A day with Opera

I hate Opera. I really do. And I hate it even more because, unlike Internet Explorer, or Konqueror, I want to like it. When I install the Windows or KDE browser, I spend two minutes with it, go “YUERGH” and flee back to Firefox as fast as I can. With Opera, I want to make it work, and I just can’t. It’s maddening: I know there’s a very good piece of software there, and it seems like the developers want to make it absolutely impossible for me to enjoy it. I tried a few times to make Opera my default browser, and every time I spend hours tweaking and configuring things, and even longer hours searching the web how things should be configured or tweaked. And then I just give up.

Today was no different. Opera 9.5 is out, and I thought, “what the heck. Let’s do this again. Maybe today will be different.” It wasn’t. Opera is still the Darth Vader in browserworld: there’s much good in it. I can feel it. But it’s maddeningly frustrating trying to get it out, and I could get killed while doing it. Well, maybe not killed, but it sure feels like it some times.

Look and feel

Opera 9.5 definitely looks better than all its previous versions. There’s a slick, professional looking new theme, and I like it a lot. I checked out a couple of other skins, but none of them looked as good as the default one. Changing skins was very easy, by the way. Thumbs up.

The layout, however, is a mess. An Opera user once explained to me why it’s a good idea to separate the tabs from the actual window. I think the reasoning is that, that way, every window has it’s own Back, Forward, Reload and so on buttons. Well, I didn’t buy it then and I still don’t. To me, there should be the illusion that the tabs are actually attached to the windows. Otherwise, switching tabs isn’t really switching tabs at all, it’s like clicking taskbar buttons to get the right window, and I had enough of that in my IE6 days.
The way around this is to open the main toolbar, which isn’t actually activated by default, drag everything from the address bar to the main bar, and then delete the address bar. Clunky.

Furthermore, I like my bookmarks on the left side of the browser. For me, that’s the easiest way to go through them all. Opera can do this, but it also opens a “panel chooser”, where you can choose what you want to see in the sidepanel: bookmarks, email contacts, etc. It’s still there if you just have your bookmarks on that panel. That should be on auto-hide by default.
Think I’m nitpicking? Maybe I am, but the whole panel/bar/everything layout in opera is confusing. Getting rid of the “New Tab” button (a huge, horrible monstrosity stolen from IE7) means treating it like a bar: rightclick > Customize > find “Placement” in a preferences window and switch it to “Off”. After that, I had no idea how to put it back.
Those or just two examples, but I spent quite some time struggling with panels and bars and other things, and quite often they ended up everywhere except where I wanted them.

Fonts also weren’t as nice as in Firefox, and the Preferences window for changing them was confusing, with 23 (twenty-three!) categories to change the font of. Browserbar. Browsermenu. Browserpanel. Browsertooltips. The list goes on. The result? I wasn’t able to change the fonts in the displayed web pages, and I felt pretty stupid about that. (Edit: Hold on, I just found it. It’s in the Webpage tab, instead of the Advanced one.)

Configuration: applications in applications

I already hinted at it, but configuring this beast was a perplexing activity. You can configure Opera until your face looks blue, but the main Preferences window only has five tabs (and as I found out, font config seems to be in two of those). Most of the configuration is in the Advanced tab. It’s decent enough for normal browsing, but Opera is also a mail-client and a bittorrent client. Where can you edit the preferences for that? Not in any normal place, that’s for sure. For example, when you add an email-account, “E-mail” appears in the menu, but the preferences aren’t there. But if you open the e-mail panel and right-click your address, there they are. If there’s any other way to reach them, I haven’t found it.

That mail client is called M2 by the way, and it’s marvelous. Setting up an email account is very easy, it’s fast, it has a nice, simple layout, and it stores all the attachments in neat, organized folders. In short, it beats Thunderbird hands down. But it’s not a standalone mail client…it’s stuck in a browser that wants to be everything. I won’t keep Opera around just for its mail client.

The bittorrent client? Brilliant idea. But here I can’t even find a preferences window, not unless I download a torrent first. Then, it’ll ask me for the portnumber, and where to save it. I accidentally put the wrong portnumber the first time, and then couldn’t change it anymore. Not unless I messed around in about:config…or started another torrent.

