Friday, December 17, 2010

Quick review: Opera 11

I saw Opera 11 make news recently. So I thought I'd give it a try. I now have mixed feelings.

I have not yet run Opera 11 through professional tests, though I may do that later and compare the results with other browsers. But for now, this is just a very quick overview of what is significantly different in this version. I used an HP laptop running Windows Vista Home Premium (32-bit), with a 1.9 GHz dual-core processor, 2 GB or RAM and a 128 MB video card.

The good
When I switch from Chrome to another browser, I feel handicapped... in speed. But I didn't feel that way this time. Opera 11 is noticeably faster than the previous versions. They say that their latest browser has "improved support for HTML5 and CSS3". 

Other features are quite amazing. Extension support is here. Opera has finally joined the bandwagon to support third-party add-ons, much like Firefox and Chrome, which is a good thing for them. There is the new Tab Stacking, which is a tab management feature. It allows you to place tabs on top of each other on the tab bar and group them up. This is very much similar to Firefox 4's Panorama in concept, but is different. There is no special page that opens up to allow you drag around tabs. Here's a video to demonstrate that:

[See also: YouTube adds new 'Watch Later' feature]

I haven't yet tried out the new mouse gestures, but I'm sure it is noteworthy too. 

The bad
Nothing is perfect. Opera 11 is no exception. There are lots of cons in this new browser too. Just like before, the Preferences and pretty much all the settings windows are awfully cluttered and confusing. Notice the word in italics in the previous sentence? Yes. There should be just one settings window, handling everything. Learn something from Firefox, Safari and Chrome, Opera!

Like before, it is not properly compatible with loads of websites, even after getting "improved support for HTML5 and CSS3". Websites detect that you are running Opera and say that your browser is not compatible. Then when you try out the site anyway, so many features don't work as expected. It happened with Grooveshark in my surfing tests. I could not drag the playback handle forward and backward in the new, HTML5 interface. And can you believe it? Google Instant still does not work in Opera. And I have to tweak around the settings to work around it. 

The bottom line
Opera is the browser with the most customizable settings to date. There is no doubt. It is a great, sleek browser with great looks. The new, version 11 has significantly improved from the previous versions, and it is better than ever. But there still remains a lot of work to be done. They need to consolidate and reorganize the various settings into one window. They need to make sure that at least the most popular sites work nicely with the browser.

Opera 11 is really useable and fun to use. But it has a slight, slight, slight learning curve. And a learning curve is not good for a web browser!