The competition in the Web browser area really heated up last week with the introduction of a new version of Opera – Version 10. Many of you are familiar with Internet Explorer and Firefox which are the two most popular browsers, and now with this version of Opera, I would like to introduce you to what may be, for you, a new Web browser. Actually, Opera is one of the oldest Web browsers. It made its public debut in 1996. While Opera has a long history, it has not garnered a very large audience. Here’s the most recent breakdown of Web browser use from Web metrics:
As you can see, Opera is at the tail end in the number of users, but this version and a little publicity might move Opera ahead. I would like to see that because although it is not well known, Opera is an excellent browser. Opera has always been innovative and feature-filled, and with this version, they have redesigned the browser as well as added some useful features.
First, Version 10 has a nice clean interface. Along with the Google Chrome browser, it is simple and uncluttered and that will appeal to many users. Opera has a feature called Speed Dial. This is something that I use every day. In the Firefox browser, Speed Dial is available as an add-on, but in Opera, it is built-in. When you open a new tab, you see a selection of websites that can be customized. They appear as large squares. It is very easy to make each of them open one of your favorite Web pages. For instance, you can have one go to your favorite news site, another to your stock portfolio, another to the local weather, etc. Internet Explorer 8 has a similar feature, but it picks your most-visited websites to put in the squares. In Opera, you get to choose your favorite sites. I like that much better.
Over the years, I’ve noticed that Opera is very eye-friendly. The Speed Dial icons are not little thumbnails. They are quite large. Opera also has another feature that is easy on the eyes. When you first use Opera, you will see the names of the websites that you have opened on the tabs just as you would in Internet Explorer or Firefox, but if you find the handle in the center of the bottom of the tabs and drag it down, Opera will display large thumbnails of the Web pages that you have open in each tab. This is not only a useful feature, but it is helpful if you struggle to see the many small things on the screen.
I have always known Opera as the browser that offers the highest amount of zoom. Now, Internet Explorer and others have caught up, but in this version, the zoom feature of Opera has been made even better. If you have aging eyes or failing eyesight, you will love this feature. The normal zoom is 100%. In Opera 10, you can zoom as high as 1,000%. Normally, when things get that big you have to scroll horizontally to read everything. A neat new Opera feature called “fit to screen” offers a solution for this problem. Just click the “fit to screen” icon at the bottom of any window and the screen is redrawn to fit horizontally. That means everything is much easier to read at large sizes.
Another striking new feature of Opera 10 is the Turbo mode. This compresses Web pages to speed up surfing on sluggish connections, including dial-up connections. Although the pictures are a little grainy in Turbo mode, if you are still on dial-up or have a slow Internet connection, this mode will noticeably speed things up.
Opera 10 also has an email application and plenty of other features. It is a free download at www.opera.com. You can try it and use it right alongside of Internet Explorer, Firefox, or any other browser. Why would you want to try Opera? First, if you are adventuresome and like to try new things. Second, if you have aging eyes or failing eyesight. Third, if you are on a slow Internet connection. Fourth, it’s free, so you have nothing to lose.