Opera 15 Is A Faster, Simpler Chrome, And Here Are 3 Great Reasons To Try It

After what seems to have been an age, Opera 15 has finally left beta and is available to download. The latest, much anticipated iteration has taken a  bold step into the future, and in the process has shed a huge amount of baggage.

It may seem ridiculous now, but when I was much younger, I forked over a great wad of cash for Opera, a revolutionary web browser from Norway. I took it home, excited at finally being able to ditch the slow, clunky web browser that was bundled with my ISP. At the time, I remember thinking how amazing it was and how Opera would come to dominate the web browsing world.

Years have passed since then. Firefox and Google Chrome have burst onto the scene and Opera’s luster has dulled somewhat. Belarus’s favorite web browser is fighting back though, with a radical overhaul. But is it any good?

Look And Feel

Opera used to differentiate itself from the pack by cramming in as many features as possible. These ranged from a rather nice email client, to integrated Bittorrent functionality. These have been completely excised.

Excluding the RIAA, this hasn’t been received all that well, with die-hard Opera users noisily wailing and moaning. However, it’s not all bad news. Opera Mail is being released as a stand-alone application and at the expense of convergence, we are given an interface that feels remarkably sleek and well oiled.

At first glance, it looks like any other web browser. But beyond that, you’ll see that there have been some decisions about the design that make the user experience something to marvel at. Even something as simple as seeing download progress and history is now made more immediate by the inclusion of a button on the address bar. Perhaps that’s emblematic of the design philosophy behind Opera 15. Everything you need and want is easy to get to and incredibly functional. Everything else – the chaff – is removed.

Opera 15 Downloads   Opera 15 Is A Faster, Simpler Chrome, And Here Are 3 Great Reasons To Try It

When you type a query into the address bar, you aren’t just sent directly to Google, but given the option to search Yahoo, Bing and Wikipedia. You don’t need to edit any settings either. It’s just there; Obvious, yet unobtrusive.

Opera 15 Address   Opera 15 Is A Faster, Simpler Chrome, And Here Are 3 Great Reasons To Try It

Creating a beautiful user experience is hard. Sometimes, less is more and whilst at first glance Opera seems a little bit barren, you eventually come to realize that the developers have made a number of very sensible decisions that have resulted in a gorgeous, intuitive web browser.

A New Rendering Agent

Perhaps the most noticeable change for Opera is that it has ditched its aging Presto rendering engine and replaced it with Blink – the WebKit spin off that is being developed by Google in tandem with Opera Software.

Blink was announced early this year and as it exists right now, it looks and feels very much like WebKit, however much of the legacy bulk that came with WebKit has been removed. Perhaps the most exciting argument for Blink’s existence is that Google now has a greater amount of control over the development process than it ever did with Webkit. I’m looking forward to seeing what Google and Opera do with this new project.

One of the best things about the move to Blink is that as a result of the adoption of a more mainstream rendering agent, compatibility issues that plagued the earlier iterations are now a thing of the past. Mercifully, Opera runs and feels like Google Chrome.

Opera 15 HTML5   Opera 15 Is A Faster, Simpler Chrome, And Here Are 3 Great Reasons To Try It

HTML5 rich websites work beautifully with no evident compatibility issues. The usual suspects of WordPress, Gmail and Facebook work without a hitch either. It feels like Opera had a Damascene conversion and was reborn as an entirely new piece of software.

It’s important to remember that Blink is a technology in its infancy. Time will tell whether the developers behind Opera have backed the right horse or if they should have gone with the longer established WebKit rendering agent. However, for the most part, it feels speedy and works painlessly.

Extensions and Features

A major bugbear for Opera users has always been the dearth of extensions available for the platform. Indeed, whilst Firefox and Chrome aficionados got all the cool toys to play with, the Opera extensions marketplace felt as barren as the app store on WebOS.

This is no longer the case. Since Opera now shares Google Chrome’s rendering agent, it happens to have access to all the cool stuff that fans of Mountain View’s offering have had for years. These include Evernote, Pocket and perhaps most crucially social media sharing wunderkind Buffer.

