Opera 11 Takes On IE, Safari, Chrome

Opera 11 shipped Dec. 16 with new extensions, tab stacking and visual navigation aids that put the web browser on a competitive footing with Microsoft's IE. The features add productivity and conveninece to the Opera experience and could be compelling advantages for web users who need quick access to many different web pages at the flick of a wrist.

Opera 11 debuted Dec. 16 running on Windows, Mac and Linux platforms and is now equipped with stackable tabs, visual mouse navigation aids and extensions that add useful widgets to the full-featured Web browser. As I noted in a first look at the alpha version, Opera 11 is stepping into a competitive arena with Microsoft's Internet Explorer, Mozilla's Firefox, Apple's Safari and Google's Chrome.

Now that Opera 11 is decked out in its regalia of new features its clear that competition between the browser makers is pushing user-focused enhancements that should give IT managers pause before simply staying with the status quo. In particular, research-oriented users will likely benefit from the tab-oriented features that let Opera keep a wide array of pages open on the destktop.

Opera 11 can be downloaded at no cost from opera.com.
Tab stacking is a browser pack rat's delight. I'm accustomed to using tab groups in Microsoft's IE for easy access to web sites that I visit on a routine basis. Tab stacking in Opera 11 takes this a step further and let me stack tabs on top of each other. For example, I have several different eWEEK web properties open in a tab group along with several competitor sites. Using tab stacks, I was easily able to keep separate stacks of web pages that I could expand or re-stack by simply clicking on an action badge.
Visual mouse navigation is a real delight and time saver for users who take a few moments to learn the interface. Visual mouse navigation is activated by holding down the right mouse button for a few moments. A navigation overlay appeared on my screen an by slightly moving the mouse towards a command I was able to open a new tab, move backwards and forwards through the my web page history, minimize a tab or quickly access my "speed dial" screen of commonly accessed Websites. Visual mouse navigation is context sensitive and offered a number of time saving convenience gestures that I used to speed through my web browsing research.
Opera 11 uses a combination of reputation and fraud reporting services along with connection information to provide end users with more information about the web sites they are visiting. I used the badge that appeared to the left of the URL to get information about eWEEK.com, nytimes.com and chase.com. The two media sites both scored well on reputation but didn't use an encrypted connection. Thus I was advised by an Opera 11 tool tip not to exchange sensitive information with either site. On the other hand, chase.com was both encrypted and reputable and therefore got a green light from Opera 11. Opera uses Netcraft and Phishtank to track fraudulent behavior and malware distribution of web sites. Users are able to click a button to report problematic sites.
Of note for consumer users Opera 11 has improved the built-in e-mail client. I linked my Gmail account to the Opera email client and was able to drag and drop messages into folders. The email client can now also be hidden when not in use.
I discussed extensions extensively in my first look so I'll only touch on them here. Out of the gate, Opera touts a password management, ad blocker and translation extension, among many others that are currently available. I used the password management extension and found that it worked fine. Extensions are increasingly important as an area of competitive distinction between web browsers. IT managers who are considering Opera 11 should ensure that any needed extensions are part of the evaluations process.