Whether Opera is now the best browser available is mainly a matter of personal preference. When it comes to features and capability, the new Opera 7 clearly deserves to stand at the top, right next to Mozilla.
Opera Software ASA has long been an innovator when it comes to Web browsers, introducing features such as tabbed browsing and advanced cookie controls that are now standard in many browsers. With Opera 7, which was released last month, Opera continues to add innovative features while addressing some of the weaknesses of previous versions.
Well probably go back and forth a few times trying to figure out if we like Opera 7 better than Mozilla. And if youre wondering where eWeek Labs would rate market leader Internet Explorer from Microsoft Corp., that Web browser dinosaur would probably do no better than sixth place.
Opera has long been the best browser option for those users who prefer keyboard navigation to a mouse, and the new Spatial Navigation feature adds even more for keyboard users. With this feature, we could quickly tab through all links in a page using the shift button and our arrow keys.
Also aiding in page navigation is a new links sidebar panel that displays a map of all links within a Web page. And if Web sites use navigation tags within their pages, these will be displayed within the new navigation bar, making it possible to browse through sites as if they had a contents page.
Interesting but less useful is the new Fast Forward button that looks for next tags within a Web page to ease navigation of a multipage document.
The new Wand feature makes it possible to save Web site log-in information and enter it later with a single click.
General customization of the entire Opera interface has been greatly improved, allowing us to change almost any aspect of the browsing experience. Many preference settings, such as controlling pop-up ads, are now much easier to access.
The mail capabilities in Opera, now called the M2 mail client, have been overhauled to the point where the mail client is now a strength for Opera. Managing multiple accounts is simple, and M2 now has a capable and easy-to-use spam-filtering mechanism.
We really liked the feature in Operas M2 that made it possible to quickly differentiate those with whom you regularly correspond from less frequent mail senders.
While standards support in Opera has always been good in previous versions, it was lacking in some areas, such as in support for DOM (Document Object Model). In Opera 7, we found the DOM support to be much better, if still less than 100 percent.
Also interesting is the addition of support for some of the nonstandard DHTML (dynamic HTML) code that often makes sites into IE-only destinations. Using Opera 7, we were able to browse sites that use DHTML, albeit not always with the same experience as in IE.
Currently, Opera 7 is available only on Windows systems, although previous versions are available on most other platforms, and we expect this version to work on other platforms eventually. A free version with an integrated ad bar is available, or an ad-free version can be purchased for $39.
East Coast Technical Director Jim Rapoza is at firstname.lastname@example.org.