Opera—more popular everyday

Opera—more popular everyday

Want a cool alternative to Internet Explorer? And no, we’re not talking about Netscape Navigator. Check out the free version of an amazing browser called Opera. There are many reasons to love this one.

When you first run Opera, you’ll notice differences right away. At the bottom, a display pops up and shows you exactly how the page download is progressing. You run a new search in Google, and it appears in a new window within your same browser. The menus look a thousand times cooler. A slow smile spreads across your face as you realize this isn’t your older brother’s Internet Explorer.

Get up-close and personal

If you’ve ever had a hard time reading a web site, you’ll love Opera’s ability to zoom in on a web page—not just enlarging the text like IE lets you do, but actually zooming in the entire display, graphics and all! This is especially helpful for people with disabilities, or who just have a hard time reading some of those artsy sites where designers with huge monitors forget that the rest of us live in a real world. Opera can also turn the whole page into text for you, if that’s more your speed.

For the more technically inclined, you can choose to browse in “developer mode” and see as much or as little of the formatting as you wish. And if you still enjoy ‘skinning’ your Winamp and other programs, you’ll have fun with the skins available for Opera. (Though the default is still my personal favorite – they have done such a great job with the icons! You’ll see when you try it.)

Customize your browsing

Are you as sick of pop-ups as I am? Opera’s “quick preferences” let you turn off all popups, set them to open only in the background, or allow them only from certain trusted sites. And while you’re at it, you can disable all images, animated gifs, those horrible songs that some sites start playing as soon as you land, and even cookies—right while you browse. This can speed your browsing up considerably, especially if you are on dialup.

Do you like to open multiple windows at a time? I have occasionally had so many windows open I completely lost track of myself. (Shopping around for plane tickets, for instance… So many different places to look at!) The Opera interface allows you to manage multiple windows easily, and even if you have to quit, it will remember all your windows and open back up right to where you left off.

Surf Safely

We’ve run several articles before on cleaning up the IE history that stays on your computer even after you close the browser. With Opera, you don’t have that little problem. Although there is a feature you can turn on that will remember your passwords and enter them for you on certain websites, unless you specifically designate otherwise all of your personal information is secure and erased when you quit.

And with bulletins coming out all the time about vulnerabilities in ActiveX controls and other problems specific to Internet Explorer, it is a relief to have a browser that you don’t have to worry might expose you to hackers.

Get it and go!

I could only talk about a couple features in this article (and you don’t really want to spend all day reading this, right?) but there are so many more cool things in Opera that you have to see to appreciate.

The free version is available at http://www.opera.com , and though it has a small banner ad at the top, it is fully functional. The download is small and installation is quick. You can upgrade to the full version ($39), which removes the banner ad and comes with email and tech support.

Try it out! You’re bound to find some things that will change the way you use the Internet. Find the features you like best, and ask your friends if their browsers can do the same. Revel in your newfound social superiority. Happy surfing!

~ Tom Dalton

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