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opera_logo.jpgIf you’ve been following my articles on Make Use Of for any length of time, you’ll know that I am a big Firefox nut. But every now and then, I will break out the Opera browser on my PC. Even though Firefox regularly steals the limelight, Opera still has a smaller cult following and it’s only right that we begin to recognise that and give it the attention it rightly deserves.

So since 10% of you said in our recent poll What's your Browser of Choice ? [Poll] What's your Browser of Choice ? [Poll] Read More that you preferred Opera as your browser, I decided for a while to lower my Firefox fanboy gushing and start to look at some other browsers. So let’s start with Opera.

The first thing that strikes you immediately when you start up Opera is the “speed dial”. This is where you can have up to nine thumbnails of websites (which you can specify) and by clicking on one of the thumbnails, you can be taken directly to that site. So obviously you would enter the URL’s of the sites you visit most often.

Opera's Speed Dial Feature

Now if you also have Firefox like I do, you can easily export your bookmarks over to Opera. Synchronizing bookmarks however across browsers seems to be virtually impossible. I suppose the only solution is to bookmark everything to del.icio.us and access everything there.

Opera Link also saves all of your bookmarks and allows you to access them online, the same way Foxmarks does for Firefox. But the whole bookmark thing hasn’t been such a big deal for me as I only use Opera occasionally.

operagoogletoolbar.gifNow in some ways, Opera is a lot like Firefox – tabbed browsing and search toolbar plugins for example, but instead of extensions, Opera has widgets (a bit like Yahoo Widgets or Google Desktop Plugins) But to be truthful I didn’t like them. They were limited in choice and a bit awkward.

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For example, I was offered a Google toolbar (not an official one I hasten to add). But when I downloaded it, it just sat there with nowhere to go. It didn’t slot into the Opera browser nicely. It just sat in the middle of the screen. The toolbar worked fine and took me to the page I wanted to go to but it just got in the way – so in the end it irritated me and I eventually uninstalled it.

So I may just decide to use Opera without any widgets and addons and use it purely as a light-weight, no-frills browser. That may be what makes it so appealing to me. Firefox may be brilliant but it takes longer to load up and it’s a bigger CPU drainer. So if I want to quickly check only one website, I may be inclined to just use Opera as it will open faster and load faster. I’m sure all you Opera fans out there probably don’t appreciate me downgrading your browser like that but hey, each to their own.

I’ve also heard high praise for Opera’s security standards and I’ve had no problems accessing my bank accounts and Paypal accounts on the Opera browser. Here’s Opera’s page on the encryption methods they support.

Oh and if mobile browsing is your thing, try out Opera Mini. Check out the Make Use Of Directory post on it.

All in all, Opera makes an excellent alternative to Firefox and one well worth downloading. But if extensions is something you highly value, you may end up being highly disappointed as I don’t think the Opera widgets match up. But if all you want is a browser to access the net, Opera is a strong contender.

So, please tell me your Opera experiences. What IS going on with these widgets? Is there a way to synchronize those bookmarks? Let me know in the comments!

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