I’ve made no secret of the fact that despite my open source advocacy, I’m still a longtime user of the Opera browser.
However, the past year has been pretty rocky in that respect; Opera 10.10 for Linux was plagued with a lot of bugs, crashes, and performance issues, rendering it practically unusable, even for an Opera fan such as myself, and despite 10.50 being released for other platforms in March, the Linux world was stuck with the problematic 10.10 (and eventually 10.11) release until this week.
Finally, after such a long wait, Opera 10.60 was finally released for all platforms on July 1st, so I was finally able to ditch Firefox and Chrome and go back to my browser of choice.
Or was I?
Just to be clear, this is less a review and more a rant. If it were a review, I’d spend at least a week using Opera as my only browser first, and THEN write up my thoughts on the subject.
This is, in fact, what I had planned. However, using the new release of Opera for a week is probably about 6 days longer than I would be able to stand. Why?
The short answer: I’m pretty underwhelmed by Opera 10.60. It’s still buggy, unstable, and has some new stupid behavior that even the 10.10 release (which I also didn’t like) didn’t have.
I’m breaking from my normal format here and I’m going to talk about the positive things up front. The reason for this is because I have less to say, so this part won’t take me as long.
Opera 10.60 for Linux is really fast. It renders pages noticeably faster than Firefox on the same machine, and is a lot more responsive in general — when opening new tabs, when loading Flash objects, pretty much everything (except for starting up, which I’ll get to later).
Opera’s responsiveness when compared to Firefox has always been one of the standout features for me; performance of my browsers has colored my opinion of them for years, and Opera 10.60 doesn’t disappoint in this arena. It seems much faster than 10.10, and I’m glad to see the Opera team is still keeping this as a priority.
Flexibility in the UI
Opera, like Chrome, is a tabs-on-top browser by default. However, unlike Chrome, you can change this. Seeing as how this was one of the things that caused me to abandon Chrome — even after a month or so solid of my using Chrome as my only browser, the tabs-on-top thing still drove me NUTS — I care less about it being the default arrangement as long as I can easily and instantly change it, and that’s still extremely easy to do in Opera 10.60.
In fact, my arrangement of things in Opera is quite unlike the default, out-of-the-box interface, and I like that I can still do that to my heart’s content. That to me has always been the biggest strength of Opera when compared to ALL other browsers. I’d like to see others follow suit, but the trend seems to be in the opposite direction these days (fewer options and LESS flexibility in the user interface), so I suspect as time passes, Opera will still be the only one that lets me put things where I want them, rather than force an awkward, inflexible interface down my throat.
Rendering looks nice
Sites like Facebook render so much nicer in Opera than they do in Firefox… there are a number of Facebook apps that render all goofy in Firefox, but they look just fine in Opera. Your mileage may vary, of course, but I’ve found this to be true for quite a while now, and 10.60 still continues that trend.
Most features still seem to be intact
And last but not least, Opera’s feature set to which I have grown accustomed seems to be largely intact. The integrated bittorrent capability still functions, bookmarks still synchronize without a hitch, and the speed dial is as I remember it.
I’ve never been much of a fan of the Opera Widgets, but there seems to be more of those than ever, and the ones I played around with seem to work pretty well… better, in fact, than in previous versions.
Ok, here comes the rant. The “bad” so bothers me that I’m actually going to be going back to Firefox until some of this garbage is addressed. While performance is still pretty dismal in Firefox by comparison, these other things drive me crazy, and speed isn’t enough to make me want to put up with them.
Menus are off by default
What the heck is the obsession with everybody wanting to kill menus? File, Edit, View, Bookmarks, et al?
These are useful. They’re accessible with a single click. They’re a user interface norm from decades of use, and while that’s not always an excuse to keep doing things the same way, it IS an excuse when the reason for it is simplicity and intuitiveness.
Opera 10.60 ditched all of these menus out-of-the-box, and it took me a good 20 minutes or so of tinkering before I noticed the option to turn them back on.
While yes, I appreciate that they included an option to put them back, it was a pain to find that (I must have overlooked it a dozen times before I found it in the stupid lone, all-in-one menu on the tab bar) and it’s simply the wrong way to have the browser by default, period. This needs to be corrected. For the occasional odd person out there that has no need for all of the functionality included in the menus, an option to shut them off is fine… but to leave it off by default is just going to frustrate most users, myself included.
