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imageYou have to give it to Opera; it’s stayed in there.

Starting as a research project in 1994, Opera has been responsible for some world changing innovations (think tabbed browsing) and yet never seemed to achieve the kind of success it deserved.

But this isn’t a history lesson, it’s an article on a few of the killer features of Opera that keep me using it each day. I use Firefox and Flock pretty frequently as well, but Opera, as of version 9.5 has become my favourite.

This isn’t just a list of Opera features, these are what genuinely make life easier for me, and what makes me want to use Opera for my daily web browsing. So for example I haven’t included Mouse Gestures with this list. Why? Because even though it is much more productive, I haven’t yet got in the habit of using it.

1. The Interface

I’ve liked the Opera interface ever since they removed the pathetic banner ads and instead focused on creating a free browser to rival Firefox. If only they made this decision earlier, things may have been a little different.

Whatever the case, Opera 9.5 introduced what I think is a fantastic new interface and theme which is both attractive, useful and unique. My only complaint would be that the tab-bar colour is maybe slightly on the dark side, occasionally making it hard to locate tabs.


You can of course download more skins, and customize various toolbars and buttons yourself, but personally I haven’t bothered changing many default settings as it works fine for me and I think that this shows in the great design.

A new theme may seem cosmetic and hardly something to increase productivity, so I’ll just give you a quick example of how small things make such a big difference:

image image

The left screenshot is a menu from Opera, the the right, from Firefox 3. I realise they don’t have the same functions, but the addition of the icons to the most used items in the Opera menu both breaks it up and makes it easier for the eye to find where an item is.

A “˜recycle bin’ has been added to the end of the tab bar and provides a list of recently closed tabs. Again, simple and useful. I find myself needing to use it all the time, and it’s a lot quicker then having look through the browsing history.>

image image

2. Speed Dial

What can I say about Speed Dial?

It’s one of those things like tabbed browsing, so simple that you wonder why no one did it before, and yet so useful you would hate to be without it.

Also, chicks love it.

No seriously, Opera is a browser that seems to appeal more to women, and I’ve had discussions with a few people who back that up. In fact I would be really interested if any of you want to let me know in the comments wether or not you think this is true.

My theory is that the average female uses the internet for a mere handful of tasks”¦ perhaps email, MSN, MySpace, FaceBook and a couple more sites. They couldn’t care less about what browser they use and are unlikely to ever feel the need for extensions like Firefox.

Speed Dial is just so simple, point, click, add: instant access”¦ add that to the easy to use interface and page loading speed and you have a winner.


3. Bit-Torrent and Download Manager

Opera has a simple Bit-torrent manager as well as an enhanced Download manager, significantly better then you’ll find in either Internet Explorer 7 (With the IE Pro add-on) or Firefox 3.

The complaints have been the Bit-torrent manager is far too slow, and I agree it’s not a great client. However your satisfaction will depend on what kind of user you are. I use Bit-torrent but only occasionally and I’m more interested in reducing the number of applications running then having the best possible Bit-torrent software. I’m happy with having Opera torrent files and slowly downloading them. I’m in no rush.

4. Saved Sessions

Just close Opera safe in the knowledge you can come back later and resume where you left off. And yes, I know Firefox 3 has this now as well, but that doesn’t diminish its usefulness in Opera and I like it.

5. Mail Client

The Opera Mail Client is under-rated in my opinion as it really is quite useful, particularly with 9.5’s general update and improved Gmail integration.

As you know Gmail provides free Pop3 and SMTP access, which makes using Opera Mail all the more useful as you can use it either as an offline client like you’re used to, or as a way to access mail through SMTP and not have to reload the Gmail web interface whenever you use your email.

You can organise multiple accounts. However one thing I noticed is that emails can only be created in plain-text, no formatting, which I find I bit annoying.

To get the most out of this feature I suggest using it in conjunction with Opera Link, another feature which will synchronise your Opera profile across multiple locations including desktop versions and mobile devices.

6. Search, History and Indexing

I must admit to being surprised by the fuss some Firefox fans kicked up about the new “Awesome Bar” in Firefox 3.

Sure, I haven’t yet adjusted myself to taking advantage to all the possibilities offered by it, but when I first saw the new design and larger fonts it just made finding pages in my browsing history so much easier.

In contrast the Opera URL history now seems a little cramped, but it’s still pretty effective and if it had more spacing between results would be very similar to Firefox.

All pages you’ve visited are now indexed and you can search based on any word or subject you remember being vaguely associated with the page you visited.

Before you ask why I’ve left out some great Opera features just remember this is just what I personally find most useful, feel free to tell us what it is you like most about it.

