June 13, 2008

Opera 9.50 Is Out! Review of the Newest Opera Release

Introduction
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.

First impression
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


Conclusion
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.

Official Website
Download Opera for Linux
Documentation for the 9.50 Release
Community
Opera Widgets

Updated: Jun 13, 2008 (Created: Jun 13, 2008)

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Wow, you didn't mention the new features of Opera 9.5:
- "Awesome Bar" that searches your history of the titles and the content of visited pages
- Opera Link, synchronisation
- Dragonfly, develepor tools

Anonymous said...

You also didn't mention irc chat, newsgroups, and the superb email client built into Opera.

Anonymous said...

The only bad things I can find about opera is (debian etch) + adobe flash 9 did not function very well. Also, no flashblocking like the popular ff extension. And though you can implement the flash bloack via a short howto and copying of files it is not at all stable.

The most popular flash enabled sites worked well, but other sites that use flash, flash did not function. And prompted me to download the flash.

I did read that they will be releasing a developer tool set out shortly. So I would not be surprised to find this issue fixed quickly.

If they can get that fixed I'm switching. Opera has come along way. And though it closed source it still tries to reach out to people. It would be nice if they open sourced version 10....

Anonymous said...

Flashblock? Unless youve been living on another planet, flash is required on a lot of websites, and besides open source implementations can pretty much navigate and play most stuff.

On linux a big wtf, you can disable any plugin on the preferences, if not on the web-based advanced preferences.

Lambert Carsten said...

Opera is the only browser I have come across that can zoom a webpage properly so I get some use of my widescreen monitor. This isn't new for the latest release, but it is the main reason I use Opera.
This site too will refuse to use the full width of my monitor (1680x1050) in Firefox or Konqueror!
Thankfully Opera can fill in for poor webdesign!! :)

Anonymous said...

No Gmail invisible option in Opera 9.5. All browsers support this. Looks like Opera is more about User interface and not about performance.

Anonymous said...

Opera has been my browser of choice for the last year or two. That said, I have some issues with the latest (9.5) version that change the way that Opera functions. The list of websites that are generated from the bookmarks drives me crazy, still. I do not want to see those sites, if I did, I would go to my bookmarks.

Second, I no longer see the actual URL when I move the cursor over a link. That was handy if I wanted to see where the link was based.

Still, it is faster and less of a resource hog than most of its competitors. Starts quickly. Remains my fave.