There are many things to like about Opera, including customizable skins, live preview of Web pages when you mouse over tabs and a welcome full-screen mode -- especially useful for recent Windows converts who are accustomed to viewing Web pages using every bit of screen real estate possible.
One of Opera's standout features is the Speed Dial startup page. Speed Dial lets you customize a page with up to nine different sites, with each site's content displayed in miniaturized format. Clicking on the mini-page brings up the site in a full browser window.
Another Opera plus is the extensive search engine support built into the browser. As well as the usual suspects like Google and Yahoo, Opera also supports Ask, Wikipedia, eBay, and Yahoo Shopping. Interestingly enough, Opera also supports Bit Torrent searching and downloads, as this browser doubles as a Bit Torrent client.
Opera also offers support for widgets. Although similar in function to those found in Mac OS X, Opera's widgets are freed from the restraints of the Dashboard, instead floating on the desktop like any application window.
The Opera interface is a little more cluttered than some of the other browsers I've looked at, but skin support in concert with the ability to alter interface details means you can customize to your heart's content. With the addition of Mouse Gestures, it's entirely possible to browse pages without using any of the interface elements at all, relying instead on mouse or trackpad swipes to navigate pages.
The bottom line is that Opera is a good example of healthy competition in the browser market, and the price of admission -- free! -- is certainly worth giving this program a once-over.
-- Mike DeAgonia
There was a time, years ago, when Opera seemed to be giving Internet Explorer and Netscape a run for their money. Now it's the great forgotten browser, rarely mentioned or used.
And that's a shame. Opera sports a clean interface with easy access to its innovative capabilities, and is a model of simplicity and elegance, with attractive icons and tabs, and plenty of features within easy reach. If you're looking for a powerful alternative to your existing browser, you won't go wrong with Opera.
Much has been made of browser Address Bar tools such as Chrome's Omnibox and Firefox's Awesome Bar. But no one bothers to mention that Opera has already been there and done that. As with those browsers, type parts of a URL into Opera's address bar, and you'll get a list of likely matches. Better yet, type in search terms, and Opera will do a Google search for them.
That's just one of the innovative features you'll find in Opera; there are too many to mention them all. What Opera calls "Speed Dial" is also useful. When you open a new tab, Opera opens a page with space for multiple thumbnails of Web pages. Click on any blank thumbnail and enter a URL, and from then on, when you open a new tab, it will open to a page with those thumbnails. To visit any page, click it.
Opera also features an excellent download manager that lets you pause and resume downloads, and then open any files you've downloaded. For each download, you're also shown information such as where it was downloaded from, where you downloaded it to, file size and so on. There's also a progress indicator showing you current download speed.