Opera 15 Extensions   Opera 15 Is A Faster, Simpler Chrome, And Here Are 3 Great Reasons To Try It

You’d expect that the amount of extensions available for Opera would pale in comparison to other more popular web browsers. But that’s totally not the case. I found most of the extensions I use in my day job were available for download, including some rather popular commercial ones such as LastPass.

Some functionality from Chrome is carried over too, including the rather handy ‘Inspect Element’ tool. This works as you’d expect, and has allow me to switch to Opera for my day job, which involves a great deal of debugging Javascript. As a result, Opera feels like a viable choice for web developers.

Opera 15 console   Opera 15 Is A Faster, Simpler Chrome, And Here Are 3 Great Reasons To Try It

Should you happen to live in an area where Internet speeds are poor, you’ll likely be happy to hear that Opera has an included a features that aims to make the most of lackluster connections.

Opera 15 Off Road   Opera 15 Is A Faster, Simpler Chrome, And Here Are 3 Great Reasons To Try It

Curiously named ‘Off-Road Mode’, it has nothing to do with using the Internet when disconnected from the Internet. Instead, it takes advantage of SPDY, the new Internet protocol from Google, as well as a proxy and server-side compression. This should be a relief to those amongst us who live in rural areas, or are on dial up.

It’s not just for slow Internet too. A rather amusing side effect of Off-Road Mode is that it unblocks sites that are being filtered in the UK, such as The Pirate Bay. Since all traffic is being pushed through servers in Norway, you don’t have to worry about any of the numerous ISP level blocks that have been set up in recent years.

Opera 15 PirateBay   Opera 15 Is A Faster, Simpler Chrome, And Here Are 3 Great Reasons To Try It

Conclusions

Opera 15 isn’t revolutionary, yet after just two days of using it, Google Chrome no longer has pride of place on my OS X dock bar.

Despite a lack of bells and whistles, things feel functional and fast. What features are present in Opera are graceful, well designed and have some utility. It’s extensible, and most importantly, it’s fast. Really, really fast.

Time will tell whether Opera will regain the position that it once held in its late 90′s heyday. However, with a product that is as wonderful and well polished as this, it’s hard to imagine it not.

So, will you be switching to Opera?

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58 Comments -

1 votes

Paul R

I love the idea of a company that has a user community that is helpful, like Opera does, running on Blink. However, until it has bookmarks (which won’t come in O15, or 016, but not until Opera 17) I can’t possibly use it as an everyday browser.

In addition, one of the replacements for bookmarks that Opera had envisioned (before they decided to listen to popular clamor and re-introduce bookmarks in Opera 17) is speed dial. They wanted users to put their bookmarks into speed dial folders and then search for them. I guess that’s ok if you have 30…. not so easy to do if you have a collection of hundreds, built up over the years, and you no longer remember the URL.

As you can imagine, the Opera user community was underwhelmed by this.

I will be paying attention to developments, and would love to give O17 a spin.

0 votes

Matthew H

Thanks for your comment! Yeah, I’ve heard mixed things from Opera aficionados. With that said, for someone who is looking for a slim, lightweight experience I couldn’t fault it.

0 votes

Lisa O

Same here. I’d like to place my most oft-visited sites on speed dial, but not everything else. It’d just be too cluttered. Besides, wouldn’t want that obscure site I secretly like be seen to everyone who peek at my browser,eh?

0 votes

Debanshu

i got the browser and its only 90 mb mucjh better than google chrome as it was some 230 mb

1 votes

Ren

I actually dislike Opera 15. Simply put: if I wanted Chrome, I’d download Chrome. It’s missing a lot of the things that made Opera different. Most of the small, but extremely useful. Notes, the mail client built in instead of standalone, and just some of the ways it handled. Opera was the only browser that had a proper “alt+tab” like “ctrl+tab” feature. Pressing ctrl+tab would switch to the last tab you were on, instead of cycling through all of them, and if you held it, it worked exactly like holding alt+tab did. Not to mention something as simple as being able to drag a tab off the main window to create a new window. And tab stacking! Don’t forget tab stacking!
Sure, Opera had some compatibility issues, and Opera 15 runs a lot of websites faster and more smoothly (because it’s Chrome…), but it lacks what made Opera Opera.

It’s mostly the small things about Opera, but then again, it’s a web browser. It needs those small things to stand out. Now all we have is another Google Chrome.

