenge IE, it had some excellent features including cross platform support (with Version 4 in 2000) that was not available in many other browsers of the time. Continued development and enhancement of the program saw CSS (Cascading Style Sheet) support, Integrated email functionality, and even mouse gesture support but it was always in a seemingly never ending battle with Microsoft.
In 2001, Microsoft actually blocked Opera from accessing MSN.com and while this restriction was lifted several days after implementation, some of the content on the website was still unavailable to Opera users. This MSN battle continued when in 2003 Microsoft again updated their code, so users utilizing Opera browsers received a badly formatted website/experience. This made it seem that there was a bug in Opera, but only on the MSN website!
Pros and Cons
- The built in VPN gives you added protection that is simply astounding in a free tool. With minimal impact to the network and your browsing experience, enabling it is really a no brainer.
- Video pop out is a cool new feature in the new iteration of Opera. Having a video in a separate screen lets you multitask to your heart’s
- Opera’s home page/Opening page … speed dial page? Well, whatever you want to call it, it’s really great – the tiles are easy to see and the page gives you the customization of a smartphone letting you add and remove tiles, group and drag them – basically you can make this page your own! It doesn’t end there though, as you can add additional functionality by utilizing browser extensions with the tiles!
- Ad Blocking – let’s be honest, this is never going to be a feature that Chrome will enable and while it’s not on by default in Opera it’s pretty quick and easy to activate. Simply turn it on in Settings and you’re going to get a quicker and faster browsing experience – note: even with it on, not all ads will be blocked … It automatically unblocks some major sources, but you will notice a difference.
- It offers to sync similar to Firefox and Chrome allowing you to take your bookmarks, settings, history, open tabs and passwords from one device to another. This is really a key requirement for any browser in today’s interconnected world, so any browser not offering it would really suffer!
- There are still some websites which do not support Opera in comparison to other browsers. There is no specific reason for this incompatibility as Opera follows the standards fairly rigorously, but it must be noted. However, as Opera is actually based on Chromium (Google’s development version of Chrome) this incompatibility should gradually disappear.
Opera launched some features that later became the Industry standard. Things like tabbed browsing and built in search functionality were first introduced in Opera and they continue to innovate and build new enhancements to their product. Some of its newer features are truly on the cutting edge and if they too become adopted by Opera’s larger and more popular competitors will help to make the Internet a significantly safer and more secure place!
Some Tips and Tricks
- Enabling Turbo Mode in Opera will help you load up web pages faster – especially if you have a slow Internet connection. Simply go to the Settings Menu and click on Opera Turbo to activate it.
- Setup Opera Link to Sync all of your devices. Simply click on the icon in the bottom left corner of the browser window and follow all of the prompts.
- Use Opera widgets to get information from the Internet without having to open a web page. These handy little “apps” can be obtained from widgets.opera.com
- Ad blocker while a handy feature is not enabled by default. To set it up, click on Settings and then Privacy & Security. You can also enable VPN here – although doing so will disable Turbo Mode.
Opera while not as popular as the big boys has been around for a long time and is not going to go anywhere soon. It is a good solid tool that continues to create and innovate offering new features and enhancements that are not only useful, they are well made and simply work!