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Opera

Download Opera 12.17

I have been using Opera as my primary browser since version 5.0 when it was first recommended to me for its built-in email client. Being able to check and send email while browsing is as useful as it ever was, but there are several other reasons why I use and recommend Opera. There is no program that I use more — and my daily work would be much harder without it. I hope that this summary of some key features will encourage new users to try it, and help existing users to get more out of it. Most of this review still refers to the Presto version of Opera 12.17 or earlier. To download older versions, or versions for Mac, Linux, and other Operating System, browse the FTP Servers.

Email Client

Set up one or more email accounts in Opera to have instant access without running another program. I keep my “Received mail” tab open at all times for quick reference. The Ctrl E shortcut can be used to compose an email while browsing, or clicking an email link will open the Compose mail window. Opera was always a plain text client, which IMO is the best for email, but it now has an HTML mail composer if you need it. Spell-check is built in to the browser and can also be used to check mail.

The mail tabs can be arranged in the traditional way with list above and message below, or side-by-side, with one or two lines for the message list. Grouping of messages by date can be disabled to return to the old style mail layout.

I don’t use the Mail Panel at all, but there are more options there for sorting and filtering mail.

The email client works like a database, so there is no need to sort mails in folders. Just use views (filters) to organise your mail, or simply use the quick find field to filter mails containing key words.

Customisability

Keyboard

For my work of editing Buddhist publications and teaching Buddhism online I must use Pāli so being able to customise the keyboard to type Latin Extended Additional characters was a great asset. I no longer use that method, as I have developed my own keyboard using the Microsoft Keyboard Layout Creator, but the customised keyboard is still something I would hate to lose. Opera users who are not using Windows, or who don’t want to change their default keyboard can use it to type Pāli in Opera.

To edit the keyboard shortcuts, from Preferences, Advanced, Shortcuts, Keyboard Setup, and edit the Opera Standard keyboard setup. This will automatically create a copy called “Opera Standard (Modified)”, which you can rename as you wish. It will also create a new \keyboard\ subfolder containing a text file named standard_keyboard (1).ini in Opera’s profile folder. This text file can also be renamed if you wish. Mine is named Unicode.ini — to install it, save it in …\profile\keyboard\ and select it in Preferences, Advanced, Shortcuts.

The Keyboard setup editor is powerful, but easy to use. The shortcuts are context-sensitive, so a single keyboard shortcut can do different things in different contexts. For example, F7 might be used to “Spell check” in the Advanced, Edit Widget context (in edit fields), but to edit the Menu setup or something else in the “Application” context. To check if a shortcut is already used, type it in the Quick Find field of the dialogue. All of the assigned commands will be listed as in the dialogue below:

Commands are not case-sensitive, and are usually written with the key first, followed by the modifiers, e.g. “F7 shift” rather than “Shift F7” because this makes it much easier to read the list. You can write “Shift F7” if you prefer, and you can arrange the shortcuts in any order that makes sense to you. New shortcuts are added before the selected shortcut. Multiple modifier keys are separated by a space, e.g. “F7 Ctrl Alt Shift.” Multiple key shortcuts are also possible, but these must be separated by a comma, e.g. “p, p, 7” or “f, t, p” — I use these mnemonic shortcuts primarily to launch programs from Opera.

Shortcut = Action

g, e = Execute program, "C:\Program Files (x86)\Google\Google Earth\client\googleearth.exe"

i, v = Execute program, "C:\Program Files (x86)\IrfanView\i_view32.exe"

p, d, f = Execute program, "C:\Program Files\Tracker Software\PDF Editor\PDFXEdit.exe"

t, d = Execute program, "O:\Documents/ToDo.txt"


Note that if a file type is associated with a program in Windows, you can launch any file in that program using the “Execute program” command — in the above example I use it to open Notepad2 with a text file. This is quicker than using the Windows taskbar or Start Menu to launch the program, then finding it on the recent files list, or browsing the hard drive to open it. Since Opera uses several single key shortcuts for page navigation, if you use those you will have fewer options available for mnemonic shortcuts. For example, in the default keyboard setup you will find:

Feature ExtendedShortcuts, a = Highlight next URL

Feature ExtendedShortcuts, q = Highlight previous URL

If “a” is already used then “a, b, c” will never do anything. I only use x = forward, and z = back, which are not so useful for mnemonic shortcuts anyway. Shortcuts defined as above with “Feature ExtendedShortcuts” will only work if “Enable single-key shortcuts” is set in Preferences, Shortcuts.

