Opera 9.5 Still in the Browser Race

Opera 9.5 Still in the Browser Race

While Mozilla prepares to set a Guinness World Record on Tuesday with its release of Firefox 3, and Apple continues to push Safari on Windows and the iPhone, you’d think that there was no more room for web browser alternatives to Internet Explorer—but you’d be wrong. This week, to much less fanfare than Apple, Microsoft, and even Mozilla gets, Opera released its newest version 9.5 and it’s not out of the browser race by any means. What sets Opera apart from Firefox? Take a tour of some of the new and improved features that keep Opera a viable alternative to IE, Safari, and—yes, even Firefox.

While Firefox is undoubtedly a robust browser, you get many of Firefox’s killer with add-ons—but a number of those features are baked right into Opera 9.5.

Mouse Gestures

2008-06-12_135524.jpg For example, Opera includes mouse gestures, a fluid and easy to use interface. The gestures cover a wide range of browsing commands, including the basics like moving backwards and forwards, scrolling, opening new pages, but also more advanced gestures like tab selection and panning. (Try it: in Opera, go back to the previous page by holding the right mouse button then click the left button. To go forward again, hold down left and click right.)

Speed Dial

Serving as a default homepage, Opera Speed Dial is a handy launchpad for your browsing experience. Laid out across the screen in like a telephone keypad, screen captures from your selected websites act as links to help you quickly navigate to your favourite locations.


operalink2.jpg Opera Link synchronises your Bookmarks, Personal Bar, Notes, and Speed Dial across multiple computers and mobile phones with Opera Mobile. When you are away from your computer or mobile phone the information is still accessible via the Opera Link web site.


operanotes.png Opera’s built-in note taking feature ensures you always have a scratch pad handy. Access notes directly through the menu bar or using the Ctrl+6 key combination. The note feature is well integrated into Opera, too. Highlight text on a web page and hit Ctrl+Shift+C to copy it to a note. You can also right-click in a web page form (like a new email message) to paste in note contents.


Too engrossed in your browsing to fire up your BitTorrent client? No problem. Opera includes a spartan but effective BitTorrent client built-in. Keep an eye on both your torrents and regular downloads at the same time, both are managed through the Transfers window to make grabbing the newest distributions of your favourite software even easier.

Voice-controlled Browsing

voicecontrol.jpgIf you’re feeling particularly adventurous or just have a strong desire to shout from your cubicle, Opera has a voice control feature. Note: the feature requires an additional 10.5MB download, but is more than worth it to be able to issue commands to your web browser like Jean Luc Picard standing confidently on his bridge. Unfortunately, upon further investigation “Opera: Take us to warp 5” did not yield the anticipated outcome. Aside from accepting commands the Voice feature will also talk back. Highlight the text you wish to listen to, and you’re one “Opera: Read” away from browsing with your eyes closed.

Saved Login Details with the Wand

Auto-Complete’s younger and more observant brother, Wand makes filling in login prompts and applications text boxes a breeze. Logins and prompts that Wand recognises are highlighted in yellow. Click the Wand icon to the right of the address bar or Ctrl+Enter and the Wand auto-completes logins and forms for you. Have multiple logins for the same site? Wand remembers and will prompt you to select the proper login.

Fit to Width

2008-06-12_145116.jpgAnother small but handy feature in Opera is Fit To Width, which reduces pages to fit the size of the browsing window. Mileage varies depending on the web site—CSS style tables sometimes realign themselves poorly—but Fit To Width is still useful and often cited by the users of other browsers as a small feature they’d love to see in their browser of choice.

We know there are some die-hard Opera fans lurking in our readership. Shout out what it is you love about the browser. Is there a favourite feature we overlooked? Tell us about it in the comments. Opera 9.5 is a free download for Windows, Mac, and Linux.



    I’m not sure why you didn’t try googling it, but ever since i started using FF a few years ago it has always included the IE keyboard shortcuts for navigation without the mouse (ALT+LEFT/RIGHT ARROW for back/forward, ALT+Home for home page, CTRL+T for new tab, CTRL+N for new window, CTRL+F4 OR CTRL+W to close tab/window, … the home page one is the only one which i find would take longer for me than the mouse (since i use multiple keyboards and every keyboard manufacturer seems to have different ideas on where is the best place for those ‘extra’ buttons, grr)… Maybe you’re not on the windows version of FF, if so then maybe it is different for you, but AFAIK these have been in FF since ermm about v1.2 (when i cottoned onto it) or earlier.

    Opera sounds nice, but personally i prefer to have full control over any extra ‘features’ or prepackaged extensions – anything beyond rendering HTML should be optional (and also the footprint of these extra features).

    Anything that edges out IE’s market share by even 1% is MORE than welcome though! 😉

    – Matthew

  • Umm Matthew –

    I don’t think they mean back and forward as in one web page back to the previous one or forward to whatever you clicked on next but rather…

    “Horizontally” through the open tabs you have with mouse gestures.

    Opera also lets you go through tabs with control + tab, in an itemised list. This is great if you’re like me and have 20+ tabs open at once.

    Additionally, I think it’s worth mentioning, Opera can also make *some* use of the kind of javascripts FF does with things like Greasemonkey.

    I’ve also always found Opera’s tab/session management to be great – but i might change when FF3 hits us up with a proper release on tues.

  • Opera 9.5 wins all tests at http://nontroppo.org/timer/kestrel_tests/ -including speed, frames-per-second and consumer-satisfaction. On all platforms.
    Now, I *want* the open-source Firefox to be the best. It’s just not.
    I use both. With my satellite-connection, Firefox causes banking transactions ton time-out, fail, and sometimes cost me money. Like lots of rural dwellers, Opera is my umbilical cord. Ask a farmer.

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