On my computer, I’ve always kept the latest copy of Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Chromium, Safari, and Opera – depending upon the computer. It’s not nearly as important now but years ago, it really was important to test your webpages on different browsers as they can render things differently. There’s nothing I find more frustrating than visiting a site and it just doesn’t look right or you’ve done something that limits things. Remember messages like “Sorry, this page ony runs on Internet Explorer”.
I always am intrigued by web studies showing where the current popular web browser is. Only a fool would take a look at one set of stats and make complete decisions based on that. Rather, they’re just a snapshot in time. It’s always been interesting to see the fall and decline of Internet Explorer, the rise of Firefox and Chrome. Always taking a small slice of the pie has been Opera. And yet, it’s always intrigued me so I keep it installed. Unlike other browsers where I load up on extensions, I keep Opera basically free of them. That way, if I run into something that looks badly on one browser, I could flip to Opera and test it unfettered by third party authors.
There has always been a lot of things to like about Opera; it’s very quick to load, always seems to be rated highly in security testing, Scandinavian in design (who doesn’t like good things with Scandinavian heritage), and I’ve never had it crash on me. Like Firefox, the latest version allows you to search from the address bar as well as having an area to specify a search engine.
I’ll typically have the default search enging set to use Google and the second one to use Yahoo! It allows me to to do two searches without a great deal of effort. Opera has also had some unique features like Turbo Mode and Speed Dial which you don’t find by default on other browsers. All in all, it’s a solid performer and yet I’ve never made it my default browser. It’s a question I really can’t answer except that, I guess, I like the additional functionality that extensions to Firefox and Chrome provide.
This week, there was exciting news from Opera. They’ve released their next version – Opera Next. Word had been trickly down that Opera was going to be re-written, abandoning its Presto web engine in favour of Blink. So, you know me – I had to give it a shot.
With the switch in engines, it came as no surprise that Opera Next looked like Chromium or Chrome right out of the box. I started to poke around to see what was what.
Right off the bat, there were a couple of things that had me scratching. I’m a big user of pinned tabs. At present, there doesn’t seem to be a way to pin a tab in Opera Next. The other gotcha was the X to close a tab. It’s on the other side of the tab. As a long time Chrome user, old habits die hard! Got to suck it up here. That certainly can’t be a show stopper!
Opera Next is snappy and was a pleasure to work with. Now, it comes time to deck it out. Can I customize it? I went to the Chrome store and many of the extension were expecting to install themselves into Chrome. That’s fair enough; I don’t know why but I thought that they would just transport across the platforms. But I did poke around and from the Opera Menu, there’s an option to install extensions. Opera is developing its own store for extensions so a trip there was in order. There’s some of my go-tos there. I install Web of Trust, Evernote, Feedly, LastPass, Ghostery, and Ad Block Plus. That’s about it – no blogging tool at present – I was hoping to see Scribefire.
While there, I notice that there’s an option to change themes. I visited the Opera Next theme site and there are a few ways to dress up your browser desktop. I looked at a couple – nothing green!
Desktop real estate is important to me. In my browser, I’ll also downsize the font a couple of steps. I’m not a fan of Full Screen Mode all the time so the less that the browser uses, the more room there is for me to read.
I stacked Chrome, Opera Next, and Firefox together and you can see that Chrome maximizes the screen real estate nicely. Notice how it places the tabs on the same row as the exit, minimize, and maximize buttons. That’s a really good way to avoid dead space. I’d really like to see Opera Next and Firefox follow suit.
Regular browsing functionality was there. I was surprised that Opera Mail was not included. Perhaps it’s just because it’s early in development? I guess time will tell.
There are two features unique to Opera Next that I spent a bunch of time playing with. One is called “Stash” and the other “Discover”. I’m excited about both.
Discover finds news stories for you just by selection. I changed the setting to Canada and then back to Global. It seems to have more interesting reads for me at the moment. I’m just not interested in Toronto’s Mayor or a certain Senator.
That’s a really nice feature. It reminds me of Rockmelt for Web. It’s based on the premise that there should always be something new and interesting to read when you open your browser.
The second feature, Stash, I think is best described as temporary bookmarks. A regular bookmark is permanent. With Stash, if you’re browsing the web looking for stories, click the little heart icon to stash them away for later retrieval.
Don’t get caught up on the actual stories I’ve stashed above – I just stashed three pages for this post. I can see myself using this quite a bit, particulary in conjunction with Discover. As I scan news stories, I can Stash them and then later on take some time to read them fully. I see a boost in productivity coming here.
I haven’t even talked about cottonTracks. This could turn out to be a big change for me.
My first kick at Opera Next was very positive. For the Chrome or Chromium user, there’s very little new learning to take on and yet, the potential for better productivity certainly is there. I really did enjoy it; the limiting factor is the number of extensions that are currently available. That will get better with time and Opera has promised regular updates over the next while. I’m looking forward to seeing this product evolve.