Opera, while not as popular with Mac users as Apple’s Safari browser, is nonetheless ubiquitous. You’ll find it available for—or preloaded on—a number of devices, including everything from cell phones to Nintendo’s new Wii gaming console. There’s a good reason for this: Opera is a fast, slick Web-browsing application that can also manage e-mail, RSS feeds, and BitTorrent downloads, as well as run mini-applications called Widgets, which are somewhat similar to Apple’s Dashboard widgets.
As we’ve mentioned in earlier reviews ( ), Opera is a very good Web browser. It renders pages accurately, and its e-mail program integrates well with Apple’s Address Book. Opera 9.02 Software now has standardized features such as command-T tab creation (earlier versions opened a bookmark window with command-T) and gives you the added option of double-clicking any empty space on the tab bar to open a new tab. But what makes Opera a standout are the little innovations the developer has added to this new version.
For example, using an Opera feature called Mouse Gestures, you can right (Ctrl)-click any open Web page while moving your mouse to the left, and you’ll be whisked back to the last page you visited—no back-button required. You can easy navigate a series of Web pages while barely moving your mouse. You can also customize an Internet search. Right-click the search field, and you’ll be prompted to create a search shortcut, which you can later call up from Opera’s Web-address URL field by typing in your keyword and your search term. Plus, click a Web URL to download BitTorrent shared content, and you’ll reveal Opera’s integrated BitTorrent engine. Not only will you be downloading content, you’ll immediately become a node (so others can download from you) on the BitTorrent network without having to install any other software. Finally, Opera now has a Widget engine, which allows you to run mini-applications while your browser is open. All of these features combined can help make your Web browsing experience easier and more efficient.
Opera still sports annoying pop-up windows, which let you know every time the program blocks a Web pop-up ad. The irony of this is not lost on me, but what I’d prefer to see is something more akin to Firefox’s informational band, which appears just below the browser’s address bar, but which doesn’t pop in and out of view. Also, Opera doesn’t always play well with the different types of code on the Web. For example, while viewing a Web page in Opera, I noticed there was an image missing that I knew, after viewing the same page in both Safari ( ) and Firefox ( ), should have been there. Opera Software, the maker of Opera, told me that Opera did not recognize the image because the HTML code was missing a closing angle bracket (“>”) around the text that represents the image in the HTML code. Opera shouldn’t have to compensate for coding errors, but the other two browsers handled the image with no problems.
Macworld’s buying advice
Opera 9.02 is a substantial update to what was already a stellar Web browsing application. Features such as Mouse Gestures and Widgets make the application easy and fun to use, and integrated RSS, BitTorrent, and e-mail support make the application a worthy choice for all your Internet needs.
[ Jeffery Battersby is a writer, publisher, and network analyst. His blog can be found at jeffbattersby.com. ]
EDITOR’S NOTE: A previous version of this review incorrectly identified Mouse Gestures as a new feature available in Opera 9. In fact, Mouse Gestures have been supported by previous versions of Opera. The text has been corrected to reflect this.Opera’s new Widget engine allows you to run mini-applications while your browser is open.