Opera is even an irc-client, one that works just fine. I used it to ask a question in the opera channel (which was promptly answered). It works just fine…

But all this means that, eventually, you have a dozen tabs open: some websites, one to manage your bookmarks, your email, your downloads (including torrents), and a some chat windows. And several toolbars. And a sidepanel, which can be your bookmarks, contacts, email directories, or widgets, and I haven’t even looked into those. It’s pure chaos.

Conclusion

There’s so much to like in Opera. It has a nice, default skin. It’s fast. I love the idea of expanding the download manager to handle torrents. The mail client is top notch. But the scattered, and often unintuitive preferences, together with the scattered and chaotic layout just buries the good in a landslide of confusion.

To illustrate how frustrated I was: originally I meant to use Opera for a week. After two hours, I uninstalled it. Then, I re-installed it, and tried again. And as I type this, I’m uninstalling it again, and I’m returning to Firefox for web browsing, Thunderbird for e-mail, Transmission for downloading torrents and irssi for irc. It feels like returning to trusted friends and family: familiar, reliable…maybe just a little bit boring. But that seductive temptress, with the sexy shiny interface and the attractive features…she doesn’t seem to like me at all.

Sander

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19 Responses to A day with Opera

  1. Mark says:

    I completely agree with you. I would install it and it would be great for about 1 day or so, and then I could never get myself to use it again. Isn’t that why mozilla split email and web browsing into multiple clients? It just seems logical, I don’t want to have to open my browser to check my email. That’s just counter intuitive.

  2. Freduardo says:

    +1

    I totally agree too. I have tried Opera more than a few times and it just didn’t feel right. Same goes for Konqueror as well.

    I too prefer the way Firefox works, but I do find it to be a bit to demanding when it comes to system resources. (Although that has supposedly changed with FF 3.)
    That’s why I’m using Epiphany right now, and I’m starting to really like it. It’s less feature rich, but it does what it needs to do.

  3. celettu says:

    Mark:

    My thoughts exactly. I think Opera can make a fine browser, and a great mail client, and maybe even an irc-client…but but them all together and the result is a mess

    Freduardo:

    I’ve installed Epiphany before and missed some features I couldn’t live without. They were so important I…can’t even remember what they were. I’ll have to look into it again 😉

  4. mads says:

    While I agree that the opera-as-a-complete-internet-suite is not a solution, i do think that it’s customizability (as you yourself mentioned) is a great plus, especially when you think about all the extensions you’d need in firefox to get to the same level (greasemonkey, tabplus, stylish, etc.) and some features (spatial navigation!!!) that no other browser has. The showstopper for me is that the web is once again being written for two browsers. Well, that and the jarring face of Qt in the middle of GTK land…

  5. Hoffmann says:

    Just do not use what you do not like. It’s that simple, M2 hides all it’s configuration because a good deal of people who use opera do not use it’s buil-in email. The problem with Opera is Firefox, I started using opera before Firefox even existed and I have the same feelings about Firefox that you do about Opera. You point all it’s flaws but Opera is by far the most custumizable program that I ever seen. I love this, I custumize even the shortcuts (recomendation here, change ctrl F4 to close tab to just F4, this will save you a ton of time).
    One thing that I found strange about your post is the part about Opera IRC, it’s AWFUL, really bad. If you have ever used Mirc before you know that Opera chat is just bad. I do agree with the built-in torrent client, it’s pretty bad too, µtorrent is far better to the point that even if I didn’t use torrents all the time I would still download µtorrent than using Opera. But like everthingelse in Opera, you do not need to use (or even know that it’s there) those things if you do not want to.

    You find everthing caotic because you used it for 10 minutes. I have been using it for years and it does everthing I wanted in a browser. Try using it for one week without using any other browsers at the same time.

  6. celettu says:

    Hoffmann:

    As I said in the post, I won’t keep the entire Opera around just for it’s mail client. I can understand why the email configuration is hidden when you don’t have an email account setup, but I can’t understand why it still is when you have.
    Concerning the IRC client…I have used mirc before. I just don’t think an irc client is supposed to do much. You chat with other people, that’s it.

    And no, I haven’t used it for just ten minutes 🙂 I mentioned that a couple of times.

    mads:

    Yes, customizability IS a plus. But Opera isn’t easy to customise.

