Why I prefer Opera over Firefox

For all my daily browsing, I prefer “Opera”:http://www.opera.com/ over “Firefox.”:http://getfirefox.com/
Yes, I know Firefox is open-source and all that. I am also aware that Firefox is a great browser. I know that Firefox has extensions, and I know that Firefox’s rendering engine is great, and I know that Firefox makes Internet Explorer look and feel like the piece of crapware it is. I even think Firefox is fundamentally good software. I even think Firefox is _great software._
It’s just that I think _Opera provides me with the best Internet Experience_ – I think it _beats Firefox any day._ Opera’s feature list fits my usage pattern like a custom-tailored suit – without customization.


h3. Opera Mail (Also Known As M2)
!(lJust) /download/223/mail.png (M2 offers several innovative approaches to e-mail)!
I already praised M2 at the beginning of last year, in my piece “E-Mail: Solved.”:http://virtuelvis.com/archives/30.html
I’m going to repeat my praise here: Opera Mail/M2 uses a database-centric approach to e-mail, where all mail is kept in one big storage, and all you do to view the mail is to access it from any of the views the mail resides in.
This database-centric approach to mail means I no longer have to choose where to put my e-mail. I rather choose where to fetch it from:
* Mail is available from regular Received/Sent/Outbox views
* An “Active Contacts” view is automatically created when you receive mail from your contacts
* An “Active Threads” view is automatically created when mail arrives in a mail/news thread you are actively participating in.
* Your mailing list mail is automatically put in a mailing list view
* Attachments are organized by file type in the various attachment views – so finding that .jpg or .zip is easy.
* If you have searched for mail, a view is automatically created for that search. Additionally, new mail that matches your search also goes into this search.
* You can label your mail – If you know you have labeled a mail as “Mail back”, you can always find it in the “Mail back” view.
* If I need, I can create custom views of my mail: These views can either be learning views, or I can specify certain rigid rules for these views. Or I can do both.
* There is also the “Spam” view, where Opera puts spam and viruses, using an in-built learning filter.
Other mail clients, such as the web based “GMail”:http://www.gmail.com/ have grown some of these features, but in my humble opinion, Opera still beat these hands down.
Firefox doesn’t really do mail. You can set up a mail notifier, and use a menu item to launch your system default mail client – but it’s not the same as always having your mail client ready.
h3. Mail safety
!/download/223/mailview.png (Opera offers flexible display of mail)!
When viewing mail in Opera, you can choose whether you want to read HTML mail, and you can suppress any external embeds, so that those nasty tracking images won’t bite you.
Ok, I’ll admit: This is not really Firefox’s fault, since it doesn’t _have_ a mail client – it’s just here to make you choose another mail client than Outlook Express – I’m sick and tired of having my mailbox filled with the viruses you have been infected with.
h3. RSS
!/download/223/rss.png (Opera’s integral RSS reader makes subscribing to newsfeeds easy)!
An integral part of Opera Mail/M2 is the RSS Reader. M2’s RSS probably offers the _easiest_ way to subscribe to newsfeeds. It’s basically as easy as this: Locate a link to a newsfeed, open it, and Opera will subscribe you. When Opera 7.50 acquired RSS features, I created a small flash movie, showing the “ease of newsfeed subscription”:http://virtuelvis.com/download/173/opera.html
With the up and coming Opera 7.60 – which is available as a technical preview, if you follow the “Opera Beta forum”:http://my.opera.com/forums/forumdisplay.php?s=&forumid=31 – this has gotten even easier. When a site uses “RSS autodiscovery”:http://diveintomark.org/archives/2002/05/30/rss_autodiscovery a small RSS icon shows up in the address bar, and subscription is then a two-click process. Click to add, click to confirm.
When you have added an RSS newsfeed, the news items will reside in appropriate views in the M2 mail client, and will show up just the way ordinary mail messages, or Usenet messages – and you can search it, filter it and do anything you would do with ordinary mail.
Firefox’s approach to RSS is called “Live bookmarks” and is just the titles of the RSS items kept in your bookmarks. If you want the content of the newsfeed items, without manually visiting the web pages, you still have to resort to a third-party RSS client – again, Thunderbird being one.
h3. Quick customization
!(lJust) /download/223/f12.png (F12 allows you to quickly customize Opera)!
One of the aspects I find imporant is to be able to turn some settings on and off quickly – for instance, turning off those annoying animated images, or turn Java or plugins on and off at ease.
By pressing F12, Opera brings up a context menu, allowing you to toggle some of the most common options, without visiting the browser preferences.
In Firefox, you _have_ to visit the Options panel for almost any change you want to make.
h3. The Navigation toolbar
!/download/223/linkbar.png (The navigation panel offers easy access to common links)!
When a web site uses appropriate elements on the page, Opera’s link panel will light up – offering you some often-used links, such as home/previous/next/search. This means that for these web sites, you won’t ever have to locate the links on the page: They always sit at the top of the page, just below your address bar. Many, if not most blogs to some extent use these features, this makes Opera an ideal blog browser.
If this feature isn’t enabled in your install of Opera, you can easily do so by selecting View/Toolbars/Navigation bar from the application menu.
h3. The Wand
!/download/223/wand.png (Opera has an integral password manager)!
Ok, so Firefox also sports a password manager – I just like Opera’s better:
# Opera’s password manager does not prefill form elements. Instead it just adds a subtle yellow outline to form elements that will be filled when proceeding.
# Opera’s password manager is available separately from the preferences.
# You can log in at a site, by going “Forward”, either through navigating forward, or by using the forward mouse gesture. In Firefox you have to actively focus the form element, before you can proceed.
h3. Mouse gestures
Mouse gestures are _native_ to Opera – in Firefox they’re strap-ons; You have to choose between one of seven gesture-related extensions, with different functional levels.
Opera’s gestures have a sensible default setup, suitable for most users – but you can, if you want, make the mouse gestures perform black magic – every aspect of gestures can be customized.
h3. Spatial navigation
So, the mouse is not for you? You can use Opera pretty much by keyboard. Just hold down shift, and use the arrow keys: Opera will navigate from link to link mostly following the visual order – you don’t have to tab your way through a gazillion links to reach those right-hand sidebar links.
h3. Notes
!/download/223/notes.png (Opera allows you to attach notes to web pages)!
While I like Opera’s bookmark feature, I really find that Opera’s Notes feature is an even better bookmark feature: Whenever I have a link that I need to revisit later, I can just mark some text on the current page, press Ctrl-Shift-C to add the selected text to a note. From the Notes panel, I can then add any additional comments.
This is pretty much how I also do my sidebar links – the only thing I’m missing from my notes panel, is a big, flashy “Blog this!” button.

