[See this follow up post about Mac browsers]
Opera 7.50 has recently been released. For the first time, Opera for Mac is no longer a version behind the Windows version. Opera 7.50 is available for Windows, Mac and Linux. Of course, Mac users upgrading from Opera 6 will notice more changes than Windows users upgrading from Opera 7.
Opera is still a small download, compared with the other major browsers. I like to use Opera for extended browsing / searching, because it has all sorts of handy short cuts which make browsing more efficient. Things like the z and x short-cuts for the back and forward buttons. Pressing F8 to be tab directly to the address bar, and then being able to go directly into a Google search by typing something like‘g MT “public relations” debacle’. I also like having nick-names for bookmarks, so instead of using my mouse to click on my LiveJournal bookmark, I can just press F8 and type in my bookmark’s nick-name, “lj” and be there. I like a browser which saves me key-strokes and mouse usage.
It can also be really helpful to be able to continue browsing from your previous session, and being able to undo closing a browsing window.
Of course, these were all things available in previous versions of Opera, so why upgrade to 7.50? Mac users will appreciate the magic wand for remembering passwords and having access to the full range of skins. The user interface looks more efficient and takes up less space on the screen.
One of the big innovations in Opera 7.50 is that it contains a news aggregator. This is a great idea and will probably be taken up by other browsers. Unfortunately, I found the results to be patchy. In the Windows version of Opera 7.50, I experienced difficulties reading my subscriptions. For some reason, the Mac version worked better. If you experiment with Opera’s news reader, I would highly recommend learning the keyboard shortcuts for marking items as read. The Opera news reader is very basic when compared with software like Net NewsWire (even the Lite version), but it’s still a notable first attempt at combining a browser and news reader.
My other gripe about is that Opera 7.50 is that it now only supports search shortcuts for Google. The previous version would support some of the other search engines like AlltheWeb and Teoma. Even though Google is probably at the height of its ascendancy, the other search engines are still relevant if you want to be thorough.
Opera is ad-supported for people who aren’t able or interested in paying for it (there is an upgrade discount for people who’ve registered previous versions of Opera). The good news is that now the ad window is a lot smaller and less intrusive than in previous versions.
Opera continues to be an innovative and competent browser. Sometimes there can be hassles with using a browser with such a miniscule market share, when too many web designers are only concerned with supporting IE for Windows. Opera’s particular niche is that it’s a power-user’s browser. Its extra features won’t be helpful to people who lack the time or interest to explore and play around with them.