Nowadays, when people look for a browser (typically better than Internet Explorer), the two dominant stars of this show are Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome. But unknown to most consumers, there is actually an underdog in this “friendly browser” competition. As you can tell by the title, I clearly refer to the Opera web browser.
Once you open Opera, the interface shouldn’t feel very unusual. The address and search bar are combined at the top much like Google Chrome. It also has a single menu tab in the top left corner of the browser much like Firefox. The Opera web browser also offers themes, and an extension store. Take note that because Opera isn’t a very well popularized web browser compared to Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox, therefore there won’t be much available in the themes and extension store.
One relatively unusual feature that I had trouble grasping to was the Speed Dial option. It appears as a button on the left side of your address bar and is also accessible when opening up a new tab. The Speed Dial is laid out much like the dial pad on your land line phone. But instead of numbers, it has tiles of websites that can also be put together in folders. At first I wonder, why would I need this when I can have a bookmarks bar? Turns out, there is a reasonable purpose behind this.
The purpose of the speed dial is to set a standard when web browsing. What I mean by this is that basically, the developers of Opera want this browser to be snappy and efficient by keeping the amount of pages you’d like to keep to a minimum. Or maybe that’s just how I feel.
As interesting as the feature and its purpose is, I don’t feel the need for it. It may sound ridiculous, but I don’t think there needs to be these medium-sized tiles waiting to be clicked on compared to my single, miniature, mouse pointer. I think the developers of Opera have an interesting concept behind this, but I feel like the design and use of the Speed Dial was improperly laid out. If anything, just bring back the bookmarks bar.
But then that brings me to another topic. I don’t understand why by default, Opera doesn’t launch with a bookmarks bar. It’s just the address bar and the Speed Dial button. I really don’t feel like I need to go through the trouble of finding out how to finally enable that feature by typing in “opera:flags” in my web browser and then scrolling down to enable that feature. I’m not sure if the bookmarks bar is going through beta right now, but I don’t see why there isn’t even one there by default. So Opera, I don’t know what you plan to do, but can you please enable the bookmarks bar by default? Please?
But regardless of these minor issues, the big reason why I really enjoy this browser is the lightness and efficiency it offers. I admit, I don’t have any specific data to prove this. But by user experience, I can tell you that this is the best experience I’ve ever had when surfing the web with a web browser. It is efficient, lightweight, and I’ve had little or no issues with it at all. It really makes me feel like I’m just flying and soaring through the internet so freely at times that I even forget how slow and clunky Firefox and Chrome can be.
Two other features I should mention are the Stash and Discover options. When you go to your Speed Dial or open up a new tab, you can also access the Stash and Discover page. The Stash page lists previews of pages that you “stashed” so you can view them later. Say you found an interesting article that you wanted to read later, just press the heart on the right side of the address bar and the web page will be sent to your Stash. Remember, the Stash page isn’t a bookmark alternative, it’s just another useful way to save your pages for later.
As for the Discover page, it’s basically like a magazine of the internet. What this page does is it takes news from the internet and just compiles it all together for you to view. You can select what categories of stories you would like to see as well as your country. Personally for me, this isn’t feature that I’ve chosen to use during my experience with Opera. However, it’s still a nice little gimmick worth keeping.
Though Opera isn’t a big mainstream browser out there, it doesn’t necessarily mean it can’t compete. Despite the minor falls of Opera from this near-useless Speed Dial to the mysterious disappearance of the bookmarks bar, it still gets the job done. Surfing through the internet is a breeze and without a doubt you’d run into little or no issues with this browser. For me personally, Opera would be a very nice switch if you’re looking for a fast, efficient, and minimal browser.