I've switched to Opera

I've finally made the move away from Internet Explorer. It's been a long slow process, and one I've tried to hurry up, at times, but not until now have I been so comfortable in a different browser, that I've had cause enough to switch my Windows defaults. I gave Firefox a try early on, but it didn't do anything to wow me. I didn't give a care for tabbed browsing at the time, and on a fully patched Windows XP system there's very little security difference between the two, so I didn't really give a care.

Recently I tried out IE 7. It's pretty nice, and I think I might switch back to it once the final release ships, but I encountered a lot of what Jeremy Wright identified as memory problems. However, it did win me over to tabbed browsing. For those using IE 6, a tab is like a second view inside your IE window, so you don't have to litter your taskbar with extra IEs, you can house all your "views" inside one program window.

For a great demonstration of how to make tabs work for you, Jeremy recently made a video of his comparing IE7's tab usage to that of Firefox. He occasionally tauts the brilliance of Opera, as the browser to bring many of today's now standard features to the table in the first place. I first used Opera in version 6, when I was at high school and hungering for a browser that was faster than IE, as my school had what I deemed to be, too slow of an internet connection. Even then, Opera was fast. It's browsing speeds often far outdid IE and Netscape, but it was inconsistent. Sometimes I would sit for a long time waiting for a page to respond, and when it finally did, the formating could be ugly.

Others have pointed out other issues that blighted early Opera releases. Like the fact that Opera required you to buy it... and then it had adds. But these issues have thankfully been resolved, and version 8 was a very pleasant user experience. I used it primarily at work to test the display of our websites, but due to curiously lacking support for Windows Authentication, it wasn't really very practical.

That was, until version 9 came out. Opera: now perfected.

Remember that video Jeremy Wright made? You can do all that in Opera, and I prefer the way Opera does it. Right clicking a link will allow you to open a new window, a new tab, or a new background tab. Ctrl+Tab will allow you switch between tabs like Alt+Tab does for windows. Hovering your mouse pointer over the tab title will result in a thumbnail view of the tab's content. The integrated RSS is excellent. Simply browse to a website's feed, and you'll be asked if you wish to subscribe to it. Every morning I open Opera and hit Read Feeds, and it shows me the latest posts by all my blogging friends, and news sites.

For those users on a Mac, or using Wordpress, or almost anything these days, you have access to widgets. So does Opera. I personally like the weather widget, which gives me the details plus a satelite view of what's happening. Another fave is the eBay search widget, and of course the Tetris widget, for Maija.

I've heard developers complain that Opera requires the most customization to display their websites properly. I would wager this title now belongs to IE (or IE7; I've had weird problems there). In the two weeks I've been using Opera as my primary browser, the ONLY page that doesn't display right is my Outlook Web Access. And even that displays exactly the same way it does in Firefox. (Update: I've come across a few more since I wrote this, but only one or two problems weren't mirrored by Firefox also.)

Along with the visible proof of standards compliance comes good results on the Web Standards Project's Acid2 test. This was pointed out to me by an eWeek article, and it's true, Opera displayed the test page totally fine for me (though reportedly some setups have problems). Still, IE and Firefox both failed the test. The Web Standards Project is an organization fighting for standardization between browsers to ease development and access to web technologies.

Back on the features side, Opera features a built in BitTorrent client. I've not tried it yet as I very seldomly download torrents, but it's there. The search customization is also wicked sweet, allowing you to add the search bar from any website to your search options on the Opera bar. Let me explain this a little. In Opera, like Firefox, there's a search box built into the user interface. In Opera, when you browse to a page that has a search box (like eBay, or IMDB, or Wikipedia etc.) you can right click the search box and add it to your interface search box. Future searches on that particular website are as simple as selecting that site from your searhc dropdown. Amazing.

Another nice bit of logic is the right clicking of links. As mentioned above, the tabbed interface is the best I've seen, and right clicking a link gives you more options that the other browsers. If you right click an e-mail address link (a mailto link), you're given these options: compose, add to address book, copy e-mail address, and, copy link address. I like the flexibility to choose.

Opera is a stable browser that I've not had crash on me yet. I started writing this a couple of weeks ago, and I have come across a few more pages that don't load properly, but I've also come across pages in IE that don't load properly. Including one that tells you you can't view the page because you're using IE, and that if you get Firefox it'd be fine. That site also loads fine in Opera.

So give her a try, I seriously recommend it. There's been rumours of buyout interest by Google, so it's definetly one to watch.

Further reading: 1 2 3