Several commands can be executed in sequence by using the “&” separator. For example:

b, b = Set alignment, "personalbar inline", 6 & Delay, 5000 & Set alignment, "personalbar inline", 0

This shortcut (pressing b twice) will show the Bookmarks Bar (formerly called the Personalbar), “inline” means that it will be placed in the current page below the address bar and tabs). The “6” means it will be placed in its default position (0 = off, 1= left, 2 = top, 3 = right, 4 = bottom). The command “Delay, 5000” waits 5 seconds, then disables the Bookmarks Bar by setting the alignment value to 0.

Mouse Gestures

If mouse gestures are enabled in Preferences, Shortcuts, holding the right mouse button down while moving the mouse will execute various commands. The default gestures can be edited or new gestures added to do almost anything using the same commands as for keyboard shortcuts.

GestureRight, GestureLeft = Set alignment, "hotlist", 6 | Hide panel, -1 | Set alignment, "hotlist", 0

GestureLeft = Back | Close page

GestureDown = Open link in background page | Go to end | New page

GestureUp Shift = Show popup menu, "Mouse Gesture Menu"

Mouse flips are executed by holding down one mouse button while clicking the other one. So, in the Bookmarks panel holding the right mouse button while clicking the left button will collapse all bookmark folders, while the opposite — Flipforward — will open them all. These shortcuts are defined in the Advanced, Tree Widget context.

Flipback = Close all items

Button3 = Spell check

The middle mouse button is “Button3”, which in the Advanced, Edit widget context (in edit boxes) will run the spell-checker. Mouse gestures can made easier to execute by increasing the Gesture Threshold so that the direction of the gesture doesn’t need to be so precise. Show Gesture UI will display a popup giving some indication of what happens next. This “feature” is on by default, but you will soon disable it. For “Set alignment” commands that is all it will show, for a string of commands it will only show the first, and for program commands it will just show “Execute program,” without telling you which program will be executed.

Menus

There are so many features in Opera, that it can be hard finding your way around. However, it is not hard to edit the menus to remove any items that you don’t use. Although there is no direct method via the interface, the configuration file can be edited in a plain text editor like notepad.

To create a new menu, in Preferences, Toolbars, Menu setup, edit the “Opera Standard” menu. This will automatically create a copy called “Opera Standard (Modified)”, which you can rename as you wish. It will also create a new \menu\ subfolder containing a text file named standard_menu (1).ini in Opera’s profile folder. This text file can also be renamed if you wish. Download my customised Opera Menu, save it in \profile\menu\ and select it in Preferences, Toolbars to try it out.

Menus use similar commands to keyboards, but also have text labels to show the appropriate item on the menu, and may also display an icon.  In the example below, “MI_IDM_Open” is the label that will show “Open…” on an English menu setup. “Open document” is what it does.  To create your own text labels, just type the label as text. The second item, “Drives” shows the text “Drives” on the menu and executes the command, “Go to page, “opera:drives” in the address field to browse the local hard disks. The icon shown on the menu is named “Browse.” If this icon exists in the skin it will be displayed on the menu at 16 x 16 pixels.

[Browser File Menu]

Item, MI_IDM_Open=Open document

Item, "Drives"="Go to page, "opera:drives",,,"Browse""

Each menu section, e.g. [Browser File Menu] is a subroutine that can be called by other menu sections. So, for example, in the [Browser Menu Bar] is one line to call the [Browser Bookmarks Menu], one line to call the [Browser File Menu], etc. The separator lines on the menus are created by using three hyphens before and after some text, which is just a comment or a number

---Bookmarks---

Submenu, M_BROWSER_MENU_BAR_BOOKMARKS, Browser Bookmarks Menu, , "Menu Bookmarks"

---Main Menu---

Submenu, MI_IDM_HELP_PRINT_PARENT, Browser File Menu, , "Menu File"

Some menus are generated by Opera when it starts up or while it is running. For example, a list of closed pages, a list of installed browsers, or a list of search engines. The menu items below will show the list of currently open tabs and the list of tabs closed since Opera was last restarted:

Include, Internal Window List

Include, Internal Closed Window List

Most are self-explanatory. “Internal OpenIn Menu” (installed browsers), “Include, Internal Spellcheck Suggestions” (spelling corrections), “Include, Internal skin list” (installed skins), etc.