And finally, before someone corrects me, I know Opera wasn’t the first browser to invent or implement tabbed browsing. Netcaptor introduced it way back in 1997, Opera was the browser which first brought it to public attention in 2001, and then sadly to mainstream usage through Mozilla Phoenix (early Firefox) in 2002.

So, that’s what I love about the Opera browser. What do YOU love about it? Let’s see if our tastes match.

  1. Floridan
    December 2, 2009 at 11:26 am

    ABCTajpu is an extension for Firefox/Thunderbird which allows me to key a 1, 2 or 3 letter sequence and press Insert and get a special character. I can program new sequences and I can change the switching key. I can also pick a large number of special characters off a huge popup window. For instance:

    p = π
    EUR = €
    32@ = 32° (Not supplied, I programmed that.)
    c, = ç
    n~ = ñ
    u: = ü
    c/ = ¢

    Nothing supplied for the copyright, trademark or registered symbol but you could enter that for yourself.

    This is so much easier than the special character pull down menu of Thunderbird.

    NOTHING like that in Opera. Correct me if I'm wrong. I'll complain about this on the Opera forums and if version 10.11 has it, I'll switch.

    This is so much

  2. Manojks
    February 6, 2009 at 9:05 am

    Opera is the best. Period.

  3. hyder
    August 6, 2008 at 11:41 am

    Opera is a gem. I use Firefox 3 and maxthon too but nothing beats opera.

    Features I love:

    -> Undo Closed Window. (getting closed tabs back is good, but how many times have i clicked that awful red button and ended up losing 50 tabs)

    -> Save as MHT (firefox can't, IE takes hours, often hangs dead, Opera does it in a fraction of a second. I've saved pages nearly 30 MB, and opera took maybe 2 seconds or less to save the page.)

    -> 1-click images on/ off/ show cached only.

    -> most memory efficient browser. (much more efficient than IE7 or firefox 3)

    -> Extremely responsive interface ( I really hate it when i click the new tab button in IE7, and it appears after six seconds)

    -> fastest rendering speed among ie6/7, maxthon, even firefox 3

    Features I hate the most:

    -> Copies only plain text. no links, no formatting, no images, no styles or rich text. (this is absolutely vile. the developers should have incorporated this feature, it's in every other damn browser)

    -> No extensions. (I miss a lot of Firefox extensions in opera. Opera's widgets are nearly useless to me)

    -> No flash blocking, and even the ad blocking feature doesn't come anywhere close to AdBlock.

    -> useless torrent client and rss reader . ( and worst of all, it is a pain to turn them off)

    -> horrible external integration ( good luck getting your rss reader/ torrent client/ download manager integrate with opera. while most apps will have plugins for IE and firefox, support for opera is ruefully lacking. opera doesn't help matters because there is no easy way to specify your external torrent client or other app as default)

  4. webguyscott
    July 29, 2008 at 6:42 am

    Mark my words "FireFox is just a hypebox" . Firefox has included new features in FF3 that have been in Opera since the last 2-3 years.

    Opera is and has been fast, packs a LOT of awesome features and is truly an amazing browser.

    You say you are missing on the mouse gestures. I say you haven't seen anything of Opera. The mouse gestures was the catalyst for my love with opera. It increases productivity by about (200%) (just my guess) .

    Amongst MANY MANY other features , you forgot the most important 'Notes' feature. How could I ever browse without it !!..

    I use FF only when I need those Extensions (few times) . Otherwise, Opera gets my browsing time.

  5. John Baima
    July 23, 2008 at 1:28 pm

    All of those are achievable via FF extensions. Not to mention the Bittorent is pointless, it can never be as good as, say, uTorrent.

    • webguyscott
      July 29, 2008 at 6:43 am

      So why is there a bittorrent extension for FF?

  6. R
    July 19, 2008 at 7:24 am

    I love built-in feeds reader. Google Reader isn't able to read feeds of websites whose content are locked/members-only, but Opera's feeds reader does that just fine. I also love custom search.

    • webguyscott
      July 29, 2008 at 6:46 am

      Yeah , one of the most innovative feature of opera ( if FF hasm't copied it yet) is... if you want to search google..... in the address bar, put a 'g' before the keyword..... and it displays google results for the term ...... eg: 'g cool sites' will return google result for the term .... Same applies for yahoo and other searches..

  7. Peter
    July 19, 2008 at 1:16 am

    I'm a die hard Opera user and have been for years, but I have to disagree a bit. The new speed dial only slows me down. BitTorrent is best left to a dedicated client. Mail client is not as straightforward as it should be, and is too entangled with the IRC functions. If only Opera had kept IM functions (it used to have built-in ICQ functionality), that would really set it apart.