0 votes

Matthew H

I’ve read a few comments like that. Opera isn’t very feature rich. It’s actually pretty barebones compared to previous iterations of the product. With that said, I feel it makes up for all of that by being fast and beautiful.

0 votes

Stam

Opera right now its missing so many features and Chrome gets worst every version. Firefox and IE forever!

1 votes

Yordy

Firefox ok but IE… you are on drugs dude

0 votes

Stam

Its time to stop living in the past. Its not IE 6 anymore. IE 11 is amazing.

0 votes

Matthew H

IE 11 looks interesting, and I’d be happy to give it a try if I wasn’t so chained to OS X and Linux. I’m pretty glad that Microsoft has focused on making IE ACID compliant and focused on the compatibility woes that plagued earlier version of IE.

0 votes

Pooky J

IE11 FTW!

0 votes

Jimmy

Seriously man, IE11 still sucks. They are late with fucking everything. If IE wasn’t around, the web would have a way better user experience. IE is holding us down!

Dont say stuff like IE11 can do WebGL and stuff, they should have added that in 9 or 10.

1 votes

John-117

I work online connecting to about four different computers three running Wins7 and one Mountain Lion using a free version of a popular website.

For a everyday user, I think (now) choice of browser is purely a personal preference. A few years ago, there was a genuine upper-hand in the likes of Firefox when they entered the scene. But over time they have all sort of reached the same uninteresting level.

IMHO, I don’t really care about the milliseconds that a page loads faster. I don’t really care about how light it is on RAM. I don’t care about what extensions they do have (seeing as the most popular of these are already available on most platforms!).

So, my point is, the only thing some of us care about is its appearance. Over the years, all of their default look is the same, uninteresting, mundane, address bar and tabs. Sure you could dress it up with full-on themes or Personas, but ultimately it all kind of looks the same- ugly -self it is.

I think the next true victory can only be found through an amazing design.

And, while I am on the topic, I’d like to say how annoying it is when screenshots are posted from OSX but the review is for all available operating system. Do you know how ugly somethings look when they are not dressed up or have the fonts that are available for OSX? It just doesn’t paint a fair picture of the software in question.

0 votes

Matthew H

Thanks for your comment! With regards to ‘I think the next true victory can only be found through an amazing design.’, I’m inclined to agree, but I wouldn’t discount the immense importance of compatibility with current web technologies and overall speediness.

I think Opera has all three of these, which is why my review was very positive about it.

0 votes

Matthew H

I’m also interested in the ‘free version of a popular website’ you mentioned! Can you tell me what it is?

0 votes

Pooky J

If there’s no native x64 version of it, I’m sure I’ll ditch it altogether.

0 votes

Matthew H

Hi there!

Are you referring to Opera 12 or Opera 15? I know that the 64bit version of Opera 12 was intentionally hard to find, but was out there.

0 votes

Pooky J

I’m running Opera 12.16 x64, hard to find but at least it’s available, unlike Opera 15.

0 votes

Matthew H

I just checked, and my version of Opera is 64 bit. Perhaps it’s 64 bit by default, as is normal these days. Most people are using some variety of 64 bit processor.

0 votes

Pooky J

I tried to open its installer, and the installation path is C:Program Files (x86)

0 votes

Sanjay K

I always have a soft view in using opera, A good feel, but any time what matters to me is the launching of the browser, I will give new opera a try since it uses chrome functionalty, I ditched firefox since because it starts slowly when compared to chrome. Have you guys any feedback on maxthon.

0 votes

Matthew H

I’ve not used Maxthon, but I’ll look into it. Have you used it?

0 votes

Hélder

Opera 15 is not worthy of bearing the Opera name. Opera was the swiss army knife of web browsers, while other browser had a plethora of functionality with extensions, Opera had those built-in. They switched from Presto to WebKit, and lost everything that made Opera great. Opera had flaws with it’s rendering engine, but at least it had an identity.
If I wanted to use Chrome, I would download Chrome. There’s no point in making a Chrome wannabe.
R.I.P, Opera, it was a great ride while it lasted.

0 votes

Matthew H

I’ve heard similar things. Whilst it’s abandoned its ‘Swiss army knife’ heritage, it’s pretty damn fast. It’s also early days for the latest version of the browser. I’d be really curious to see what later updates look like.