Toolbars

The default toolbar setup in Opera is too minimalist and the skin is too drab for me. I use the D.T.A Skin. It has colourful 32 pixel icons to match standard program icons. My Compact Toolbar setup is designed to make best use of the space on my 1280 x 1024 monitor.

  1. The Tab Bar (aka Pagebar) at the top utilises the space normally taken by the Windows application title bar. On the tab bar are the “Pagebar Head Toolbar” on which sits the Opera menu button. After the last open tab is the “Pagebar Floating Toolbar” on which is the Trash can and the  New Tab button. On the extreme right of the Tab bar is the “Pagebar Tail Toolbar” which is disabled in my setup. In the default setup it holds the trash can. Clicking the trash can shows a popup menu listing the tabs closed since Opera was started.
  2. The Address Bar (aka Document toolbar), is at the top of the window below the tabs. The default setup has just four buttons: Back, Forward, Reload/Stop, and Log in. The remaining width of the browser window is taken up by the Address field and the search field. In my setup, the address bar is used for all of the custom buttons that I use.
  3. The Status Bar at the bottom of the window has four buttons, a status field, a popup menu, and a zoom slider. The first button toggles the panels, the second controls Opera Link, the third controls Opera Unite, and the fourth controls Opera Turbo mode. The popup menu show/hides images or fits the web page to the window. The slider zooms the current web page. In my setup, the status bar is disabled. If I need it, it can be shown/hidden with a shortcut or mouse gesture.

There are many other toolbars designed for specific functions. Most can be docked at the left, top, bottom, or right of the window, or shown only when needed. Buttons and fields can be dragged and dropped onto any toolbar using the Customise, Appearance dialogue, or by holding down the shift key while dragging.

  1. Main Bar: This can be used instead of the Address bar if you prefer not to hide the Windows application title bar or if you want the tabs to be below the URL field.
  2. Address Bar: (aka document toolbar)
  3. Start Bar: Popup toolbar in the address field, whichever toolbar that is on. Can cause problems by obstructing the interface.
  4. Personal Bar: Now replaced by the Bookmarks bar, but retained for those who prefer to have their favourite bookmarks above the tabs.
  5. Bookmarks Bar: (aka Personalbar Inline) These two toolbars show the same personal bookmarks or favourite folders. Buttons cannot be placed on these toolbars, but search engines can.
  6. Extension Bar: This sits on the Address bar, and holds icons to launch extensions.
  7. Tab Bar: (aka Page bar). If placed at the top will overlay the Windows application title bar. Wrapping can be disabled or an extender menu can be shown if it is full. The max/min width of the tabs depends on the skin, and can be modified there. If the tab bar is placed at the side the tab width can be modified in opera:config.
  8. Status Bar:
  9. View Bar: (aka document view bar)
  10. Navigation Bar: (aka Site Navigation toolbar). This shows active site navigation links only if they have been defined for the web site. As it is useless for other sites, it can be used for some other purpose. Buttons can be added to this toolbar.
  11. Progress Bar: Page loading progress is shown inside the address field by default, or can be shown as a popup toolbar at the bottom of the window.
  12. Panel Selector Toolbar: By default, this toolbar is placed to the left of the panels, and is always visible, even if the panels are closed to give quick access to Bookmarks, Mail, History, Transfers, etc. Only panels can be added to this toolbar — any tab can be dragged to it to create a new panel. If the panel selector is moved to Top or Bottom placement from the Customise, Appearance, Toolbars dialogue, it will be hidden when the panels are closed, saving space. The Panel Toggle strip can also be enabled to access the panels. There is a small toolbar on the Panel Selector, holding just one button, which shows a popup menu of available panels. Buttons can be added to this small toolbar, next to the popup menu button.
  13. Panel Toolbars: Each panel has its own toolbar, and buttons can be added here.
  14. Mail Toolbars: Email views such as the “Received,” or “Sent,” views also have their own toolbar for mail related tasks, and mail tabs have a header toolbar too showing the current view and its status (number of messages). Buttons can be added to these toolbars. The header toolbar can be hidden to save space.