    My favorites:
    Customizable interface, buttons, etc
    Mouse gestures
    User JS / User CSS
    Smart zoom
    Paste and go
    Double-click highliting options
    Ctrl-Z (undo) closing a tab

    And probably many more I can't think of.

    • webguyscott
      July 29, 2008 at 6:47 am

      Peter, You are my Brother ;)

  8. Morgaine
    July 18, 2008 at 11:59 pm

    Most of the women I know on line run political blogs, so they're interested in getting a lot done in very little time. Speed dial is ok, but I get the same effect by using Only2Clicks with Safari. Opera isn't bad. It's certainly better than the odious IE and slow, clunky FF, but I use Safari until I run across the rare sight that just won't play nice, then I use SeaMonkey. Nobody ever mentions SeaMonkey, but I like it. It's simple, it's faster than FF, and it's free. I really hope that websites that are anti-Safari will soon be a thing of the past. Once you get used to the speed, nothing else compares.

  9. bcnubes
    July 18, 2008 at 11:19 am

    Mouse Gestures- probably the neatest most unique feature. I couldn't open a tab any other way now. I love this feature! Moving up in a URL level with a simple gesture, very neat.

    Paste and Go, seems small and simple, but handy

    Copy to Note, perfect to keep track of bill pay confirmations, shipping numbers...

    Saved Sessions

    Speed Dial (I would love to be able to make multiple, anyone know if that is possible? Have all my favorite shopping sites on one speed dial, different search sites on another, my personal sites on another...)

    The interface customizations seems easier, quicker and more flexible than any other browser.

    The widgets in a new window is annoying. That is my only complaint.

    I have had a couple pages not load correctly, but I agree that all Opera can do is follow the rules. If a site is poorly designed nothing Opera can do about it. (unfortunately it is still a minor inconvenience but I would rather use Opera and have to occasionally open IE.)

  10. Rarst
    July 18, 2008 at 10:14 am

    I like a lot of different stuff about Opera but comments to such articles make me rate "lacks fanboy army" pretty high in the list. :) Features I use most are probably RSS reader and custom searches.

    Only upgraded recently from 9.27 (browser is important application so I decided to wait a bit). Don't like dark theme (and that icons stay dark even if you disable it) and some slight behaviour changes but lots of stuff is improved.

  11. eddiep
    July 18, 2008 at 6:24 am

    I'm surprised how many people complain about Opera not correctly showing some sites. I had very little problem with that. And Opera is the most standard compliant browser. Do an acid3 test, and Opera will be the winner. I think those IE oriented sites / web pages should, and hopefully will, rethink their orientation and standard compliance. What FF is doing better is mimic IE for those sites, where Opera sticks to standards and show bloated pages ... well ... bloated.
    I really love the RSS reader, and how it integrates in the same panel with the Mail client I use for everyday mailing.

    But these are the features that makes Opera my favorite:
    - instant search in address bar. If you type more than 1 word, it will use your default search engine and search for what you typed in (google in my case)
    - ease way to add new searches in Opera, any search field can be transformed into a search option by 2-3 mouse clicks
    - letter assignment to searches, used in address bar
    - in Linux, select a text with mouse => middle click => go to page if it is an address / search with default engine if it is a text ... very very useful
    - the trash, btw it's there since ages, only that the new opera 9.5 skin made it a little bit more visible. I use it since Opera 6 or 7 ... can't even remember.
    - a 4x4 speeddial makes my life really easy. 2 click to reach a page (click new tap, click speedial element)
    - many other things I can't even think about because I'm so used with them that I realize their presence only when using other browsers some things doesn't work :)
    - ... remembered another one, mouse gestures ;)

    Have a nice day.

    • webguyscott
      July 29, 2008 at 6:50 am

      Your review does Opera COMPLETE justce

  12. Nxqd3051990
    July 17, 2008 at 7:03 pm

    1- I don't really love the new interface
    2- Bittorrent, it's the most hated feature ..
    3- Agree with the others
    4- Add Customization ..

  13. jacksonbms
    July 17, 2008 at 3:28 pm

    One of the features that I like in Opera is to copy an URL or a text and then use Paste and Go to put them in the address bar or the google box. It saves me a lot of time.

    For bjb_nyj101: When a web page doesn't display well in Opera, is not the problem of Opera but the page. For a long time Opera was the only one browser to pass correctly the acid tests for browsers. Many pages are built to be displayed well in IE. It doesn't mean they are correctly build.

  14. Ryan
    July 17, 2008 at 3:15 pm

    Opera is without doubt the best "out of the box" web browser but with firefox it is so easy and simple to customize it to exactly how you want it to be and Opera is annoying to use. (Don't ask me about IE, I have only ever used a locked down version on school computers).

    I like when I open a mini window, say bbc iPlayer, in firefox it would automatically appear in a completely new windows, but Opera opens into a small tab which I love.