Cheers for the comment!

0 votes

dragonmouth

As others have said, If I wanted Chrome, I would have downloaded Chrome. Opera used to have its own personality, now it is a Chrome wannabe. Opera sold out to Google.

As for lightweight browsers, there’s Midori and Arora.

0 votes

Matthew H

I used Midori when I was a Bodhi linux user. It’s really good!

For the most part, I don’t think it was tenable for Opera to keep on using Preso when you consider the sheer momentum that Webkit was getting. I think moving to Blink was a very smart decision indeed. It was necessary for the browsers survival and continued relevance.

0 votes

dragonmouth

“It was necessary for the browsers survival and continued relevance. ”
Oh, really?!
There is absolutely no reason that Opera has to be a copy of Chrome. Midori and Arora are also Webkit based but they are not Chrome wannabes. Next thing you know Opera Software will be bought out by Google.

0 votes

Scott

“Next thing you know Opera Software will be bought out by Google.”

Gah ! I hope not. Then Google will own FastMail and I’ll have to go looking for another email provider. :-(

0 votes

Matthew Hughes

Opera needs sites to play nicely with it. It’s hard to get people to make the sufficient tweaks required for it to work with Presto when the market share of Opera is so small. The move to Blink fixes this problem.

0 votes

Ahmed K

Opera is Faster/ because of server-side compression?
Chrome and FF do use SPDY when its allowed.

0 votes

Matthew H

Hi!
That’s not the point I made. I said that it works well on slow networks because of Off Road Mode, and SPDY is a constituent component of that.

Cheers!

0 votes

Steven G

I love testing new browsers. I have tested the Opera Browser in the past and was not excited about it. I am hoping that

0 votes

Matthew Hughes

The new version of Opera is wildly different to the older ones. You might like it. Who knows!

0 votes

Srivamsy G

Downloading right away….Blink should give the much needed speed boost.

0 votes

Matthew Hughes

It’s pretty speedy, I promise you that! Let me know what you think about it!

0 votes

smaragdus

Opera 12 was great while Opera 15 is the worst browser ever, worse than IE, worse even than Chrome itself (which at least has bookmarks). Opera 15 is born dead and it will lose its tiny market share. Most Opera users would not even consider using the disaster which should not be called Opera because it is not Opera. Opera 15 is negation of everything Opera 12 was. Presto should be released as open-source. Opera 15 is a disgrace.

0 votes

Matthew Hughes

I’d like Presto to be open-sourced just because it’d be really, really interesting to look at its internals.

Since you’re unhappy with Opera 15, what will you be moving to?

0 votes

smaragdus

For me the best alternative to Opera is SeaMonkey, but I still use Firefox just because not all add-ons I like work with SeaMonkey.

My default browser right now is Firefox, but I will switch either to PaleMoon or to SeaMonkey (all add-ons that work with FF are compatible with PaleMoon).

0 votes

dragonmouth

FYI, FF is the browser component of SeaMonkey.

0 votes

smaragdus

In contrast with Firefox, SeaMonkey developers haven’t removed the status bar and the RSS icon from URL bar. For me SeaMonkey’s GUI is far better than that of FF.

0 votes

Devon

Firefox = FX not FF

0 votes

Eugine Cbr

i love this.

1 votes

Jbastardov

I support the Opera Street Team here in my country, but I had to move away Opera from my main PC to secondary devices, I just had no use for it on my main desktop.

Currently I have Chrome 28, Firefox 23 and Internet Explorer 11 Preview. With my WiFi connection I have no use for the Off-Road mode while I’m at home. For an speedy experience I have Chrome (both use Blink anyways) and I’m deeply intagrated into all of Google’s services, so Chrome just comes as the best choice overall. IE 11 is rather quite good, I hated IE as the next guy, but MSFT has made some great work with the browser starting on IE10, still lacking some features but I found it to be responsive and fast on my machine. I find Firefox to be struggling a little, but it offers me the joy of the web, free and non-profit, I love their comunity and style and I forsee big things for them in the future if all goes well with Firefox OS.