There are other toolbars for blocked content, passwords, geolocation, find in page, etc., but they are not customisable from the customise dialogue and in general are only shown when needed.

Skins

Opera comes with just one Standard Skin. A wide range of custom skins can be download from the Customise, Appearance, Skins dialogue to change the appearance of the browser. Below is a screen shot of my Opera Glasses Skin is slightly less compact than my DTA skin (above).

Creating skins is a complex task, but it is relatively easy to add a few more icons, or change the spacing of some elements. Read the Opera Skinning Guide for details. My two skins are based on the Classic Opera skin from earlier versions. The Opera Glasses skin uses larger 32 x 32 pixel icons to better match the 32 pixel program icons I have added to the skin.

  1. Unzip the skin archive to extract its folder structure
  2. Add a new folder for the new icons
  3. Extract the 32-bit 32 pixel icons from program executables using @IconSushi.
  4. Edit skin.ini from the skin’s root folder using notepad, adding definitions for each new icon like this:

[Images]

;Additional Buttons

7zip   = buttons2/7zip.png

  1. Zip the archive up again to include the new folder and its contents
  2. Copy the new zip folder over the original skin archive. This can be done with Opera open as long as the skin that you’re editing is not in use.

In Opera 12.00, the appearance dialogue changed to “Find More Themes” instead of “Find More Skins.” Themes are just a useless bunch of wallpapers, whilst the old skins change the appearance of the browser toolbars and other elements.

Buttons

Having added the new icons, they can now be used on toolbars to launch external programs, or whatever. A link like this • 7-Zip • would create a button if dragged to any Opera toolbar that supports buttons. The code below was used to create the link (%20 is a space, %22 is a " quote mark) :

opera:/button/Execute%20program,%20%22C:/Program%20Files/7-Zip/7zFM.exe%22,,,%227zip%22%22

Bookmark the link to save it for reuse or sharing with others.

Extensions

For more specialised needs than are available in the default browser, Extensions can be added. Extensions are only available while the browser is running, but Widgets can run independently of the browser.

One extension that I find useful is the Image Autosizer. Since Opera 11.11, large images have been resized automatically to fit the window when opening them within the browser. One click is all it takes to zoom in, but some users (not me) were unhappy with this. This extension offers options on image resizing behaviour. Set the background colour, the default fit method on loading an image, and the fit methods to cycle through when clicking on the image and when double-clicking. Optionally, fit small images too.

Opera for Blink versions should be able to use Chrome Extensions. APNG support can be added to Chrome-based browsers with the APNG Add-on.

Extensions can be added to speed dial slots. For example, the oClock extension will show the current time and moon phase. The Internet page to go to when clicking on the clock can be set in the extension’s preferences. I set it to go to my Home page, so it simply replaces the Home Page slot on my speed dial. By default it will go to the Opera home page.

One Widget that I find useful is an analog clock. It can be made to sit on top of all other applications so I find it useful for timing program performance. If you want to time how fast Opera loads, for example, the widget continues running when Opera is closed.

Widgets are no longer available.

Web Panels

Any web page can be dragged to the Panels Toolbar to create a custom panel. Open my YouTube Panel and drag it to the panels toolbar to watch YouTube videos in a panel while browsing. Edit the source code to change the embedded videos to any of your own choice. To get the embed link from YouTube, click on the “Share” button, the Embed option, copy the code and resize the frame to 300 x 240. To access custom panels with a keyboard shortcut, use shortcuts like those below:

Focus panel, 0 | Hide panel, -1 | Set alignment, "hotlist", 0

Focus panel, 1 | Hide panel, -1 | Set alignment, "hotlist", 0

Focus panel, 0 will open the first panel on the panels toolbar, which is usually the Bookmarks, Focus panel, 1 will focus the second panel, which is usually Contacts, etc. Drag the panels around to any order you want, and add more shortcuts as required. I have shortcuts (that use Ctrl 1 to Ctrl =)  for twelve panels, the last being:

Focus panel, 11 | Hide panel, -1 | Set alignment, "hotlist", 0

Panels are not supported by Opera Next

Security

For any program that connects to the Internet, proper security is vital. Opera protects users on many levels. A badge in the URL field shows the security status of the current web page. See the Security Tutorial and Fraud and Malware Protection in help for details. Whenever vulnerabilities are reported, Opera patches them up promptly.