    The best feature however in Opera is the startup time, compared to firefox it is lightning.

  15. ph
    July 17, 2008 at 2:54 pm

    --rant from a fanboy below--

    1) even faster now since 9.5 - and great imho. downloads rss feeds, displays a nice small message when new posts arrive - all included in my browser, right where i want them - no extra standalone app needed. sure, no fancy web2.0 stuff. so what?

    2) ok, it's still far from perfect, I only use it for secondary accounts. but bloated? opera = low memory usage. with or without using mail. nothing bloated there.

    3) have not found any firefox extension until now which is not included in opera (session management, ...) or availible as a standalone app. but I'm a opera fanboy, so there surely is a lot of great stuff out there I don't know about. just opera serves all my needs. no need searching manually for all the great features.

    4) agreed. although it's certainly not many and they say they make progress...

    5) agreed.

    6) opera has had much less critical security issues than firefox. don't know if thats due to being open / closed source. anyways, if extensions are not a possible security risk, they surely are the cause of firefox2 being the biggest piece of bloatware there is.

  16. Bill
    July 17, 2008 at 2:36 pm

    The deal breaker for me are the widgets. I don't want browser "widgets" outside of my browser window. I like how Forcast Fox puts weather in the statusbar for instance. I don't want separate app windows all over the place.

  17. bjb_nyj101
    July 17, 2008 at 1:11 pm

    Six things I hate about the Opera Browser:

    1) RSS Reader- sucks
    2) Mail Client - Completely bloatware.
    3) Lack of addons- You can't add any of the wonderful addons like you can if Firefox
    4) Lack of compatablilty- Opera does not support many web pages very well. (even gmail doesnt display properlay)
    5) Update Manager - When you click 'check for updates' if there is one, it takes you all the way to the opera site and you have to download the entire browser agian, not just the update.
    6) Closed Source - This hampers not only security, but the ability of other people to crate thousands of extensions ( a la firefox)

    • Laurence
      July 18, 2008 at 1:03 am

      Some extensions for Opera would be good yes, but it doesn't mean a browser has to have that kind of functionality in order to be successful. Opening it up as open source is just the automatic winner people seem to think it is.

      And I have had only the very very occasional screwed up page in Opera... as in perhaps 5 I can remember... perhaps you haven't used 9.5? Gmail displays fine for me...

    • tayker
      July 18, 2008 at 1:33 pm

      "4) Lack of compatability- ..."

      That's funny. Opera makes Firefox look like IE. All browsers have rendering issues. However, Opera is more compliant than Firefox.

    • R
      July 19, 2008 at 7:11 am

      "4) Lack of compatablilty- Opera does not support many web pages very well."
      It's the web pages that do not support Opera; not the other way round.

    • Alex
      October 2, 2008 at 5:13 pm

      regarding the lack of compatiblility. You can access amenu that allows you to mask Opera as Firefox or IE. go to

      Tools/Quick Preferences/Edit Site Preferences/Network

      You should see a Browser Identification dropdown. All the options are there. Anytime you have trouble with Opera not being compatible with web page you should try this before bitching about it.

  18. Anna
    July 17, 2008 at 1:00 pm

    From the woman's point of view :)
    Opera has it's own style and identity and sense of user comfort and all of that are integrated in user experience so naturally, that you simply can't avoid to become addict.
    I use FF and IE occasionally but I can't stop feeling that they are quite grunge :)

  19. Andre
    July 17, 2008 at 11:37 am

    Agreed - v9.5 is full of lots of browser goodness with a number of well thought out design decisions that make it a pleasure to use and at the same time differentiates it from Mozilla and IE.

    My only grumble is that Opera badly needs a fully featured script blocking add-on akin to No-Script. It seems there have been a couple of attempts of this in the Opera community so it would be great to see more development on that front.

    • Josh
      July 17, 2008 at 12:35 pm

      Fully featured? Perhaps not, but I use the fanboy adblock list and get the prime capability of AdBlockPlus found here:

      And with the user JavaScript files you can use many greasemonkey scripts from (I even put that site in my search bar so I could quickly find the scripts I wanted). Nothing that duplicates the functions of NoScript exactly, but with some tweaking you can achieve some of the same results. Plus, I hear they (Opera Dev team) are working on incorporating Firefox-style extensions soon. It won't be long before NoScript os ported, I'm sure.

  20. Paul
    July 17, 2008 at 11:30 am

    Agreed - good browser but it still does not have a StumbleUpon toolbar to equal that on Firefox, or IE

    • Josh
      July 17, 2008 at 12:13 pm

      I know! Surely it can't be that hard, maybe the Opera team needs to get onto that with Stumbleupon =P

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