h3. What about the ads?
There are those that will complain about the ads in Opera.
If you want to use the free, ad-sponsored flavor of Opera, you can choose between Google AdSense ads, occupying a narrow strip at the top of your browser window. Some people actually find these useful.
If you for some reason don’t like the Google Ads, you can choose a generic selection of graphic ads instead.
If you don’t want ads at all, an Opera licence is just USD $39. Student and volume discounts are granted. Opera also has a “higher education program”:http://www.opera.com/education/


When this piece was written, Opera still cost money, but the application has been free of charge since 2005 and is no longer ad-supported. The previous section is kept for reference, though.

h3. There _is_ more
I could have continued praising Opera’s advantages almost perpetually. But I’m not. Instead, I’m going to suggest that you try it yourself. You might just find that you like it. You might find that you don’t need to download any strap-ons, err, extensions. You might find that Opera *just works* out-of-the-box.
_(Updated) Disclaimer: At the time of writing this piece, I was independent of Opera as a company, but I have since been hired by Opera Software in the “Web Applications”:http://my.opera.com/webapplications/ department. I still believe my arguments for choosing Opera over Firefox holds true for me._

20 Comments

  1. To me, this is like discussing whether you prefer vanilla or chocolate ice cream. As you say, Firefox is great software, just like Opera. For those of us living in Norway, Opera should be the obvious choice, and I must say I really can’t decide whether I like Firefox over Opera, or vice versa.
    What I miss, is the possibility to share bookmarks between Opera and Firefox. That would make my day!

