Review of Opera 10.10 - A Unique Contender in the Browser Wars

What Internet browser do you use?  Internet Explorer?  If so, you're in the majority... over 60% of Internet users still roam the intarwebs with IE, with Mozilla Firefox coming in a distant second at about 25%.

The browser wars are raging on, however, with smaller contenders stepping up to the plate for their own chance at dominance.  Apple's Safari and Google Chrome are fast, flexible, secure browsers that while used only by a very small portion of the Internet community, are gaining popularity.  Then, there's Opera.

At a measly 1.5%, Opera users are truly the fanboy/fangirl majority - but the quality of their recent offering, Opera 10.10, belies this small user base.  It's pretty amazing what this recent release can actually do; sadly, most will probably ignore it.  This is my small attempt to encourage people to give the new Opera a try, as competition is good, and so is this browser.

[Stats courtesy of Wikipedia]

Overview of Opera 10.10

The new version of Opera promises to revolutionize the browsing experience by bringing a lot of what you do on the Internet together in one tidy little package.  Here's a (possibly not comprehensive) list of what can be found in the new Opera that's unique compared to other browsers:

  • Opera Unite
  • Opera Turbo
  • Opera Mail
  • Opera Link
  • Sidebar providing easy access to features/apps
  • Opera Widgets
  • Notes
  • Visual Tabs
  • Speed Dial
  • Mouse gestures and tons of keyboard shortcuts

(Note that some of these features were present in earlier builds of Opera, but I'm mentioning them here for those who may be unfamiliar.)

General Browser Enhancements

The new Opera has a great, clean look with a nicely minimized taskbar.  Instead, you get a nifty sidebar tray that can easily be collapsed or opened - giving you quick access to Opera's various features.  The tab bar can be dragged downward to give you a thumbnail profile of each browser window.  The Speed Dial is similar to offerings from other browsers, like Safari's Top Sites, and can be used when you open a new tab or by pressing Cmd and the corresponding number.

Opera Widgets

You can download a selection of handy widgets to use while you browse, ranging from chat applications to streaming radio stations.  These are fantastic as they allow you to perform basic functions without the need to open a separate application.  Some of them are a bit twitchy, requiring multiple clicks to work or shutting off when you don't want them to, but overall a cool feature that's easy to use.  Opera Widgets have been around for a while, but they feel better integrated now.


Opera allows you to take quick notes and sync them with Opera on other machines using the Opera Link feature (with which you can also sync bookmarks, etc.)  Not as slick as Mac Mail's integrated Notes, but nice to have.

Mouse Gestures & Keyboard Shortcuts

Opera has TONS of them, and they are almost infinitely customizable.  Ten bucks says your head will spin when you go into the menu.

Opera Turbo

A very cool feature of Opera is the server side compression and optimization utility for low bandwidth connections, known to non-nerds as Opera Turbo.  Basically, the webpage you visit passes through Opera's servers first, gets compressed and optimized, and sent back to you - to speed up browsing on slow connections.  You know, like a crowded Panera (who I've found has slow connections to begin with) or a mobile broadband connection with bad data speeds (like I have found with AT&T.)

In my tests, loaded in about 9 seconds with Turbo, compared to about 23 seconds without, on a connection of about .46 Mbps (45 kbps.)  There was noticable image degradation, but I can deal with that in exchange for faster browsing speeds.

Opera Mail

This is one of my favorite features.  Opera 10.10 has a full IMAP/POP email client built right in.  I find that, so far, this email client is almost as good as Thunderbird or Mac Mail - the other two clients I have used for several years on PC and Mac respectively.  While it doesn't have all the customization options (for example, the inability to place my signature above quoted replies) it's remarkably full featured and snappy.  Basically, with Opera Mail, you can integrate your mail client into your browser, thus eliminating yet another window and program.

Opera Unite

This is truly the flagship functionality of the new Opera, or at least, it seems to be the one they're pushing the most.  In simplest terms, Unite allows you to share content on your machine with others, over the Internet, in a simple way - without actually uploading files anywhere.

Sound interesting?  Well, in my opinion, it is - especially since it's FREE.  You can easily share your music, photos, and files by either accessing a URL or mailing out a link.  You can even Tweet links or post them directly to Facebook (the social integration is nice.)  Of course, your site is password protected, hidden from web searches by default (you can enable this if you want,) and you select only what you want to share.  The music sharing feature was awesome, allowing me to browse files on any drive in a simple file tree format (in this case, from my Pogoplug drive.) Songs played flawlessly and tracks advance automatically, it even picks up the album art.  Streaming from another PC outside of my network was no problem and required no manual setup.

What's even better is that new apps can be developed and installed, making this system (in theory) infinitely expandable.


Opera isn't perfect, though.  Remember, it is one of the least-supported browsers out there, so a lot of websites might kick back errors (like "this website currently doesn't support your browser".) Many of these sites will let you continue,  but not all of them.  Here are some other issues I experienced:

  • I experienced quite a few random crashes, usually when editing settings (not while browsing.)
  • Widgets can get a bit wonky
  • Mail lacks some customization and simple settings present in most other clients
  • Look isn't quite as polished as Safari for Mac and other browsers
  • Opera Link didn't work completely; bookmarks synced but were corrupted somehow (no titles)


Overall, I think Opera is an excellent, more full featured alternative to other browsers.  It's fast, reliable, slick, and loaded with extra geeky goodies.  The sharing features of Unite and the boosting ability of Turbo are especially nice for road warriors and people who love media.  Migrating from other browsers is made easy by quick bookmark importing.  And frankly, it's free, so why not give it a shot and see if you like it?  As long as you are accepting of some early bugs, twitchiness, and incompatibility issues, of course!

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