Fix this, guys. I realize that Microsoft has done this with Internet Explorer, and the rather uncreative interface designers at Mozilla have decided to copy Microsoft for their direction going forward, but come on, Opera! You guys have been innovating browser features and design for years and years… do you really feel you have to start copying what others are doing now? Especially with the worst trends that are going on out there in interface design?
Seriously… you’re not winning any fans this way. Worse still, you’re taking longtime fans such as myself and pushing me away by this kind of idiocy.
One of the reasons I stopped using Opera (back in November-ish) was because I got tired of it constantly crashing on me at random. At least three to four times a day it would completely barf for no apparent reason. No error messages, no cause given, just POOF! No browser!
Other times it would hang and become unresponsive while trying to do something simple, like do a Google search, click on a Facebook link, whatever.
Finally I got so tired of this, I stopped using it entirely, and moved on to Firefox, because despite my stability complaints about Firefox (which I still have), it was STILL more stable than Opera 10.00 and 10.10.
However, Opera 10.60 doesn’t really seem any better. It still crashes at random through what I would consider to be just average, normal browsing activity. It still hangs for no apparent reason at times, sometimes for a minute or more before becoming responsive again, and there doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason for it… it’s not consistently on any given website, or in any given activity.
It’s just flaky. That’s all I can say.
I’m running Linux Mint 9 64-bit, on a pretty beefy laptop (6GB of RAM, Core 2 Duo P9700 at 2.80 GHz). Even the rather sluggish Firefox 3.6.6 starts up pretty quickly on this computer. Opera 10.11 started almost instantly.
However, Opera 10.60 takes more than 30 seconds to start. The whole while, it has one of my CPU cores pegged at 100%. I have no idea what the hell it thinks it’s doing, but this is ridiculous and unacceptable behavior in this day and age.
When I click on the launcher for a browser, it shouldn’t do that. It should quickly and quietly launch and be ready to go in a few seconds at most.
Home button and search box nonsense
Opera has always had a rather odd setting in the preferences, under the “Advanced” tab under “Tabs” in the preferences window. There’s a checkbox called “Reuse current tab”.
I’ve discovered that while Opera has a search box you can put on the toolbar, it always navigates away from the focused tab when you use it, unless that “Reuse current tab” checkbox is unchecked.
That’s all this seemed to affect in past versions of Opera; it never bothered me. To me, unless a search box in the toolbar opens search results in a new tab, it’s kind of useless… if I’m looking at a webpage and feel the need to search for something, 99% of the time, I don’t WANT to navigate away from what I’m looking at. If I need to open a new tab up and THEN enter my search terms in the search box, I might as well just search from the address bar (in Opera if you open a new tab and type “g whatever” in the address bar, it’ll do a Google search for whatever).
To me, this makes the search box pretty much useless… unless “Reuse current tab” is unchecked. Then it opens search results in a new tab, no problem.
Until Opera 10.60. Yes, it still opens search results in a new tab… but now it also opens a new tab whenever I click on the Home button.
Really? Open the Home button in a new tab? Why on earth would I want to do that?
It’s utterly idiotic that “Reuse current tab” now controls BOTH behaviors. So I’m stuck with a choice of
1. Have the search box behave stupidly, rendering it useless, but have my Home button behave the way it should
2. Have the search box do what it should do, and open results in a new tab, but have the Home button behave in a counterintuitive, frustrating fashion.
I questioned this behavior on the Opera forums and got no useful answers, and I’ve dug and dug through every setting I could find in the browser, and there doesn’t seem to be a way to fix this.
I know some of this stuff seems petty and just minor annoyance-level stuff… and some of it is. However, when taken all together, it adds up to a more frustrating and annoying experience than Firefox gives me.
Considering my criticisms of Firefox (which I still have), I think that says something.
Opera 10.60 for Linux I actually find even less usable than 10.10. Yes, Opera 10.10 was unstable to the point of being unusable as well, but at least it didn’t have some of the other issues I enumerated here today (Home button stupidity, menus turned off by default, et al).
Unfortunately, I’m taking this as yet another indication of the downhill trend in browsers lately. Everybody is following Microsoft for interface ideas (which makes me gag, to be honest), and it seems like each subsequent release of things just sucks worse than the one that came before it.
I’ll be giving Opera a miss for the foreseeable future. Hopefully they correct some of this stuff in a future release, but until then, it’s back to Firefox for this guy.