The big difference between Opera and the other Linux web browsers like Firefox or Konqueror is that Opera is closed-source. So, what benefits or advantages could bring a closed-source browser in the Linux world, you may ask. Well, they are definitely not advantages, but a thing is sure: Opera is a complete mature web browser which does its job very well.
Opera 9.50 and the new look of the website welcome page
One of the things I like about Opera is installation support for various distributions. The official website includes packages for the most popular distributions out there, covering practically any area. To list some, there are packages available for Debian, Gentoo, Fedora, Ubuntu, Slackware or Mandriva. And several more.
The last Opera version I tried was 9.27, so I was pleased to see the version 9.50 comes with a new black interface. Unfortunately the default fonts for the interface and web viewing are way too small, so I had to go to Preferences -> Advanced -> Fonts in order to obtain a decent size. Yes, it takes some time, but after that I was ready to go.
Opera 9.50 - notice the very small interface fonts
When Opera first started, it prompted me to accept a license agreement (typical for a closed-source application actually) and correctly detected KDE running, warning me that some of the shortcuts Opera uses will not be available, since KDE may have assigned those to other tasks.
Strongs points: speed, widgets and BitTorrent client
A plus for Opera is support for specific widgets, which can be downloaded from the official website. There are plenty of widgets available, for games, weather reports, maps, various clocks or even a Google Toolbar. The only problem with the widgets is that the integration with Opera is kind of poor. That is, each widget opens in its own window, making it a little harder to use along with Opera. Anyway, a good addition for those who are really after all the whistles and bells they can get.
Switching between tabs seems more faster than the previous release, and the same goes for launching windows, like the Preferences window for example. The interface itself is more responsive in this release. Another good point for Opera. I like to see improvements in software such as this one, and not only an increase in the version number without any improvements.
Opera with the Google Toolbar widget
Opera 9.50 is based on the Qt kit version 3.3.8b, so you can say it's better integrated with KDE. Well, I personally saw no advantages in this on a Core 2 Duo with 1GB DDRAM2, since Opera loads as fast on KDE as it does on GNOME.
The interface is typical for a web browser, and the control bar at the bottom has a useful widget showing how much of the web page was loaded. Another thing: it looks good. And it feels good. For those who like eye-candy, Opera definitely deserves a good try.
Opera will open a new window for transfers (including web downloads and BitTorrent downloads). This approach of using tabs instead of standalone windows is very practical in my opinion, and doesn't stay in the way of the user. Of course, you can configure it not to show, or only show in the background.
History tab - Opera opens new tabs for basically any task, like transfers
I must say, this browser is truly highly configurable. And yet, it still doesn't look bloated. The Preferences dialogue is clean and intuitive, with sub-tabs for every category. You can even customise the toolbars which you want available, together with the icons present there.
Opera 9.50 preferences
Settings for fonts in the Preferences window
Finally, yes, it's fast at fetching and rendering web pages. Really fast, and really smooth. Opera successfully succeeds at making the web navigation as smooth and pleasant as possible.
To mention some other good features: system tray integration, which is enabled by default, or the ability to preview several pages in a single opened window (also called Speed Dial by Opera, see the image below). A little more about system tray integration: I find it useful for example when you use to keep a browser instance opened all the time, like a forum. Or for the BitTorrent client, if not for something else.
Speed Dial - Preview up to 9 web pages using a single Opera tab
Documentation is available online, and it really is complete. The help site documents every aspect of Opera, from how to use menus, bookmarks or widgets to how to configure Opera or use the built-in BitTorrent client.
About Opera 9.50
Though closed-source, Opera is one of the best browsers out there for Linux. Very rich in features, with support even for BitTorrent or widgets, Opera definitely stands as a true web browser for Linux. I was really impressed by this unique piece, which is definitely a strong competitor for Firefox, Konqueror or Epiphany.
Download Opera for Linux
Documentation for the 9.50 Release
Updated: Jun 13, 2008 (Created: Jun 13, 2008)