Opera - A browser worth switching from your old one
We all love to browse on the Internet using tabs and features like re-opening recently closed pages, private browsing, but did ever occur to you which browser originated them? Think about it for a moment and decide your answer. Many of you would think it to be Chrome, the market leader that occupies 64.42% of the web browser market share*, but that's not correct. It was Opera that originated the features that were later adopted by other web browsers, including Speed Dial, pop-up blocking, re-opening recently closed pages, private browsing, and tabbed browsing.***
Although being the 5th market leader* and forgotten by many people, Opera continues to offer its users a wide variety of features that grab the attention of Tech Geeks and are sure to increase your productivity. Let's have a look at some of the mind-blowing features that the Opera browser has to offer to its users.
History of Opera
After being initially released in April 1995, Opera is one of the oldest desktop web browsers still actively developed today. With Google being the default search engine, the browser can be used on Microsoft Windows, Android, iOS, macOS, and Linux operating systems along with its mobile versions, Opera Mobile and Opera Mini.
It was initially a commercial software for the first ten years and had its proprietary layout engine, Presto, which later switched to Chromium in 2013. With version 8.5, released in 2005, the advertisements were completely removed and the primary financial support for the browser came through revenue from Google, the default search engine. It even has a browser dedicated solely to gaming, called Opera GX, which was released in 2019.
To prevent people from getting bored, let's keep the introduction short and head straight away to the features.
Being listed as a “tried and tested direct alternative to Chrome” **, its regular updates never fail to amuse its users and the new features continue to give it an edge even over the market leader, Chrome. Let's talk about some of the interesting features that make Opera stand out.
Opera provides its users with a unique vertical sidebar that no other browser offers. The sidebar is pinned to the left-hand side vertical area and can be accessed from all the web pages and doesn't require you to open the applications on it individually. The bar contains many Integrated Messengers and Opera-specific features like Flow, Player, etc.
In 2006, a fraud protection feature was introduced that used technology from GeoTrust, a digital certificate provider, and PhishTank , a phishing web sites tracking organization. This improved the browser's security.
To make the browser more robust and secured, GeoTrust was later replaced with Netcraft, and malware protection from Haute Secure was added in version 9.5.
The Web 3.0 support makes the information on the Internet readable by machines and not just humans. Web 3.0 is a whole new topic of discussion and will be covered some other day but its basic aim is to make the data on the Internet usable by programs and software too.
The browser also contains a battery icon to the right of the search bar where you can turn on the Battery Saver mode.
It also provides its users with access to Opera News, a news app based on an AI platform, that provides personalized news updates on the start page.
Additional features include a built-in screenshot tool called Snapshot which also includes an image-markup tool.
Must Use Features
Now some of you might be thinking that enough about the random and probably mundane features, aren't there any exciting features that we can try our hands-on and use in our daily work? Well, there definitely are.
Workspaces [Personal Favorite]
The Workspace feature allows you to group the tabs into different categories so that you can easily switch between the groups of tabs without having to open them individually. For example, you can create 2 spaces like Office and Home so that while it's office time, you are working on the Office tabs and once you are done with work, you can easily switch to the Home tabs without closing or opening any new ones. The feature is bound to increase your productivity by saving your time and making the process smooth and hassle-free.
The Player feature gives you the freedom of listening to the best of music and podcasts without having to open a new tab or closing a tab you are working on. You can choose from 3 default websites, Spotify, Apple Podcast, and YouTube Music, which are also the industry leaders in both music and podcast. The Player icon is present on the vertical sidebar mentioned above and can be used to access the websites.
Another interesting feature that Opera has to offer to its users is its in-built Ad Blocker that allows you to choose if you want the websites to show ads or not. Ads can be serious distractions when you are working on something important and reduce your speed, but this feature is bound to increase your productivity and make the pages load faster. No additional ad-ons or extensions are needed to use the feature, making the process even more smooth.
The browser also provides multiple Integrated Messengers like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Instagram, Twitter, Telegram, and VK in the vertical sidebar. These can be used to chat with people without having to open the websites of the application to be used and going away from the tabs you are currently working on. You can simply click on their icons in the sidebar and use the websites just like usual.
Similar to the Picture In Picture (PIP) mode on mobile devices, the Pop Out feature allows you to watch videos playing on one tab even if you are working on some other tab. If you switch to another tab in Chrome, you can just listen to the audio part of the video being played and miss out on the visuals shown but in Opera, you can see the visuals also and continue doing your work without missing anything important of the video. You can even drag the pop-out video to your desired position so that it doesn't cover the content of the website you are working on. This feature can help you multitask and increase your efficiency.
Opera Flow [Personal Favorite]
If you are using the Apple ecosystem then you would probably be familiar that how easy it is to transfer things between devices based solely on your Apple ID. Android users often miss out on these things but Opera Flow allows you to transfer things in a fashion somewhat similar to Apple. You can send links, pictures, videos, notes, and files between your devices, similar to what happens in the Apple ecosystem, by just clicking on the Flow icon present on the vertical sidebar. To use the feature, you must have the Opera Browser application, which can be downloaded from the Play Store or the App Store, on all the devices that you want to connect. Once downloaded, you can scan the QR code shown on the PC screen from your device and you are all set to go! The fact that you don't need to log in on your devices to transfer files makes the process pretty smooth and this is yet another feature that is bound to increase your productivity.
Free VPN service
People often want to watch international shows that are available only in certain countries like the USA, UK, but not in India and the only option they have got is to use a VPN service but choosing which one to use becomes a bit difficult as many of them are subscription-based and require you to register yourself to use them but Opera solves all the hassle by providing an in-built VPN facility. You can also change the settings so that every time you open the browser, the VPN service will be automatically initiated. Although the feature is a great one but a thing that I would like to tell you is that because you are using a VPN, the browsing speed will be affected and pages will take a bit longer to load. This is a feature that I think a lot of people will like and it might as well be the sole reason why people will use Opera.
Although Opera occupies very little of the total market share but in my opinion if it continues to release such amazing updates, it might get its fame back and the reason why people know about it might not just be that they read about it in their school textbooks. I hope that the features mentioned above make you think that Opera can give a tough competition even to Chrome in terms of its features.
Do think about using it and give it a shot and trust me, you will love the experience and would probably not want to go back to your old browser. Most people are so much used to working on Chrome and other browsers and have so much information stored on them that the idea of switching to Opera might seem like a wild one but trust me it is worth trying. We are anyways at home during the 2nd wave of COVID-19 in India and people are trying new things so why not Opera. To anyone who wants to try out just a few features that Opera has to offer, I would recommend trying out Workspaces, Opera Flow and the free VPN service.
* - [according to StatCounter for December 2020]
** - [according to Technology Magazine]
*** - [according to Wikipedia]