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 12.16 or earlier. To download older versions, or version for Mac, Linux, and other Operating System, browse the FTP Servers.
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 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.
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 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
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 1280 x 1024 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 32 x 32 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 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.
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.
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.
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
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 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 19.0.1326.63 scored 3982 and 6/7 (494/555)
Opera 12.16 build 1860 scored 3303 and 4/7 (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.
Opera scores 100/100 on the Acid3 test, SRWare Chrome Iron, Firefox 26, and IE11 also score 100.
In the HTML5 Test Opera 12.16 scores 392 out of 555 total, Opera 11.64 scores 333, Opera 18 scores 492, Firefox 26 scores 446, Chrome 31 scores 503, Apple Safari 7.0 scores 397, and Internet Explorer 11 scores 369 points. Opera 20 scores 496.
“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.”
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.
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 20, 21, and 22. When Opera 21 becomes final, then Opera 22 will move to the Next channel, and Opera 23 will 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.
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 12.16 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. People are just panicking, as usually happens with every new release, but this time more than ever because they were expecting too much for this new version.
It may still be many months before it is worth using. I shall continue using Opera 12.16 until Opera Next has the features that I need, which I don’t expect to be before June 2014. 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 12.16 or Opera 11.64. The older version remains my default browser due to the presence of skins, custom buttons, shortcuts, mouse gestures, etc. 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 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, quoting, report links, 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.
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.