Now, I tried out Opera Next and was amazed on how it little looked like Opera 12. Basically Chrome-with-a-skin and lacking features both from Chrome and old Opera. Yet, I liked how fast and responsive it was, nice to see Opera being compatible with the web, in general. The browser itself didn’t offered me anything really. Extensions have never being a selling point for me, no built-in email, no built-in IRC chat, no built-in torrent client and notes. I actually can do with the “No Bookmarks stuff”, I was happy using the Speed Dial and Stash features, but no Opera Link sync? that ridicolous. I can’t also edit the Search Engines, and sadly Opera does not offer me DuckDuckGo as an option. After switching from Next to Opera 15, I didn’t see a lot of change. The first time I made the move Opera Stable, it even was a version newer than Next (Beta), for me that was puzzling. I saw no palpable changes so I just decided to retire Opera.

I still use it, support it on other devices, I even use the Opera Mail standalone client and the new Opera for Android is a dream come true, and that is a device where I have Off-Road moad always own, I still miss a few features from Opera Mobile, but Opera for Android is hundred-times better of an experience for me that it was trying out Opera 15 on Windows.

Also, one major thing: No Linux support from New Opera and Mail Client? Really? That is just a cruel joke.

0 votes

Matthew Hughes

I’ve heard similar complaints. Perhaps they’ll listen to the overwhelming user feedback for the next iteration.

1 votes

S. Pizza

i agree with the conclusion that Opera have taken all my browser time and as the default browser of my macbook. very awesome browser is this opera 15. its fast !

you can just create a stash of all the favourite and notable websites discovered and have it completely organised in a simple interactive page in the speed dial which can quickly be accessed into through the nav bar neatly besides the refresh button. whereas for bookmarks ; Heck with bookmarks, make bookmark folder grampa.

0 votes

Matthew Hughes

I think Stash does an important thing though, and that’s change how we use bookmarks. There’s got to be a better way of storing web pages that we like than what we have now.

0 votes

Lisa O

Can you do a review on the Windows version?

0 votes

Matthew Hughes

Personally, no. But perhaps one of my colleagues will in the future! Who knows?

0 votes

Matza

For some reason, the Off-Road mode doesn’t work at all when I’m on 3G connection with my laptop. Works very well with the old Turbo mode in v.12.16, so I’m sticking with it for now.

0 votes

Matthew Hughes

Weird. I don’t know why that is.

0 votes

Dan

I’ve used Opera since version 1.
I’ve used Opera 15 for 2 days.
I do NOT like it, at all.
If I wanted Chrome, I’d be using it.
Clearly, Opera & Chrome are about to merge.
Opera 12 was a real workhorse for me.
Now, all it’s best features are gone.
My choice is to keep using Opera 12, or
switch to Firefox…which I have done for now.
The best way to lose a customer, is to try
to shove something down their throat they
don’t like or want. As a longtime, loyal Opera
customer, I’m sad to say I’ll be dealing with
the competition now. I feel like I’m burying a
member of the family. It was a great ride.

0 votes

Erlend S

My opinion is that your review misses the point entirely. You’re constantly comparing it to Google Chrome – as if it were a good thing. I fail to see how the jump from Opera 12.xx to 15 – from a highly configurable, versatile browser with lots of functionalities and features not found in other browsers (e.g. the mail client) – to yet another stripped, “bare bones” minimalist browser a bit too remniscient of Chrome, is a step forwards. The diversity among web browsers has been reduced by this, hopefully this isn’t a trend that will continue.

There is a reason Opera users swear to this browser, and that’s because we don’t like the minimalism; I value customization, functionality and novel features over sleek looks and so-called “user-friendliness” (I fail to see how the lack of options is user-friendly in any way). I find the settings panel in Chrome to be a nightmare to navigate, but then again, that might just be because it simply doesn’t have the options I’m looking for.

Moreover, I want to comment some specific points in your article:

“Everything you need and want is easy to get to and incredibly functional. Everything else – the chaff – is removed.”

This isn’t functional, it’s vanity. Throwing the features and customization options Opera is known for straight out of the window to make it look more like Windows 8 and with larger buttons in plain sight is not a step forward in functionality.

