Opera Software – Opera 6.01 review

The third way...
Photo of Opera Software – Opera 6.01
£26 approx. ($39) or free (advert-supported).

We’ve reviewed earlier versions of Opera in the past (such as this one). Suffice to say it’s a small (3MB download) and fast Web browser that’s not free – it’s either advertisement-supported or paid-for and has become a popular download over the last few years. It offers several advantages over the big two browsers (if they can really be called big two – perhaps big one and a bit), mainly in the areas of accessibility and security. It’s also available for all 32-bit versions of Windows plus Linux, Macintosh, BeOS, Symbian OS (EPOC) and QNX, although not always in the latest revision.

We’re particularly keen on Opera’s strict adherence to standards, because that makes life a lot easier for the Web-monkeys. If you only have to check your code in one browser to ensure it complies with the international Web standards, that’s good news in our books. Security is also a strong point, with support for SSL v2 and v3, TLS v1.0 for HTTP, NNTP, SMTP and POP, RSA Key Exchange and Authentication and RSA Private Key generation for client certificates, plus DES and other encryption protocols. You can also decide whether Opera should accept or reject cookies or ask you each time, plus you can define the length of time to keep such data (e.g. delete it whenever the browser is closed).

The new version adds features such as a choice of interfaces – single document or multi-document (i.e. separate windows for each browser pane or all panes within one window) – plus new ‘skins’ and button styles, a personal hotlist bar, e-mail/bookmark imports from IE and Netscape, e-mail import from Outlook Express, additional short-cut keys (something Opera’s always been good at) and unicode support for more complex character sets such as Japanese. We also like features such as the ‘Delete private data’ dialogue box that will kill cookies, e-mail passwords and other sensitive information at a stroke.

Other tweaks include a selection of integrated search boxes so you don’t even have to go to the search engine’s home page. You can view the contents of the cache and history from within the browser (which makes for interesting reading), and all of Opera’s excellent zoom, keyboard navigation and formatting over-rides are still here. You can download the browser on its own or with a 7MB Java run-time module. There’s a built-in news reader and e-mail client, as you’d expect, and Opera supports plug-in modules such as Flash as long as they’re Netscape-compatible.

Opera Software claims that Opera is the fastest browser, but that’s a tough thing to measure. It’s not necessarily faster than Internet Explorer when it comes to actually loading the program, but that’s at least partly due to the way that IE is integrated into Windows – some of its components are loaded all the time anyway. For actual page parsing, we reckon that Opera 6.01 is slightly slower than its predecessor, Opera 5. Perhaps that’s due to stricter implementation of the numerous Web standards, but in reality you’re not going to notice much performance difference on a fast machine, whichever browser you choose.

What you will notice is that pages viewed in Opera may look different to those viewed in IE. That’s because, unlike Internet Explorer, Opera doesn’t attempt to correct Web developers’ mistakes. If they’ve got the code wrong, the layout’s going to look odd – that’s tough. This is a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing because the more people who comply with the W3C and other standards, the more robust and accessible the Web will become. It’s a curse because we’re not there yet, so some sites are going to look a bit odd (if you’re running IE 6 at the moment, try the ‘compliant’ mode on a few of your favourite sites and you’ll see what we mean).

Company: Opera Software

Contact: +47 23 23 48 68


Verdict
Although a tad slower than its predecessor, Opera 6.01 maintains the spirit of a small, fast, standards-based Web browser that will run on low-performance machines and yet has plenty of features that other browsers lack. It's been our default browser for the last few years and is likely to remain so for the foreseeable future. It's only drawback is that it's not truly free, but then you get what you pay for.