Speed

Speed in benchmark tests are one factor, but there is much more to speed than just test results. Opera does well in speed tests such as the PeaceKeeper Benchmark. The most important factor is the Internet connection speed, and if you have a Broadband connection even IE may be fast enough. Here are my Peacekeeper test results:

On my AMD A10-6800K PC:

Opera 20.0.1387.64  scored 4145 and 6/7 (496/555)

Opera 21.0.1432.67 scored 4135 and 6/7 (496/555)

Opera 22.0.1457.0 scored 4090 and 6/7 (496/555)

Opera 19.0.1326.63 scored 3982 and 6/7 (494/555)

Opera 12.17 build 1863 scored 2935 and 5/7 (392/555)

Opera 11.64 build 1403 scored 3194 and 5/7 (333/555)

Internet Explorer 11 scored 2392 and 5/7 (365/555)

Firefox 27.0 scored 2575 and 7/7 (448/555)

For users on slow connections Opera Turbo provides a significant speed boost by compressing data before sending it to the browser. Image quality will be poor, but by using the WebP format for compressing images, even highly compressed images are of acceptable quality. This is replaced in the latest version of Opera for Blink with Off-road mode.

Another major factor is how well the interface is designed. As Opera is so customisable users can configure the interface with custom buttons, shortcuts, mouse gestures, and menus to be highly specialised for their particular browsing habits. Users who complain about slow loading pages probably need to change their habits to allow for their slow connection. Loading pages in the background while reading the current page, for example, will save any waiting around.

Standards Support

Opera scores 100/100 on the Acid3 test, SRWare Chrome Iron, Firefox 26, and IE11 also score 100.

In the HTML5 Test Opera 11.64 scores 333 out of 555 total, Internet Explorer 11 scores 369, Opera 12.17 scores 392, Apple Safari 7.0 scores 397, Firefox 26 scores 446, Opera 18 scores 492, Opera 20 scores 496, and Chrome 31 scores 503.

“The HTML5 test score is an indication of how well your browser supports the upcoming HTML5 standard and related specifications. Even though the specification isn't finalized yet, all major browser manufacturers are making sure their browser is ready for the future.”

Botches, Bugs, and Brick-bats

When you use a program constantly, you learn to work with its limitations, but there are some issues that should never have happened in the first place, or that should have been addressed long ago.

  1. Change for Change’s sake. Upgrading shouldn’t require relearning the program.
    • In their rush to innovate, the Opera Developers miss the point that most users don’t want to spend time getting their browser back to how it was before an upgrade.
    • The menu when enabled at the top of the window is completely different to the Opera Button menu. I Fixed the Button Menu so that it matches the top menu bar.
    • PageDown and PageUp no longer scroll by a full page. This is not a bug, but an intentional change. It is
    one of the most stupid changes ever, just because other browsers do it wrong. Opera used to do it right like Notepad so that the last line in the view-port becomes the first. After nine months, I finally heard from an Opera Project Manager why this was changed — because sites like Twitter and Facebook use a position:fixed bar at the top of the page, which obscures content that would be shown without it. So the behaviour on every other site that I use was broken intentionally to fix a problem on sites that I do not.
  2. Outstanding Bugs. All programs have bugs, but not many are introduced on purpose.
    • DSK-296141 To stop new users from removing the menu button, the option is greyed out on the toolbar context menu. However, if the button is added to another toolbar, it is not removable.
    • DSK-341399 Toolbars may be needed on one tab but not on others, e.g. a tab with a video in it. Hiding any toolbar on one tab now hides it on all other tabs and even on other Opera windows! Switching tabs breaks the show/hide shortcuts too.  
    • DSK-372504 (regression in Opera 12.02), WAV files don’t play. Test Page.
    • DSK-367776 (regression in Opera 12.02), Minimum tab width is no longer respected.
    • Tab-stacking is a great feature from some users, but more than a year after its introduction it is still broken. At least provide an option to disable it, or fix the bugs so that it works properly.
    • Likewise, with collapsing pinned tabs. (Though not strictly bugs, these last two are defects).
  3. Missing the Basics. When software has so many customisation options, and includes a built-in email client surely there would be some way to make a backup? One would think that this would be implemented after eleven years, but it hasn’t. The help file expects users to figure it all out. Stu’s free utility makes it easier, but this should be in the GUI. Since a browser contains a lot of potentially sensitive data, backups should be encrypted.
    • Professional users also expect encryption in email.
    • I only keep a hundred or so important emails, but some users keep thousands. The mail database would be a lot more compact if it was possible to remove attachments.
    • Netbook users with maybe 1024 x 600 pixels to play with don’t want to waste space with toolbars. Auto-hide of toolbars (and panels) has been requested many times over the years.
  4. Lagging Behind. Opera has often been the first to implement support, but it is lagging behind with its lack of support for OpenType features. OpenType features are not yet widely used in printed publications, let alone in web fonts, but the technology is available, so let us use it sooner rather than later.
  5. Disregard for Developers. Some users have spent hundreds of hours developing Widgets, Unite Applications, or skins. Now they are told, “Sorry guys, we are discontinuing Widgets and Unite in the next version. All your hard work will soon be scrapped. All apps must use the Extension API. Skins have been phased out. Themes are little more than wallpapers.

