Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Opera 12.10 web browser review

Technically minded people (devs, hobbyists, etc) love hearing about operating system reviews. The features of the file system, what kernel drivers are deprecated in this version of software X, etc. But for the end user, the userland is what matters. Software that runs utop these abstractions. As a long time Firefox turned Chromium user, I thought I had found my love in web browsing, but I would be wrong. Opera 12.10 came by and stole that from me, with featureful speed and elegance. Here is the review of Opera 12.10!

Dispelling common myths

Opera has a weird association. It is supposedly very relevant within the "hipster" community, the kinds of people that still where Fedoras and trench coats in the modern day. Although opera only has 1% market share in the web browser market, it leads the way in innovative features.

You may have heard that Opera was the first to come up with tabs. Correct, and other features such as Mouse gestures were coined by Opera software, making this low-key innovator a feature machine.


Since tabs have become mainstream Opera needs features that stand out within the browser. Here are somhe features that Opera supports.

Mail - Opera integrates with your existing mail account, performing some actions that even Thunderbird gets wrong at times (such as splitting up mailing lists and regular email, attachment separation, labels, etc). And it was a no-hassle setup for a gmail account. No direct server information required! Also, this allows you to access your contacts from within Opera and perform actions on them, such as share files.

Opera Unite and Javascript
Pictured on the right is something called Opera Unite. A framework that is used to make applications for sharing files of all varieties. It also allows you to stream webcam content or run your own webserver, share pictures or play music, anything you can think of (and more, with addons) is available through Opera unite.

Like Opera Turbo addons, Opera has official addons available for the browser. Where it is lacking in this regard it makes up for in the ability to run .js files saved in the .user.js file format in your Javascripts folder.

Turbo - Where I come from, the community isn't big to enough to be a city or even a township. Technically, it's a village. So I know first-hand what slow internet connectivity is like. With Opera Turbo's compression, you can load pages nearly instantly on slow (100 KiB/s and lower) connections. Also, the cache works impressively better than on Firefox or Chrome. It works to such a good degree, that if a websites HTML is updated frequently (such is the case with Yotsuba-like imageboards) you will need to set your settings to "check always" so that it does not open a cached page. This saves bandwidth and allows offline access, as well as instant loading.

Downloads and Files
Downloads work a lot like in Chrome. They can be paused and restarted right from the download window. And when it is finished, you can open the directory right inside of opera wit the "file://" prefix. You will then browse the folder listings just as if you were using and FTP directory. It would be nice if there was an option to open a directory natively in the desktop environment's file browser, but since this IS Linux I wouldn't expect such a feature anyway. But apparently it isn't available on other versions either, making it a small inconvenience since Opera prefers this file browser over others.

There are only a few bugs with Opera that I have found yet, and they are very minor in nature and sometimes not even Opera's fault.

Spell Check on TextBoxes - You have to manually enable spellcheck for single-line windows. I don't agree with this, but that is not a bug. What IS a bug, is that when the textbox is disabled and then re-enabled, the setting has to be disabled and then re-enabled along with it to work again. This can be tiring on a text box that updates often. This is not the case with text areas, however, and the spellcheck works rather good there.

Compatibility - It is true that Opera has a very small market share. And because of this, it is usually the most unsupported browser (even moreso than one such as Midori that uses Webkit. Even Blogger doesn't support Opera). For browsing this is fine, but for some headers that require a certain browser, they will not work. For instance, when I went to write this review I had to use Chromium because of how image dragging was handled in Opera. Still, this doesn't effect MOST people.

The lack of Addons that are supported by Opera may be an issue, especially in the Theme department, but the default look of Opera is gorgeous enough that it doesn't matter.

Try it. It's very small (12 MiB for all those features!), feature-rich, and as fast as an overclocked toaster running BSD. Pages render fast, caching actually works, and it supports mouse gestures!

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