I’ve used Mozilla products in their various forms for years now. First with the Mozilla suite, then to Phoenix for a little bit, then realizing it was too buggy for my tastes so back to Mozilla Suite, then over to Firebird (0.3 or so if I recall) for a little while, back to Mozilla, then finally the combination of Firefox and Thunderbird. I landed on those two primarily because I like Thunderbird better than Mozilla Mail, and (at the time, before Seamonkey) the suite was probably going bye-bye. I wasn’t thrilled about two apps using the same base of code taking up twice the footprint, but I learned to live with it.
A few things have always been consistent with these products:
- They’ve been very standards compliant
- Pretty darn secure
- Most recently they’ve been wonderfully extendable (via extensions)
- Ridiculously slow, memory hogging bloatware from hell
In the past, the first three items won out. Even though the software was slow and unresponsive, all of the other positives made up for it. Especially the IMAP support in Thunderbird. I’d be lost without it.
I’ve been using Opera as an “alternate” browser for a while now. I was first intrigued around the version 5 days. However, I basically just installed it, browsed to a few pages, then uninstalled it a couple days later. Same thing with version 6. I really started to like what I was seeing with version 7. I was able to get my then employer to pay the $30.00 to purchase it. Yes, that’s right, I actually purchased a Web browser. I must admit, if it wasn’t an employee expense, I probably never would have purchased it. Something about paying for a Web browser that just doesn’t seem right. But I really liked it for Webdev. Version 8 was a pretty big improvement IMO. This was the release that got me thinking about switching from Firefox.
One of my main complaints with Opera has been the UI. I simply didn’t like it. Yes, it’s configurable, but I don’t want to have to do homework just to fix what I feel is an inferior UI. Enter downloadable Toolbars and Keyboard shortcuts. I found the “Hugin and Munin” configs and finally felt at home. I had the uncluttered UI of Firefox, with the goodness of Opera. I still didn’t feel like switching though. I had quite a bit of extensions with Firefox and not changing is easier than changing.
With the recent release of version 9, I made the plunge. I am now a part-time Firefox user and a full-time Opera user. I’ll explain the part-time thing later.
First, a list of what I like about Opera:
- It has many built-in features that I needed extensions for with Firefox. Super tab support (Tab Mix Plus), RSS reader (Sage), User Scripts (GreaseMonkey), and a bunch of others.
- If Opera is missing a feature, there’s a good chance I can get a “User Script” for it over at UserJS.org, or UserScripts.org. These are basically GreaseMonkey scripts, except you don’t need GreaseMonkey 🙂
- Oh mouse gestures, how did I leave without thee? They’re even better with Opera’s “Fast Forward” feature which, via some voo-doo, tries to determine the next page in a list of results (search results, image gallery, etc.). While on Google, just a flick of the wrist brings me to the next page. Do yourself a favor, if you want to stick with Firefox go get the All-in-One Gestures extension. You can thank me later.
- Did I mention Opera’s fast?
- And my favorite Opera tidbit: The entire download for the Web browser, RSS feed reader, email/news client, address book, bittorrent client, IRC client, and (much) more is 3.8 megs. Hello?! 3.8 megs! Now that’s what I call efficient coding. I have long said a well written app is usually the smallest. That’s why TinyApps.org rocks. Perhaps they should add Opera to their site? 😉
There are a few downsides, but mostly minor. As with any non-IE browser, some stupid sites browser sniff and complain that you’re not using there “supported” browser. Firefox users are used to this, albeit to a lessor degree nowadays. It seems the de facto “supported” browsers are IE and FF. Every once in a while you’ll see Safari on their list. Without fail, Opera is never listed. This really doesn’t present an issue if the site is not browser sniffing. But if they are, you may need to change the user agent of Opera. Unlike Firefox, this functionality is built-in.
There are a few sites that flat-out don’t work in Opera. A few that come to mind are Google Calendar and Zillow.com. That’s when I fire up Firefox. Hence my part-time Firefox usage comment. Ironically, some of the WordPress admin features don’t work as well in Opera. So when I post to this blog, I usually use Firefox.
Firefox is good; Opera is good. I’m a fanboy of neither. What I can say is that after using Opera 9 for a few months, I am quite pleased and glad I switched. Your opinion may differ.
Beings that both browsers are free, there’s little reason not to download and try either one or both. Using a piece of software is the best (ok, only) way to know if you like it!