One of the Google threads that brought someone here was “Opera sucks”. To which I can only say, no it bloody doesn’t (RR, passim).

Opera is an excellent browser, if a little quirky. I originally rejected it because of this, but eventually went back to it – because support for Firefox 2 ends in December – and have been happily using it for over a month, now.

It does, admittedly, have a couple of glitches, but they are probably worse for me and other WordPress bloggers than for the average user (it isn’t supported by Google Gears, its spell-checker is crappy, and saving and publishing new posts is slow, without Google Gears). The spell-checker I can get around by writing in Word and pasting the finished article into WP.

The standard black colour scheme is atrocious for anyone over 12 who isn’t a Goth, but a standard Windows colour scheme is supplied.

It has an excellent Bookmarks search facility, and organising Bookmarks is a doddle – try that in FF3, Chrome, or ‘kin Safari, and see how far you get! And in IE, that function has always sucked, and still does – no search facility, either.

My advice is to just use the bloody thing. Stick with it for a month, then tell me it sucks. If you still think it does then you’re stuffed – nothing else out there comes close to Opera’s functionality.

Trying to like Opera…

Sadly, there are downsides to Opera, which I’ve been using for a few days (not least its memory usage being almost 25% higher than Firefox 2.x).

You can install a spell-checking plug-in, but it has no option for checking as I type, which is what I prefer. It also turns off that function here, in WordPress which, considering how much time I spend typing here, is a pain in the butt. One reason I have abandoned the blog on my website, in favour of this one, is that there is now no need to fire up Dreamweaver – I just click the tab and type. The way round it, obviously, is to type my posts in Word, then copy and paste them which, indeed, is what I do now with posts I know are likely to run on a bit, say over 1,000 words, so it’s no real hardship, just a bloody nuisance. And the Opera Bookmarks sidebar needs 25% more width to show the same info as FF2 – bummer. It doesn’t get on well with the Guardian’s website either, for some reasons. Page transitions can be painfully slow, and often, especially using the Back button, it hangs (not my end, I’m running XP with 2 gigs of memory, which is more than ample, and an 8Mb connection which is a genuine 6Mb).

There’s another irritation, too. On my blog stats page, in FF, I just hover the cursor over the day, on the graph, to get the figures; with Opera I have to click the bloody thing every time. Why, for pity’s sake?

On the plus side, I now like Speed Dial, having initially disabled it when I first tried Opera a couple of months ago, and I’ve made it my Home page. For those, like me, who couldn’t figure this out (more opacity), there’s a how-to page here. It’s not hard (once you know!), but neither is it obvious! In Opera’s Help pages the Speed Dial page is utterly mute on the subject of making it your Home page. The downside of doing this is that your can’t use the Continue from last time setting.

I’m trying very hard to like Opera, but the more I use it the harder that gets. Take the spell-checking; in FF I just had to install the appropriate British English dictionary add-on, job done. Doing that in Opera meant I first had to install the spell-check app, and then the dictionary which, really, was no problem. What is a problem, for newbies, say, or those of a Luddite persuasion, was that the entire process was needlessly opaque and geeky.

For example, the heading on the spell-check plug-in’s download page, which could usefully have been simply “Install this first” said “Binaries:”. That would mean nothing to very many PC users, and I know from experience that when some people are confronted by the unfamiliar, their first instinct is to back off – the fact that the associated downloadable file was clearly tagged .exe would mean nothing. I can think of maybe a dozen people, off the top of my head, who would have been frightened off, or who wouldn’t have had any idea how to proceed.

OK, you may say that they should be using IE, and you’d probably be right, but that’s not really the point, is it? They’d just be put off, and whatever learning process they were involved in (knowingly or not), would fizzle, and that’s bad news. Do we really want the future of home Internet access to be limited to IE and, worse still, AOL?

You know, this is like FF3 – but nowhere near as extreme, and Opera does actually work! – in that setting it up as you want it should NOT mean rummaging around Google for answers that have been stupidly omitted. Did it not occur to anyone at Opera that Speed Dial makes an extremely useful Home page, and that people might actually want that? Apparently not, and that baffles me.


A note for Opera users.

WordPress has something against double-spacing lines, so when I need to double-space I insert an “m” – it could be any letter – and change the colour to white so it doesn’t show, and that way I get the spacing I want. Of course, there’s no limit to how many spaces can be created this way.

The thing is, the Opera browser, by means that are a mystery to me, displays every white m I insert as black. So, if you use Opera, and find some pages apparently littered with orphan letters, that’s why. Nothing I can do about it.