software/opera.jpgInternet Explorer is the most popular Internet browser in the world. Yet, it is laden with security flaws and is the target of all sorts of evildoers. Internet Explorer comes pre-installed on Windows computers, but you don’t have to stick with it. It’s easy to download and use another Web browser.

In fact, while Microsoft is busy trying to solve their Internet Explorer security problems, several other Web browsers have surpassed Internet Explorer in their sleekness, speed, and features. Opera is one such browser.

Opera can be downloaded at the Opera Software Web site. It installs quickly and easily. During the installation you are prompted to let Opera copy your Favorites from your current Web browser making the transition effortless. While Opera has an e-mail client, you don’t have to use it. You can simply download Opera and use it as your browser.

Opera is less than half the size of Internet Explorer, yet it has several features that leave Internet Explorer in the dust. The first is called “tabbed browsing”. When you open an Internet page in Opera, it will have a tab at the top of the page. Then when you open another page and it will also have a tab. This makes it simple to switch between Web pages; just click on the tab of the Window you want to view. It is also easy to see all the different pages you have open at any given time. It is perfect when you are researching any subject and is useful even for everyday Web surfing.

Another great feature of Opera is the ability to save the session you are working on. For instance, if you are researching a health issue and have five pages open, you simply click on Tools, then Preferences. Choose “Continue from last time” and close Opera. Next time you open Opera, you will be right where you left off. I keep this as my default setting so I don’t even have to click on Tools or Preferences. Opera knows that I want to start each session showing all the Web pages that I was using in my last session.

My favorite Opera feature is called Mouse Gestures. Once this feature is turned on you can simply move your mouse to perform tasks that would otherwise require placing your mouse on a specific icon or menu choice. It works like this. Hold down the right mouse button and move the mouse to the left to go to a previous page. Hold the right mouse button and move the mouse to the right to go to the next page. There are mouse gestures for many frequently performed operations, and once you learn just a few them you can dramatically speed up your Web browsing.

The Opera Web browser is extremely customizable. You can use pre-formatted “skins” to change the look of the browser. Not only is this fun, but also, if you have any visual difficulties, you can choose a look that is easier on your eyes. In fact, you can even design your own buttons and choose your own colors if you don’t find any pre-designed skins that you like. You can also customize the panels that appear on the left side of the Opera window to provide one-touch access to various functions. Opera even lets you create a Personal Toolbar where you can have direct access to your most visited Web sites.

That’s not all. Opera has a pop-up blocker, a password manager and a download manager. You can zoom in and out to make the text larger by pressing the + and – keys. You can easily set the text size to whatever is best for your eyes. The printing functions are also better than those in Internet Explorer.

The best part is that all these great features don’t cost anything. The free version of Opera has some ads at the top of the screen, but I find them unobjectionable and barely noticeable. If you don’t like the ads, you can purchase a paid version without ads for $39. The paid version, also gives you better access to tech support. If you try the free version of Opera and like it, you may want to buy the paid version just to support a great company that is giving Microsoft a run for its money.

Whether you are trying to escape the insecurities of Internet Explorer or looking for a better Web browser, give Opera a try. There’s a lot to like here.

Manufacturer:  Opera

Price:  Free with ads,  $39.99 without ads