  2. For regular bookmarks I have made a local HTML file and use it as my homepage. That way it appears in all browsers!

    Opera has so many features that when I use Firefox, I’m lost without them. For instance, being able to right-click and insert form data. Being able to delete all your browser history and cache, but retain passwords. Firefox loses those too. Notes, like the man says, are a real benefit to have. I use them for bulletin board code and HTML code by storing commonly-used tags. Then all I have to do is right-click to insert them in comments fields on websites.

  3. O

     /  2004-11-29

    Great article on Opera Vs. Firefox by Opera Watch

  4. Suddenly, I just remembered why I’m using Firefox… My scrolling whell doesen’t work under Opera. May sound strange, but it’s quite annoying. When testing under Opera, my hair turns gray when I’m not able to scroll with my mouse.

  5. Martin: I presume you’re using a Logitech mouse of some sort, then?
    If that is the case: You’ll have to change your settings so that the mouse driver uses “MS Compatible” scrolling, and if you want anchored scrolling when you press the middle button, you have to set the middle button to act as a middle button, instead of using Logitechs proprietary scrolling function.

  6. I have a Logitech mouse which works like a hot, steaming dream in Opera.

  7. Actually, I’m using a Microsoft-mouse. There’s no driver with the mouse, so I don’t seem to find a proper solution for my problem. The mouse acts as you describe in Firefox and other applications, but not in Opera. Sounds strange, but that’s how it is.
    The mouse:
    http://komplett.no/k/ki.asp?sku=302894&cks=PRL

  8. Chris Hester says:
    bq. Being able to delete all your browser history and cache, but retain passwords. Firefox loses those too.
    I’m perfectly able to delete browser history and cache in Firefox, without deleting passwords. Tools -> Options -> Privacy gives you the opportunity to choose wheter you will delete all kinds of history or just some.

  9. I use the “Clear all information stored while browsing” button in Firefox. But this deletes my saved form usernames and passwords. Whereas in Opera, they are handled by the Magic Wand, while Delete Private Data removes everything else in one go. That’s why I prefer Opera here – you can untick each option to choose exactly what it deletes, but with Firefox there’s just one button. When I press it, it says “This will remove ALL your browsing history, cache, the list of recently downloaded files, all saved form information and searches, all cookies and saved passwords!”. So you cannot pick and choose which data you want deleting, unlike Opera.

  10. You can’t seriously use that as an argument why Opera is better than Firefox, when it’s you that ignore to use the buttons for the different kinds of deleting. They’re there, there’s no problem using them and it only takes you one second!

  11. Kenneth: No, it doesn’t take “One second.” Let’s imagine that you regularily clear the following:
    * History of typed-in addresses
    * History of visited addresses
    * Temporary (session) cookies)
    * Password protected pages (from disk cache)
    The first time you want to do this in Opera, it’s a seven-click operation:
    * Two clicks: Tools → Delete Private Data
    * Four clicks: Once for eachoption
    * One click: Delete
    The next time you do this in Opera, four clicks are eliminated, since the checkbox state is remembered – making it a three-click operation.
    In Firefox, you need to do the following:
    * Three clicks Tools → Options → Privacy (Two if the last option you visited was Privacy)
    * One click: Clear History
    * One click: Ok
    * One click: _Quit Firefox_ – there is no option to clear session data
    * One click: _Reopen Firefox_ (best-case scenario)
    * N clicks to reopen the pages you were visiting
    There is no “Repeat-action”-bonus in Firefox, meaning that there is a minimum of seven clicks, one including a reload of the applicationm.
    The restart is neccessary because Firefox doesn’t have an option to clear session cookies only. Starting Firefox on my system takes around four seconds.
    Besides, after having done this, you’ve still not reached your goal: You still haven’t deleted the password-protected pages from the disk cache.

  12. Firefox does not have Notes. These help enormously when pasting HTML and BBCode into comments forms. Or copying text from a page to work on later. (The note can take you straight back to the page too!)

    In Firefox I have to manually type in my name and email address and website for comments, but in Opera, I can right-click and insert them as ready-saved personal data fields. (Also many more like address and telephone number.) If I choose to save the username and password in Firefox, the Clear All button deletes them, but Opera does not.

