Up there with Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and Internet Explorer (soon to become Spartan in Windows 10) is Opera. This Norwegian “new” Web browser has managed to surpass all of its competitors in the Windows arena – except for the “Big Three” – in a very short period of time, and its always-improving navigation speed, its excellent HTML5 support, and its ever-growing list of add-ons have a lot to do with it.
When you open Opera for the first time you are immediately surprised by its high-speed startup, a feature that has been largely improved in this new Opera 31. Now, if you want speed, you need to try the Turbo mode. It will compress all the pages you visit by as much as to 80 per cent, which does multiply speed access in a significant way. By default, the first thing you’ll see is the Speed Dial, a set of thumbnails of the most famous web sites which you can configure to show those you visit more often. Though not entirely an exclusive feature (Mozilla Firefox has been offering a similar function for a while now), it does add to the overall usability of the browser. One thing that will surely strike you as brand new is the menu bar at the bottom of the screen. Here you will find five of Opera’s more interesting features – the already-mentioned Speed Dial, the Bookmarks manager, Discover, Tabs, and History.
Discover really is an Opera-exclusive feature, and it will allow you to keep up to date in all your favorite subjects and personal interests, such as Arts, Business, Entertainment, Lifestyle, Gaming, Motoring, News, or Science to name a few. All the browser functionality, Discover included, is presented in attractive, clean, and well-organized pages. The bookmarks, the tabs, the history, or the download managers provide a clear view of the data in hand, with useful menu options that will help you organize your preferences. Not all browsers (and certainly none of the “top three”) provide such an intuitive and refreshing way of organizing your content and deal with the browser’s settings and preferences. In this field, Opera is a winner.
And when it comes to synchronizing your surfing preferences on all your devices, Opera has also a lot to teach to its competitors. By opening an Opera account you will be provided with tools to sync your Web browsing experience on all your computers, smart phones, tablets, etc. This will allow you to enjoy the same functionality everywhere and to avoid duplicating (as well as exporting and importing) bookmarks, favorites, Speed Dial options, and what not on each new device with Web browsing capabilities.
Traditionally, security has been a very important concern for Web users. Opera offers not only the somehow expected cleaning and wiping options to help you get rid of your history, cookies, traces, and the like as other browsers do, but also “private windows”. These windows are not tabs in the main browser window, but independent ones where you can browse the Web as usual. These private windows, however, will shred all traces of your Web activity as soon as you close them. There is no need to go to Settings and then to Privacy & Security to wipe the traces left by those pages – they are gone with your private window.
Opera may not look so different when compared to its main competitors, but it is different. In just a few years, it has become the fourth most used Windows browser, and when you look at the list of new browsers coming out each year you understand how difficult it is to reach that level of excellence in such a short period of time. By improving what other browsers take for granted (i.e. browsing speed) and by including new practical functionality of its own in a nice-to-look-at interface, Opera is called to become a powerful contender in the battle for Web supremacy.