Also I want to point out again how Chrome-centric you are (I don’t think you’re aware of this yourself, but I don’t blame you) by highlighting a part of the above excerpt again: “Everything you need and want is easy to get to”. Read that again. Do you see it? A lot of what I need and want is gone. It may be easier to get to the few functions they included, but I prefer navigating a dropdown menu to access my keyboard shortcuts than not being able to customize them at all.

“Mercifully, Opera runs and feels like Google Chrome.” is another example. The exact reason I don’t use Chrome is because I don’t like the feel.

“When you type a query into the address bar, you aren’t just sent directly to Google, but given the option to search Yahoo, Bing and Wikipedia. You don’t need to edit any settings either. It’s just there; Obvious, yet unobtrusive.”

This is a matter of taste. I find the very idea of using Bing or Yahoo nauseating. It is obtrusive in my opinion (I believe this was included in earlier Opera versions as well, but not as visibly/intrusive. Anyways, I have deleted the shorthands for those search engines I won’t touch with a 10-foot pole, so I can’t be sure).

As for the switch from Presto to Blink I won’t go into technicalities, simply because I don’t know enough about it. Some people argue that reducing the diversity among rendering agents is negative. I would however like for Opera to work better with these “usual suspects” as you mention; with the new Graph Search function, Facebook has been impossible to use. I have to run it in a separate Firefox window, which isn’t exactly optimal. So Blink might be the way to go.

Also:

The “Inspect Element” functionality has been in Opera for a while; it is nothing new. The same goes for “Off-road mode”, I believe this is what’s called Opera Turbo in earlier versions (at least it fills the exact same purpose).

I just want to wrap this up by saying that I may come off as agressive (maybe?) and bitter (that I most definitely am), but most of that comes from Opera 15 itself and is not to be taken personally. I am however puzzled (to say the least) by your Chrome-centrism and how you depict how two browsers evolve from being polar opposites on the minimalism/functionality scale, to being nearly identical, as a step in the right direction. Forgive me if I come off as arrogant in saying this, but I can’t imagine you not seeing my point here.

0 votes

murlidhar

well still not available for linux users :(

0 votes

Matthew Hughes

Give it time! Opera has a track record of supporting Linux in all shapes and sizes.

0 votes

Caroline W

Hi! Right, Okay: I recently, absolutely fell head over heels in love with Opera 15 But, and this is a big BUT, they just don’t have it down to almost perfect yet. I think the release from Beta was too soon.

Now, the annoyances I have with O 15 is the lack of bookmark integration or rather a bookmarks bar and with 1000+ of them this is a Huge let down. Yes I know about the bookmark manager ext, which sadly is not up to much. However, I love ‘Stash’.

The other issue I have is that Opera’s extensions are only 6 visible at a time – that to me is crazy. And for the ext’s that do Not make it into the toolbar, I have no idea how to activate or use them. Which brings me to the next point of how that feature does little good for having the Chrome webstore at our fingertips.

Opera 15 IS sleek and incredibly quick, I just think the whole thing wasn’t thought out enough before it’s official release. So I have O 12.16 for the missing benefits and O 15 for browsing; what they need to do is combine the good and the not so good from each versions.

I truly love Opera for it’s amazing speed, but I still cannot make it my default browser until all features missed, by many like me, are back.

If anyone has any idea if the above will happen, do share. Also, if I am doing something wrong re: my O 15 issues I mentioned, please let me know.

If only they could perfect it then I think it will be #1 in browsers.

0 votes

Jag

Opera was one of the best browsers i had ever used, up until ver 11. Opera was a unique browser that integrated several features which greatly boosted my productivity.

Now they are going to drop them. I don’t like this idea. I don’t mind which engine they follow, i want all the features from the previous versions right in the new OPERA. That’s what made this browser great and loving.

0 votes

Andrew

Nice article Matthew but you still haven’t answered an observation that appears in the comments a couple, of times, if not several, which is, “It I wanted Chrome, I’d download Chrome.”

Your thoughts on this point would be interested as all I can see is a pale version of the Google browser.

0 votes

Lynx Kraaikamp

If I wanted a browser that made opening new windows a pain in the butt, I would download Chrome. I already have Chrome. I do not like using Chrome. I want to use Opera.

If that means my copy of Opera must remain out of date for it to stay Opera, then Opera 12 forever.