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 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.
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.
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 for “Spell check” in the Advanced, Edit Widget context (in edit fields), but for “Speak selection” 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 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” or “f, t, p” — I use these mnemonic shortcuts primarily to launch programs from Opera.
Shortcut = Action
g, e="Execute program, "C:\Program Files\Google\Google Earth\client\googleearth.exe""
i, v="Execute program, "C:\Program Files\IrfanView\i_view32.exe""
p, d, f="Execute program, "C:\Program Files\Tracker Software\PDF Viewer\PDFXCview.exe""
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 WebPlus X5 with my this Softer Views web site. This is far 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.
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.
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 16x16 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
Submenu, M_BROWSER_MENU_BAR_BOOKMARKS, Browser Bookmarks Menu, , "Menu Bookmarks"
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.
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 1280x1024 monitor.
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.
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.
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 32x32 pixel icons to better match the 32 pixel program icons I have added to the skin.
7zip = buttons2/7zip.png
In Opera 12.00, the appearance dialogue has changed to “Find More Themes” instead of “Find More Skins.” Themes are currently just a useless bunch of wallpapers, whilst the old skins repository contains full skins, which change the appearance of the browser toolbars and other elements. The old skins are due to be phased out. Opera do not accept old skins unless they conform to a new standard, and skin authors may not have time to update their skins. Once the skins repository is discontinued, all of the old skins will be lost unless someone updates their favourite skin and uploads it to Add-ons.
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) :
Bookmark the link to save it for reuse or sharing with others on the forums.
Visit the Custom Opera Buttons thread to learn more and find many other custom buttons for Opera.
For more specialised needs than are available in the default browser, Extensions and Widgets 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 Autoresizer. 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.
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 analogue 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 due to be phased out.
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
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.
Although they are one factor, there is more to speed than just speed test results, but Opera consistently does well in speed tests such as the PeaceKeeper Benchmark. The most important factor is the user’s Internet connection speed, and if you have a Broadband connection even IE8 will be fast enough.
For users on slow connections, however, 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.
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.
Opera scores 100/100 on the Acid3 test, SRWare Iron (Chrome) and Firefox 8 also score 100, but IE8 (latest version compatible with Windows XP) fails miserably with a score of just 23.
In the HTML5 Test Opera 12.15 scores 404 out of 450 total if WebSockets is enabled in opera:confg (default). Opera Next scores 418, Firefox 22 scores 399, Chrome 22 scores 434, Apple Safari 6.0 scores 378, and Internet Explorer 10 scores 320 points.
“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.”
To get the most out of any modern software is not easy. There are so many options that the average user is unlikely to find or understand many of them. The active support forum provided by Opera is a treasure-trove of useful customising tips and support if you run into problems, or want to find better ways of working. The forums are available at any time of day or night, and only very rarely become inaccessible due to server problems. The forum is visited by members from all over the world, so whatever the nature of your problem, someone will probably know the answer or at least they will know a man who does. If English is not your first language, there are currently 23 language specific forums where you can ask questions in your own language.
There are off-topic forums for chat, general software discussion and topical debate, be aware that the Opera support forums are more tightly moderated than many other forums. Read the forum rules and guidelines before posting to stop your thread getting closed. Use a descriptive title, post in the right forum, and describe the problem succinctly with all the details others will need to provide the answer. Putting your Operating System and basic hardware details in your forum signature is helpful.
This is a suite of applications integrated into Opera for file sharing, and co-operating with other Internet users securely using your browser. Opera must be running with Unite enabled for them to be available to others, but they can be using any browser, and you can be working on some other application without having to interrupt your work. I find the following useful:
If you want to let others to send large files to you or whole folders. Specify how much space you want to assign — the default is 350 Mbytes, but you can set it to whatever you wish. Make the URL public, but set a secure password, and give that to anyone you trust enough to send files to your hard drive. Transferring files of 20 Mbytes is no problem at all. It saves all that hassle with email storage limits, forum attachment limits, or the dangers of free file sharing sites from trojans, phishing, and tricky ads that send you to the wrong site while you wait for the download link to appear. Transfer is faster and more confidential. You know who sent the files, and the sender knows who got them.
Any files in a folder on your hard drive that you have nominated for file sharing can be accessed by other users whenever you are online. A password can be set, or not, as you wish. Friends and family can download photos, or you can make files available to the general public if you wish.
If you publish a web site to your hard drive as you are working on it, you can provide access to it for clients or colleagues so that they can check out the current progress whenever you are online. Send them an email with a link to the web site on your web server application and a password to log on to your Web Server. They can open the index.html page and browse the site, to see how it looks. It means that a previous live site remains untouched until you’re both happy with the look and content of the new version, and nothing needs to be uploaded until it is finished. If only one or two clients are accessing your connection quite heavily, you will probably not even notice any change in performance if you have a good broadband connection. Professional web site developers might like to use a dedicate server for this application.
Opera Unite is now removed from Opera 12.10. Anyone wanting to install or reinstall an application would have to do it in Opera 11.64, upgrade that installation to Opera 12.02, then Enable Unite.
Select any text on a web page, right-click and select “Speak” to have the text read out in a male or female voice. Although machine based pronunciation is not perfect, this is plenty good enough to help someone with reading difficulties or someone learning English as a second language. The first time you try to use this feature, Opera will download and install the required voice libraries.
Connect a microphone and use voice to control the browser.
Voice support is now removed from Opera 12.10. It is can only be enabled by installing 12.02 over the previous versions and enabling VoiceXML in opera:config. It cannot be installed in Opera 12.10.
When you join the My Opera Community, you are allocated 2 Gbytes of server space for your own files. Create a blog, add discussion forums for your interests, or create groups and invite other Opera members to join, create photo albums to share or for private viewing, upload files for offline backup, or for attaching screen shots to forum posts in the Opera forums (hot-linking to hosted images from other sites is not permitted). Get an email email@example.com and a Opera Link account for synchronising bookmarks, notes, etc., between different computers that you use at home/office/mobile etc.
Read the Terms of Service carefully before uploading anything.
On the forums you can find thousands of problem threads, which is no surprise on a support forum. There are perennial ill-informed complaints about memory use and site compatibility, and no end of threads asking why Opera doesn’t behave like Firefox, Chrome, or <add your favourite browser here>.
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.
The next version of Opera 15 was released on 27th May 2013. Subscribe to the RSS feed to keep track of developments.
This is the first release of Opera that 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 12.15 in my PeaceKeeper tests.
There is a storm of protest on the Desktop Team blog, about the many missing features in this initial release — no more integrated email client (it is now a separate application), no customising, no bookmarks (moved to a “Stash” in the speed dial), and many other issues.
People are just panicking, as usually happens with every new release, but this time more than ever because they have been waiting for months for this new Webkit version.
Remember, this is not nearly a release version yet. It may be months before this is approaching Final release status. I shall continue using Opera 11.64 until Opera Next is ready.