Blink-based Opera 15 strikes a sour note with users

Opera development team says it will bring back classic features that users miss, such as enhanced tab management, over time

Opera today released Opera 15 for Computers, the company's first stab at a browser based on the Blink engine. Unfortunately for the Norwegian company, more vocal users have been less than receptive to the browser, lamenting the loss of familiar features like basic bookmarking and tab management.

Opera revealed last April that it was planning to roll out a Blink-based version of its browser; Google and Mozilla have done the same. Advocates of the shift to Blink have argued it's a superior Web engine to WebKit for a number of reasons, such as broader support for more modern Web technologies.

Dude, where's my bookmarks?
While the Opera development team has made a clear case for the shift to Blink, some users are grousing over the fact that Opera 15 currently lacks many features they've come to know and love. "Unfortunately this new version has lost many functions like Opera Link, UI customization, stacking tabs, check anti-phishing" as well as "the incredible feed reader and excellent manager emails, the icon showing closed tabs that were opened recently ... [and] many other functions that will be missed," lamented user Leonardo Oliveira via the Opera Developer News Blog.

Opera developers spent part of the day fielding these types of complaints about why so many beloved features are currently MIA. "You'd be surprised how much work goes into making a browser. We've built the UI with native code for instance, so we had to reimplement a whole bunch of things," wrote Andreas Bovens, extensions product manager and developer relations lead at Opera. "That's why we're starting with a basic feature set on day one, that's why not all extensions APIs are supported yet, etc."

Many of the absent features aren't gone for good, though, according to Opera Product Management Director Sebastian Baberowski. "Fear not, Opera 15 is released, but it doesn't mean we're relaxing now," he wrote. "With our new rapid-release cycle, we are already hard at work on the next versions. Right now, we are focusing on synchronization (aka Opera Link), enhanced tab management (visual tabs and so on), and support for themes -- and these are just a few of the features you can expect to find soon in our next releases."

Speed Dial, Stash, and Discover
Opera 15 isn't devoid of new features, either: Opera Web evangelist Bruce Lawson discussed them at some length in Opera Developer News blog. One of the noteworthy (and controversial) differences between Opera 15 and older versions is that traditional bookmarks have been replaced with a feature dubbed Speed Dial. (That feature is already present in Opera for Android.) You can save a page or extension to Speed Dial by clicking on the Speed Dial icon; it will show up on your Start page as a graphical tile with the name of the page of extension below it.

Blink-based Opera 15 strikes a sour note with users

Users who upgrade from Opera 12 to Opera 15 have the option to convert their bookmarks to Speed Dial entries. There is an alternative for traditionalists: "Although most users don't use bookmarks, some long-term users told us that they have many, many bookmarks in deep folder structures," wrote Lawson. "We love our long-term users, so we've worked with developer Stuart Langridge to develop a Bookmarks Manager Extension that brings some basic bookmarks functionality to Opera 15 for those that want it."

That solution didn't sit well with some fans of basic bookmarks. "No bookmarks? Then I'm not using it," wrote one respondent to Lawson's post. "Why would I be happy with an extension, when all other browsers support it? At this point, it's even better to switch to Chrome: same engine, more functionality, and same extensions."

In addition to Speed Dial, Opera 15 has a function called Stash. It looks and functions a lot like Speed Dial; when you find a page you want to revisit later, you click a little heart icon. The URL is saved to your Stash page (accessible from your Start page), along with a graphical preview of the "stashed" page that's larger than the Speed Dial tile.

Also new: a Discover feature, which is also implemented in Opera for Android. From your Start page, you can jump to the Discover page, which presents you with a page full of aggregated articles from various news sources, based on general topics like technology, sports, and art. Users can select which topics they're interested in, but there's no way to control which sources the articles come from.

Opera 15 for Computers offers the ability to disable cookies, pop-ups, and plug-ins on a site-by-site basis and the ability to send a Do Not Track header. Additionally, it has a combined address and search bar, showing search suggestions and multiple search providers. It also supports mouse gestures, letting you perform common browsing actions with small mouse movements.

Desperately seeking extensions
For developers, Lawson noted that Opera 15 is based on Chromium 28, "but as it's an evergreen browser with a fast release cycle, we don't recommend reading too much into the digits. It's what's in it that counts."

Developer tools are available behind the Enable Developer Tools setting; there, developers will find the classic View Source option, along with a list of installed browser plug-ins and Web Inspector.

As part of the Opera's move to Chromium, the browser's extensions infrastructure has undergone a major overhaul: "From Opera 15 onward, Opera 11 and 12's extension format is no longer supported, and instead, we've switched to Chromium's extension model," Lawson wrote. "At this point, Opera 15 supports a subset of the Chromium extension APIs -- with more to come -- as well as our own Speed Dial API."

He added that Pinterest, Pocket, Wunderlist, Evernote, Feedly, and more than 100 other developers have submitted extensions to the Opera extensions catalog.

Opera 15 for Computers is available for download at Opera's website.

This story, "Blink-based Opera 15 strikes a sour note with users," was originally published at Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow on Twitter.

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