It may not enjoy the same level of attention as other heavyweight web browsers, but there's still a lot to like about Opera. But in recent years it's lost its mantle as a true pioneer among web browsers, and that may have led to this, a complete reboot rather than a major update.
Opera 15 (and now 22) represented a completely new browser, which is why Opera hasn't yet abandoned its immediate predecessor, with the Opera 12.x series still being maintained for users unhappy at switching to a new browser where many favourite features are missing - some of which, like the mail client (now a standalone product), won't be making a return.
The reboot has been prompted by Opera's decision to abandon its own proprietary web rendering engine (Presto) in favour of Google’s open-source Chromium engine. Fire up Opera for the first time, and it’s apparent that major changes are afoot.
The user interface has been rebuilt from the ground up, designed to integrate more deeply with the OS it’s running and provides a more modern, sleek look compared to previous Opera builds. Another visible change is the implementation of a unified address and search bar, echoing that found in Chrome and Safari as opposed to the separate bars still used by Firefox.
The Speed Dial page has also been improved, with users now able to file shortcuts into folders (simply drag one on top of another to create a folder). A new search field also provides users with a quick and easy way to filter Speed Dial entries. The move signals Opera's intention to merge Speed Dial shortcuts and bookmarks into a single entity.
Two new features added to Opera are Discover and Stash. Discover provides users with a place where they can set localization and other preferences in order to be fed relevant content – including news – from a single place.
Meanwhile, Stash is designed to make comparing websites easier by allowing users to press a heart button in order to collect together a group of related sites for comparing. Users scan quickly scan the Stash via a resizable page preview, or search all sites within the Stash using keywords.
Surprisingly, the new Opera 15 shipped with some major features not in place: there's no bookmarks support outside of Speed Dial (existing users should use the Bookmark Importer option under the "More tools" menu to convert their Opera 12 bookmarks to Speed Dial entries in version 15), while feeds support and site preferences are also missing, along with the popular sidebar.
How many of these will eventually make a return is as yet unclear, but Opera has already indicated its willingness to listen to user feedback, so the more popular a feature, the more likely it is to return at some point.
What's new in Opera v23 (compared to the previous v22)?
- Tidied the combined search and address bar to contain just a single heart, which triggers a sub-menu for choosing to add a page to Speed Dial or to access the Stash feature or bookmarks bar.
- Added UI elements to unblock insecure content in an otherwise secure session
- Added search functionality to opera:extensions and opera:themes.