As Mac browsers go, Opera stands out as having one of the most extensive feature lists. Besides a comprehensive set of Web browsing capabilities, it includes an e-mail client, RSS reader, IRC chat client, NNTP newsgroup reader, BitTorrent client, Web development tools, support for user-created “skins,” and even Dashboard-like widgets. It has everything but the kitchen sink—but that includes a few rough edges.
One of Opera’s newest features is Speed Dial, a grid of up to nine favorite Web sites that appears every time you create a new tab—a feature that the company has added since we last reviewed the program (Opera 8.5; ). Speed Dial lets you access any site from its grid with a single click (or keyboard shortcut). This seems only slightly more useful to me than conventional bookmarks, though it may be handy for users who regularly visit a handful of sites.
Opera now has an anti-phishing filter that helps to identify fake Web sites that may be trying to steal personal information. It also has highly configurable pop-up blocking and numerous other site-specific security settings. Opera can automatically remember usernames, passwords, and other form values and fill them in at your request. However, its facilities for editing stored information are weak; for example, there’s no way to see what password you’ve saved for a given site. The company claims that this is for security reasons, though I would prefer a password-protected option to access this information. Furthermore, Opera doesn’t use the Keychain or enable the use of third-party extensions like Agile Web Solutions’ 1Password ($30).
Opera uses a proprietary rendering engine called Presto. In almost every test, it displayed pages exactly the way Safari did. However, I did notice a few display glitches and loading problems, especially when it came to forms. At times, the browser displayed buttons, pop-up menus, and text entry fields improperly (occasionally to the point of making a form unusable), and the text on the controls themselves often appeared off-center. The company is aware of these problems and claims they should be rectified in version 9.5. (When I tested the beta version of 9.5, the situation did appear to be improved.) In general, Opera was reliable and reasonably speedy, though the application sometimes launched slowly, and even crashed a couple of times (again, the company is working on a fix).
Macworld’s buying advice
With its comprehensive set of browsing and other features, Opera 9.26 is an interesting choice for anyone who wants an all-in-one Internet application. But if you don’t need all those extras, you may have a more pleasant Web surfing experience with Safari, Firefox, or another browser.
[Joe Kissell is the senior editor of TidBits and the author of numerous e-books about Mac OS X.]
[Editor’s Note: Updated Mar 13 at 3:40 p.m PT to check for software changes from version 9.25 to 9.26. The mouse rating did not change.]