    Worst of all, Firefox reloads the page when you go back (at least it does on Anne van Kesteren’s website) meaning any comments you have typed into a form are completely destroyed! This just happened to me. In Opera, form data is preserved, so the page is just the same as you left it. This also makes going back and forward between pages much faster in Opera.

  13. This is also in my recent links section, but I’m also posting it here for convenience:
    Andrew Gregory has made a “quantitative analysis of Opera 7.60tp3 vs. Firefox 1.0/Thunderbird 0.9”:http://www.scss.com.au/family/andrew/o7/o7ffcomp.html which is well worth reading to debunk some myths about “menu clutter”, “ads” and “screen estate”. The differences betweeen Opera and FF are negligble.

  14. While impressive, that analysis is based on a Preview version of Opera. The final version may well differ. It also suggests more menu items is a bad thing, but this can’t be true if it means the program offers more features!

  15. Both are excellent browsers. I have used both and just happen to prefer Firefox.
    The real point is that people should be helping to spread the word to non-techie types the IE is not safe to use. Point them to Opera or Firefox but them know that it’s easy to use a safe browser.

  16. Gregor

     /  2005-09-23

    I’m eager to check out the new ad-free Opera.
    I always missed the session-handling of Opera in Firefox, where you always have to remember all Tabs because they are lost when the browser is closed. There is an age-old feature-request on that, but it’s still not there in Firefox 1.5b
    This can be a productivity-killer and so it is a really strong point for Opera.

  17. “My scrolling whell doesen’t work under Opera”
    Interesting. I have never gotten a scrollwheel to work _properly_ in Firefox. Both Opera and FF do scroll wheeling for me, but FF refuses to let me CLICK with the scrollwheel (turning the sursor into a four-way arrow) so I can then just move the mouse a little “down” and set it to scroll hands-free at my speed-reading tempo, like I can do in Opera. On all my computers. With different mice, different OSes.
    FF, I just have to work my fingers to the bone getting the thing to scroll at my reading speed, and even then, it’s not the smoothe scrolling action I prefer.
    FF is indeed good, just clunky and requiring too many add-ons to achieve _nearly_ Opera’s default install functionality. I’d also appreciate better CSS compliance in FF, but I’m sure that will come. Each incremental release comes closer and closer to what Opera’s compliance… was in its previous release. 🙂 That’s the biggest single problem with FF: it always seems to lag behind. Adding in “extensions” to copy Opera’s basic functionality, etc.
    And have y’all seen Opera 9? Still in development, but pretty darned slick, IMO.

  18. In the Firefox vs Opera war, I think it is a matter of preferances relative to what you primarily use the browser for. Both are better than IE, and the email client is better than Firefox since it does not have any.
    But i find that if you get the right extensions for firefox, including tabmixplus w/session saving, then it is better for me than Opera, which i also use.
    Though i like the greater variety of things Firefox offers, like skins and the abilty to tweak (about:config), the main reason for me it bcz it is important that i can save a web page with all the images and links working as one page, which the IE .mht extension and the MAF Firefox extension enables. And or i can save a page with the URL on it or embedded using the Firefox savewithurl extension.
    Close tab and Print Preview in the right click menu (Firefox), or at least on the toolbar (IE) is also very handy, as is a separate toolbar for Google.
    But Opera is by far the fastest, especially over Firefox 1.5 with extensions.

  19. MisterE

     /  2006-05-07

    daniel hmilton: Opera 9, when it will be released will have:
    – opera:config
    – support for .mht
    The menu, toolbar, keyboard and mouse gestures are all customizable in Opera, though some might require manual .ini file editing.
    Close tabs? See here: http://people.opera.com/rijk/opera/dndbuttons.html.
    Print preview: Shift+P
    Google toolbar: I don’t use it. In Opera you can search by typing “g ” in address bar. In fact you can add searches from any site in 10 seconds (no need to download “search engines” created by others”).
    And about skins, it has them for quite a while now.
    And the thing that in Firefox you need to install a lot of extensions just to get Opera’s built-ins is not that good. Some extensions are badly written and can slow Firefox to a crawl. Try finding out which when you got over 20 of them.