While millions of words a year seem to be devoted across the planet to the likes of Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, and now Google’s Chome, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that one browser has stood the test of time better than most of them: Opera.
While never threatening any form of mass-market breakthrough to the level of its rivals, Opera has in fact been around since 1996, and continues to impress its core supportive audience (and Nintendo DS and Wii users, given that it’s the browser of choice for those platforms). It’s also the product that first gave the browsing the world the likes of tabbed browsing and the kind of extensions that many Firefox users now take for granted.
The tenth version of Opera, therefore, presents a challenge: can its makers keep the innovations coming and, crucially, get more people to notice them? Certainly on firing up the beta version, Opera has put the welcome mat out. While nagging to become your default browser – although it’s hard to grumble too much about that, as all of them do it – it presents a more polished look than we’re used to seeing from Opera, and is clearly keen to win over some new friends.
Furthermore, under the browser page tabs, you can activate a drop-down preview of a given tab in the form of a small thumbnail. This was actually our favourite of the features in this beta, and the one that we fully expect to see replicated among Opera’s rivals.
Those familiar with the aforementioned Chrome will be familiar too with the ‘speed dial’ grid that Opera employs, with the potential to set an opening screen with up to 25 web pages of your choice on it, waiting to be clicked on and jumped to. These are customisable, so you’re not limited to the sites you visit the most.
On top of all of this are the usual Opera features, including its flexibility, that’s been a cornerstone of its development for some time. But, crucially, there’s no absolutely must-have killer feature here. In fact, while it’s still a strong web browser, it’s no closer to being vital.
Consequently, tight and useful though Opera 10 is, there’s nothing compelling that’s going to break it further into the mainstream. It’ll still have its fans, of course. But perhaps not as many as Chrome, Safari and Firefox.