  7. dm says:

    BTW, do you know the so aimed “tab browsing” was initially invented by Opera?.. 🙂 just spend little bit more time 🙂
    I love Opera from the beginning and from its the very first versions 🙂
    Best regards!

  8. celettu says:

    dm:

    Yes I do know 🙂 There are a lot of other features Opera came up with first. But my criticism still stands.

  9. sm4tik says:

    uhh.. I almost had to stop reading, it brought up too many of those things I’ve gone through. The only real reason I’m keeping opera still installed is for testing how webpages are displayed with it, nothing else. I absolutely agree with the love/hate sort of a setup you’re having and there’s nothing you can do about it.. I hate to hate it, or maybe dislike would be more accurate impression.
    One thing though I’m really falling in love with is opera’s mini browser for mobiles. I wish they’d make a “mini” browser for pcs too. Firefox is the “mini” browser of mozilla family, why couldn’t opera people follow the example and release an “aria” of some sort.
    One thing I have to say about FF is that it’s not that easy to setup either, but to me, even it’s about:config is by far more comfortable than my endless efforts trying to set up opera the way I want it to be.
    ..and by the way, what’s up with all the widgets? I haven’t found one useful in all these years?!

  10. James says:

    There are a lot of great reasons to use Opera. It’s light on system resources, scaling it’s RAM usage depending on how many other applications are running and how much RAM you have. It’s also very scalable, being one of the only modern browsers that’s not horribly painful to run on an ancient 300MHz pII.

    This is why they don’t need to release a “mini version” for PC like sm4tik suggested; the full version scales down to old machines just fine. Additionally, it’s not much larger than Firefox, even with all the suite-type functionality.

    The reason the browser control buttons are under the tabs (not over) is because they’d take up screen space when the mail/IRC/RSS/download/whatever tabs were open. If you don’t like them there, you can put them on the personal bar.

    To get back the “new tab” button to the right of the tabs, customize a toolbar, check the “Show hidden toolbars while customizing” box, then click to the direct right of a tab to reveal a yellow square. Then under the “Buttons” tab, go to the “defaults” section and click “Reset Toolbar to Its Defaults”. I admit I don’t much like the button jumping around either, so I moved the button to the far left of the tabbar and leave that toolbar slot empty.

    If you don’t like the panel choosing buttons, you can hit F4 to toggle the panel on, right click and customize the main browser toolbar, then click on the panel choosing buttons. Surprise! It’s just a normal toolbar. Turn it off. You can now toggle the sidepane with F4 and click on the sidepane title to switch between functions.

    Email prefrences can be accessed through Tools menu under Mail and chat accounts.

    I believe that the fonts are rendered using QT. While you may not like them, it’s not exactly Opera’s fault. If you run Opera under KDE, it will pick up on several look-and-feel settings.

    In the end, it really is quite a bit different with an unusual look and feel. It’s mostly a matter of personal taste which you use. Under Windows, it makes every other browser feel sluggish. Under Linux? I tend to use Firefox. 😉

  11. dick says:

    The reason I don’t use Opera is that there are a bunch of websites, in my case real estate websites, that when I try to access them in Opera I get the heading of the screen and the footing and nothing else. In Firefox, Konqueror and IE I get the whole page with no problem. I have posted in the forums about this and have had several others who agreed with me that they had the same problem and for that reason were not using Opera much. I even tried their latest Opera which is, I believe, 10.0 and comes in both 32-bit and 64-bit versions. Still doesn’t work.

    I do like that speed-dial feature they have in Opera but other than that it doesn’t do much for me that I can’t get elsewhere. I do like the Community page though. A lot of fun things there.

  12. […] Midori 0.1.6 and Epiphany 2.26.2. I did not install Opera because I blogged about it before, here, and I simply don’t like it. I’ve used it again after I wrote that article, and my […]

  13. […] day at the Opera, part two I’ve blogged about Opera before, and at the time (version 9.5), I didn’t like it at all. It felt too clunky and too difficult to configure to […]

  14. Devin Haynes says:

    hahaha I’m glad someone else goes through these experiences too. I feel the exact same way. I even have the same applications that I always go back to, even transmission. I really hoped I’d love Opera too, because I know it’s good. But I can’t make it stick.

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