Magazine article Online

Opera - the Little Browser That Can

Magazine article Online

Opera - the Little Browser That Can

Article excerpt

Despite a minimal cost ($30) and small size (1MB), Opera is a World Wide Web browsing tool that gives a stellar performance. While the product presently appears only on the Windows 95 and Windows 3.1 platforms, Opera might be an excellent choice as a primary or secondary browser, depending on your needs and resources.

CURTAIN UP!

I first saw reviews of Opera on a library listserv in the fall of 1997. This review is based on a beta version of the soon-to-arrive version 3.0; it can be easily and quickly downloaded from the Web site (http://opera.nta.no). Developed and written by Opera Software AS in Oslo, Norway, the program is shareware. A fully-functioning 90 day evaluation copy is available; after the witching hour the program renders itself unusable unless purchased.

I ran it on a Pentium with 16MB of RAM, but the company proudly states that Opera runs well on 386sx machines with as little as 8MB of RAM, and can even run with as little as 4MB. This makes Opera an excellent choice to run on older machines that have not been upgraded and cannot effectively handle Netscape Navigator or Microsoft Internet Explorer. For organizations such as educational centers, other nonprofits, and older parents who have inherited their adult children's castoff computers, Opera might be a great option.

OPENING ACT

Despite its small size, Opera has clearly labeled buttons and options, and handles work on the busy desktop very smoothly and efficiently. The display bar is an information center all its own and can easily be moved to the top or bottom of a window. The bar tells you how much time a page has been loading, how many bytes per second are being received, the number of images to be loaded, and how much of the text has been loaded.

Opera allows for the bookmarking of sites with a feature called "Lists." Lists and sublists can be made, but bookmarks from Netscape Navigator and Microsoft Internet Explorer cannot be imported without obtaining an additional piece of software. For those in networked environments, Opera allows for a system-wide list of sites.

IT SINGS!

My beta version worked well with numerous plug-ins and it handled Web pages with frames without a problem. Its customization options for individual or group usage are wonderful. Just about everything the program offers--from associating programs, such as Real Audio and Adobe Acrobat, to choosing not to accept cookies, is done easily and quickly. Additional customization options include a toggle to turn off all graphics and page backgrounds as the page is loading, the ability to toggle the menu bar on or off the screen, and the option to make active links stand out via a 3-D view, to name just a few.

Perhaps the most useful customizable feature is the Opera cache. You can choose whether or not to cache images, text, or other page features. You are also given the option to have the cache clear itself automatically upon exiting the program. These features contribute to making Opera an excellent option for both kiosk usage and as an offline browser--it does not require telecommunications software to operate. Documentation is provided via a Help function, a Web accessible bulletin board, and a mailing list, and fee-based consultation makes even more customization opportunities available. …

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