Opera 5.0 became my primary browser in 2001, when it was 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. I still launch Opera 12.18 daily to send and receive my emails, although I now use Vivaldi as my default browser.
I have restored and updated this review page for the benefit of those Vivaldi users who do not know the background of the original Opera browser co-founded by Jon von Tetzchner, the current CEO of Vivaldi.
Opera used its own Presto rendering engine, but it was hard to support web sites that did not follow web standards. In 2013 Opera dropped the Presto layout engine in favour of Blink, and it was bought up by a Chinese consortium for $600 million in 2016. This marked a change of direction, and long-term Opera users like me. I never adopted the new version of Opera so I was delighted to discover that Vivaldi had been released by Jon von Tetzchner with a similar design philosophy to that of the original Opera, with a promise of a built-in email client and a high degree of customisability.
After reading the review below, you will realise that, though much has been achieved already, Vivaldi still has some way to go to reach the same level of control that we enjoyed in Opera for over a decade.
Set up one or more email accounts in Opera to have instant access without running another program. I keep my “Received mail” tab pinned open at all times for quick reference. The Ctrl E shortcut can be used to compose an email, or clicking an email link will open the Compose mail window. Opera was originally just 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 mail in folders. Just use views (filters) to organise your mail, or simply use the quick find field to filter mails containing key words.
Emails can be tagged with labels. Users can add or remove labels, and select custom icons. I keep only important emails, which I tag, then I delete the rest.
Multiple email accounts can be set up, with options for each to check every so many minutes for new emails, or only to check manually. A sound can be set to play when email arrives. A different signature can be used for each account. This high level of customisation is great if you have different accounts for work, home, charities, or other social groups. Without even looking up from what you’re doing you can know whether an important email has just arrived from a work colleague, or from a close friend.
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 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.
Multiple modifier keys are separated by a space, e.g. “F7 Ctrl Alt Shift.” Multiple alpha-key shortcuts can also be used. Separate letters with a comma, e.g. “a,b” “a,p,n,g” or “a,p,n,g”
These shortcuts are easy to remember, even if they contain several letters, like “j,a,r,t,e”, which I use to launch the program Jarte — an enhanced version of Wordpad.
Shortcut = Action
a,b = View address bar, 6 | View address bar, 0
a,p,n,g = Execute program, "C:\Users\Bhikkhu Pesala\Pictures\APNG\apngasm_gui.exe"
f,c = Execute program, "C:\C:\Program Files\High-Logic FontCreator\FontCreator.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 (rocker gestures) 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 (FlipBack) 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 can disable it.
One can also use keyboard modifiers in conjunction with mouse gestures, thus greatly extending the range of possible assignments, e.g.
FlipBack Ctrl = Zoom to, 100
FlipForward Ctrl = Zoom to, 150
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.
Editing of menus is hugely important to productivity, which is reflected in the fact that this is the most voted for feature request by some margin. I hope that it can be made easy for novice users, without editing code, with all of the complexity and syntax errors that usually result.
The default toolbar setup in Opera 12.18 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 1920 x 1080 monitor or smaller monitors. Rollover the graphic to see my Opera Glasses skin — a 32 pixel version of the Opera Classic skin — click and hold to see the Chosen Button skin, which has some nice corner rounding and gradient effects.
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 a single Standard Skin, but a wide range of custom skins can be download from the Customise, Appearance, Skins dialogue to change the appearance of the browser. Three different skins can be seen used for the Toolbar in the rollover illustrated 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.
Unzip the skin archive to extract its folder structure
Add a new folder for the new icons
Extract the 32-bit 32 pixel icons from program executables using @IconSushi.
Edit skin.ini from the skin’s root folder using notepad, adding definitions for each new icon like this:
7zip = buttons2/7zip.png
Zip the archive up again to include the new folder and its contents
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.
Having added the new icons, they can now be used on toolbars to launch external programs, or whatever. A link like this • 7-Zip • will create a button if dragged to any Opera 12.18 toolbar that supports buttons. The code below was used to create the link (%20 is a space, %22 is a " quote mark):
For more specialised needs than are available in the default browser, Extensions can be added. Extensions are only available while the browser is running. Vivaldi supports most Chrome Extensions. Some users rely on dozens of extensions, but using them is not without risks such as loss of privacy. I prefer to make requests for features to be added to Vivaldi, and wait for them to be implemented by a team that I trust.
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.
Add Bing Translate Mobile version as a web panel.
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
The Opera Support Forums have a new home.
My Opera was a great place to get support tips on using the powerful features in the browser, and there was a lounge where we had many discussions and debates. There was a lounge area for those more interested in games and music than in discussion.