Opera Next

Opera Next is the official name for the beta versions that are approaching final release. There are three separate channels: Final, Next, and Development. Currently that is Opera 23, 24, and 25. When Opera 24 becomes final, then Opera 25 will move to the Next channel, and Opera 26 will later be released as the development (experimental) version. Final builds should be stable, while development builds may do all kinds of unexpected things, so don’t trust important data to anything other than the Final version, and if your data is important to you, keep backups anyway.

Opera 23 Final was released on 22nd July 2014. Subscribe to the Desktop Team Blog RSS feed to keep track of developments.

This uses the Web-kit/Blink rendering engine. Opera abandoned the Presto engine used until recently because too many sites don’t test in Opera, resulting in them not rendering correctly. This new version should fix many site issues. It is also noticeably faster than Opera 12.17 in my PeaceKeeper tests.

There has been a storm of protest on the forums and Desktop Team blog, about the many missing features in this new version — no more integrated email client (it is now a separate application), no customising, no bookmarks menu, no notes, and a host of other issues.

Over a year later it is still not worth using. I shall continue using Opera 12.17 until Opera Next has the features that I need, which I don’t expect to be before January 2015. The current indications are that Opera Next will never again be the customisable and versatile browser that we are used to.

I can live with a separate email client, but I don’t think I will ever upgrade unless the interface is customisable as it is in Opera 12.17. The older version remains my default browser due to the presence of skins, custom buttons, shortcuts, mouse gestures, etc., and I keep Opera 11.64 installed too for some sites like this that break in Opera 12.17. I have found alternatives to Opera Unite, but it will take a lot of improvements to make me move to Opera for Blink. There are so many little things that add up to a major hindrance when you have to relearn everything just to do your daily work.

I recommend installing each new version in its own folder using the USB install option, and leave your preferred stable version untouched. It’s perfectly practical to run several versions simultaneously.

My Opera Has Closed

My Opera has now moved to its new home.  The new forum is a complete waste of time. Spam-infested within days, the forum has lost everything good about My Opera — easy navigation, formatting of posts with bbCode, user profiles, avatars, signatures, private messages, block lists, easy quoting of posts, etc. On the right is one of my last posts at My Opera, showing how posts used to look. Having destroyed the browser, they have now destroyed the Community.

Several months on from the launch of the new forum, very little has improved. Don’t waste your time with the new forum. If you visit, remain focused on getting an answer to your question, and don’t stir up the trolls and fanboys.

The Desktop Team Blog has moved to a new home on Disqus, which is also less comfortable to use than the old Desktop Team Blogs.

For those who want traditional forums, there is Vivaldi.net, which was set up by the Opera co-founder Jon von Tetzchner. It includes blogs, email, etc. It’s probably the best place now to get support with old or new versions of Opera. Although it is still very early days for the new forum, the first signs are far worse than I ever imagined.