For years now I have been a user of Mozilla’s Firefox web browser, but after downloading the Opera mobile browser for my phone, and being somewhat pleased by the browsing experience, I decided to give the full desktop version of the Opera 10 web browser a go.
The first thing that I was impressed with was the setup time. Within just a couple of minutes I had downloaded and installed the program and was browsing. A much nicer and easier install than that of say, Safari. Plus, there are no annoying requests to install additional software that you have no intention of installing.
Upon opening the browser, I was initially impressed by the interface. In my opinion, the browser boasts looks almost as fine as those of Safari. However, by gaining the looks that you don’t get with the likes of Internet Explorer and Firefox, you don’t lose any of the simplicity and usability.
Like most modern browsers it allows for tabbed browsing and extremely simple navigation in the traditional style. Unlike other browsers, Opera 10 allows for what they call ‘Visual tabs’. You can drag the bottom of the tab and expand it into an attractive preview of the site in question.
After attempting to test out some of the features of Opera 10, I found the ability to customise the appearance of Opera one of the most impressive features. For a start there are many different colour schemes available without downloading add-ons. They alter the appearance in a subtle way which was a nice surprise after experiencing some of the more vivid themes available for browsers such as Firefox or Chrome.
There are 2 preset skins; ‘opera standard’ and ‘windows native’. My personal preference being the former. You can browse for downloadable skins within the customisation tab itself with no need to go scouring the depths of the Internet. For most there is a preview and they only take seconds to download. After download, they are immediately placed alongside the default skins which adds to the ease of use. There are 8 different toolbars to choose from including the bookmark toolbar and options to remove the status bar or navigation bar.
Some useful customisation features include the option to pre-complete your forms, for automatic entry saving you time. Also, one of the key features of Opera which they keenly promoted pre-release of the 10th edition of the browser, is the so called ‘turbo-boost’. Basically, the option allows for web pages to be compressed into a basic form, eradicating images and videos leaving you with a page which loads at express pace in its simplest form. After testing the feature, I found it delivered exactly as promised, but personally, I pay for an internet connection that I am more than willing to use. I understand why it would be useful if browsing on the move with limited connection speeds.
‘Speed dial’ also allows you to organise your top sites in a similar manner to Safari or Chrome which allows you to easily access your commonly visited sites in seconds. As always, these are easily altered and added.
Panels are also a feature which I haven’t come across in any other browser. It allows you to easily switch between the web, mail, contacts, widgets etc. And it is easily altered through the panels themselves. A simple right click and ‘remove panel’ can get rid of any unwanted and unused pages.
Other additions to Opera which I found useful were the Widgets. Equivalents of the Google and Yahoo versions, which operate in a similar manner and are downloadable easily through a drop-menu which you can see in the image above.
Also, Opera Unite is a suite of applications allowing for almost instantaneous sharing of files, music and photos. It is a new technology which claims you can share 10Gb of photos in 10 seconds. This unprecedented speed is due to the direct sharing between you and your friends without ever having to upload to a webpage.
In terms of speed. Even when I wasn’t using the turbo feature I found it comparable and competitive with the more widely used browsers and was overall impressed with the speed of browsing.
Lastly, there is an extremely capable mail feature built into the browser. It is easy enough to set up your account. Simply enter your address and password for your web based account and select either POP or IMAP. Then it is pretty much set up for you.
As you can see, the interface is attractive and fits in with your chosen skin for web browsing as it is all included in the browser and accessible through tabs. There is a search bar which allows you to easily locate your mail if you have too many to scroll through. Lastly, the Opera mail feature is ‘intelligent’. What I mean by this is that it learns from your usage. The more views you give certain types of email, the more it learns. After a while of picking up your traits it will auto sort your mail to prioritise them.
Overall, I have loved using the Opera 10 web browser for the short time I have done. I still have my doubts over compatibility as it is not a commonly used browser. Although so far, I can’t see why as it is by far the most attractive, functional and usable browser I have come across. It is an all round solution for your web needs as well as integration into the desktop. I would definitely recommend it if you are looking to get away from your current browser. Or if you are merely curious. It’s a great browser.
UPDATE: This web browser has now been updated, so be sure to take a look at our Opera 11 article and find out about the latest updated features that it has to offer you.