Simon Willison’s Weblog


Sticking with Opera 9

6th August 2006

It’s been a month and a half since I started using Opera 9, with a promise to report back later. I’m still using it, although some of the things I liked initially have faded while others have emerged.

Firstly, the ability to browse cached documents offline turned out to be a dud. The behaviour I was observing (where I could view pages from my cache while disconnected) was due to the following setting, in Preferences -> Advanced -> History:

Dialogue box: Check if cached page is updated on the server, with check documents set to every five hours and check images set to every five minutes.

As someone whose work involves making websites the idea of seeing stale documents for five hours is pretty horrifying, so I changed that to “check documents never” as soon as I saw it (I’m pretty confident that doesn’t affect conditional-GET, which should work regardless). As soon as I did that I lost the ability to browse offline. Browser vendors take note: you can still be the first modern browser to implement a proper offline mode!

The disadvantage of changing those setting is that they can break JavaScript image preloaders, leading to an unsettling flicker when you mouse over some links. That’s why I’ve left my image setting above to check every five minutes.

Despite losing offline browsing, other features have popped up that have kept me happy:

  1. Opera is the only Mac browser I’ve used that includes a working full-screen mode; great for presentations.

  2. Hitting space moves you down the height of the viewport, as with other browsers. Hitting space at the bottom of the page takes you to the next page in the ’sequence’, if there is one. My first guess was that this used <link rel="next">, but it also works on Yahoo!, Technorati and Google search results pages which don’t have those links. I suppose it’s looking for any link on the page with ’Next’ as the link text. Whatever it’s doing, it works surprisingly well.

  3. Site compatibility really is excellent; I run in to sites that don’t work in Opera about as often as I do sites that don’t work in Firefox. Part of that might be due to Opera’s ingenious browser.js file, which includes Greasemonkey-style site-specific fixes and automatically updates itself once a week. Clever, but a bit scary at the same time.

  4. The built-in IRC client is good as well—if it wasn’t for Colloquy it would be my first choice for IRCing on the Mac.

  5. Finally, Opera’s low memory footprint continues to keep me from switching back to Safari or Firefox. My Mac (a two and a half year old PowerBook) is noticeably less sluggish now that those two applications have been relegated to JavaScript hacking (gotta love FireBug) and the occasional misbehaving site.

I haven’t even touched Opera Mail yet, and the gadget support is something I played with once and never used again (but then I don’t use Dashboard that much either).

Overall I’m extremely happy with Opera 9 and I’d recommend giving it a go—especially if you’ve tried and disliked an older version.

This is Sticking with Opera 9 by Simon Willison, posted on 6th August 2006.

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