Opera has a long history of making Web browsers that are new and different. In fact, the Norwegian browser gave us a lot of the things we take for granted on the Web, like tabs, popup blockers, and search that is built right in. After adding a lot of unique features and then taking them away, Opera is back to innovating and standing out with built-in ad blocking, pop-out video, a battery saver, a turbo compression scheme, and now a free built-in VPN that’s as fast as many paid services.
Opera used its own rendering engine, Presto, for most of its life. In 2013, it switched to Chromium. As more and more of the internet is made to work with Google Chrome, modern web browsers are switching to Chromium to keep up with Google, especially since Google owns the most extensions in the Chrome web store.
When it comes to your workflow, customizations, and user data, choosing the best browser can make all the difference. Even though it may be tempting to use the browser that comes with your computer or phone, we urge you to go beyond your system’s defaults if you want to see the web in bigger and better ways.
Opera, a Norwegian browser that came out in 1995, is an exception that doesn’t get the attention it deserves these days. Opera has a lot of features and is one of the few browsers that comes with a VPN (virtual private network) already built in. In this breakdown, we’ll look at Opera’s many features, privacy settings, how it feels to use, and more.
Opera: Pros and Cons
- Built on Chromium
- Integrated ad blocker
- No reading mode or reading list.
- Lacks social sharing tool.
|Developer||Opera Software AS|
|Initial release date||April 1995|
|Stable release||Version 79.0.4143.50 (as of September 2021)|
|Operating system||Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, iOS|
|Available in||50 languages|
|Platform||IA-32, x86-64, ARMv7, ARMv8-A|
|Features||Ad blocker, VPN, integrated messengers (WhatsApp, Telegram, etc.), battery saver, snapshot tool, workspaces|
|Supported protocols||HTTP, HTTPS, FTP, BitTorrent, SPDY, WebSocket, WebSocket Secure|
|User interface||Tabbed browsing, customizable Speed Dial, sidebar, bookmarks, history, downloads|
|Security features||Fraud and malware protection, private browsing, Do Not Track, HTTP referrer control, SSL/TLS certificates|
|Accessibility features||Voice control, keyboard shortcuts, zoom, text-to-speech, high contrast mode|
|Official link||Visit Website|
Opera is easy on the eyes because its tabs are square with slightly rounded corners. This is kind of a middle ground between Internet Explorer and Microsoft Edge tabs, which are perfectly square, and Firefox tabs, which are very round. The background tabs go away, so it’s easy to see which one you are on. The down-pointing chevron to the right of the browser’s title bar lets you preview the tabs.
When you click on this, a dropdown will appear with a list of all your tabs. When you move the cursor over any of them, a preview of the site will appear in the middle of the browser window. As good as Edge is, we still like the old Opera tab previews, which looked like thumbnails when you hovered the mouse cursor over the actual tabs at the top of the program window.
The site tiles on the Speed Dial home page of Opera are a big part of what makes it stand out now. Another difference is that the menu button is in the top left corner of the browser instead of being a standard three-line “hamburger” menu on the right, like all other major browsers have now. Also, when you close the last tab in Opera, the browser doesn’t close. Firefox has a setting for this, but just like the other browsers, when you close the last tab, the Firefox browser shuts down.
Opera doesn’t have a reading mode or a button to share something on social media, but Firefox and Edge do. I think a reading mode is important for today’s websites, which are full of ads and other jumbled content like auto-play videos and pop-over on-page ads. The same is true for making it easy to share on social networks, which is one of the most popular things to do on the Web today.
Opera does everything you’d expect from a browser, and it also has some extra features that make it stand out from Chrome and Mozilla Firefox. If you know the website’s address, you can type it into the address bar to get to the site. Google’s address bar can also be used as a search engine to find websites.
With the tabs system, you can have more than one web page open at once. Each web page has its own tab, which runs along the top of the page above the address bar. Click on the plus sign at the end of the list of tabs to You can also pin tabs by right-clicking on them and choosing “Pin tab.” This way, the tab won’t close by accident. You can also mute tabs so they don’t make noise. This is useful if you have Facebook open but don’t want to be distracted by new message sounds, etc.
Opera is based on the Chromium architecture, so it works with all Chrome extensions. This makes it easy to find the plug-ins you need to make your experience more personal. Also, Opera has an ad blocker and a tracking blocker built in, so you won’t even have to look for them. There is also a strange feature called My Flow. It is a secure cloud storage space where you can store files, images, links, etc. that you can access from the mobile version of Opera, called Opera Touch.
This means that you can save links, YouTube videos, or files on your desktop and then access them on your mobile device. It’s easy to use. There’s a button on the web browser that lets you send links over right away, and there are simple ways to link in files and images. It’s basically just a cloud storage space like what you get with a Google account, but it’s less secure and harder to use.
In 2016, the antivirus software and mobile app maker Qihoo 360, which is based in China, bought Opera. Given that the Chinese government has power over tech companies and can force companies to put backdoors in their products, it seems hard to trust Opera as a web browser. Aside from that, you should also think about Opera’s other privacy concerns. Some kinds of data are collected by the browser, and the browser also lets other people collect data.
In the settings menu, you can choose not to have some data collected, but it’s not clear how much data you stopped from being collected. No matter how you use a browser, there is no way around following best practices for security. Check out our guide to anonymous browsing and our list of the safest web browsers to learn more.
Since Opera is now just Chrome on the inside, it works well with almost any site that Chrome can handle. Some sites still say that it’s not compatible, which is a shame. Two bank sites we went to said that my browser might not be able to show the site correctly. That is, of course, nonsense. One thing that Chrome and Edge have that Opera doesn’t is built-in support for Flash content. I know that Flash is losing popularity, but tell that to all the websites that still use it.
Niels Leenheer’s HTML5Test site shows that Opera is almost as good as Chrome for the same reason. This checks for Google’s own set of new standards and the ones recommended by the W3C HTML5 group. The test should be taken with a grain of salt because it doesn’t really test how well the functions are implemented. Instead, it just checks that the browser responds to the function calls.
How you answer this question depends a lot on how concerned you are about your privacy. We don’t think the Chinese government is making Opera give them your Amazon shopping history, but it can be a good idea to worry about your online information and how it is being used.
But as a browser, Opera does everything well. Since it is based on Chrome, it has all the familiar features, like a huge library of extensions. It runs quickly and has a lot of extra features, like the sidebar, which we love.
Opera Browser is faster, safer, and more private than Chrome in a big way. Compare the differences between Opera and Chrome below and download the best one.
Opera GX is a version of the Opera browser that was made with gamers in mind. It says that Chrome can’t keep up with its security features, so it’s much safer and more secure than Chrome.