Opera 7 for Linux

The browser wars continue on the Linux platform with the release of Opera version 7. Opera is a browser famous for its high performance, standards compliance and very small size, not to mention its position as the first browser to use the now widely implemented tabbed browsing interface. This latest version of Opera for Linux introduces many new features, which until now were only available in the Windows version.

The beta of Opera 7.1.0 version proved to be very stable and it met the high performance reputation of its predecessors in our testing. To install Opera, decompress the archive on your hard disk and run the included install.sh script while logged in as root.

New features

The M2 e-mail client has been available to Opera users on the Windows platform for several versions, but this version of Linux Opera is the first to include an e-mail client.

At first glance, M2 looks very impressive. The user interface is tightly integrated with the Opera window, appearing as another tab in the browser. The client is responsive and performs similarly to dedicated e-mail clients such as Evolution and KMail. POP3, IMAP and Operamail Web-based e-mail accounts are also supported, and a newsgroup reader is included as another account option. Newsgroup articles appear by default in the Unread mail folder alongside normal e-mail, which could create an extremely cluttered inbox for many users.

Migration to M2 from other e-mail clients is made simple with an import tool supporting both Netscape 6/7 (Mozilla) and mbox e-mail formats. Also included with the e-mail client is a useful contacts manager. Unfortunately, there is no support for importing contacts from competing products.

A noticeable addition to the Opera user interface is the presence of two new buttons: ‘Rewind’ and ‘Fast Forward’. These buttons are designed to speed up navigation of Web sites by anticipating the links on the current Web page you are most likely to visit next. For example, after performing a Web search with most popular search engines, the Fast Forward button will automatically load the next page of search results. Clicking the Rewind button after viewing several pages of search results reloads the first page of results.

Recent versions of Opera have noticeably lacked a password manager — a feature present in most browsers for some time now — and Opera 7 catches up with the introduction of the Wand password manager. The Wand works in a slightly different way to many password managers: users are required to press either - or to click the wand icon to fill out a previously saved form. This design will probably annoy some users accustomed to the automatic form completion of browsers such as Mozilla.

If you use the Web for research, you will welcome the new Notes feature in Opera. As the name implies, this is a note-taking tool that allows you to attach a note to a particular Web page. This note can later be dropped into an e-mail or stored for reference.

The entire Opera 7 interface can be customised using downloadable skins. Impressively, downloading, installing and trying new skins can be performed with a single mouse click. Opera skins are platform-neutral, which means there is already a large range (currently 153) of attractive skins available.

Overall impressions

Opera 7 is a very fast browser. Normal Web browsing in Opera feels noticeably faster than when using either Mozilla or Konqueror. The memory usage of Opera is also lower than either of these browsers on startup, making Opera a great option for older computers.

The tight integration of the Opera browser and its components make it a great all-in-one solution for using the Internet. The Notes feature, when combined with the new M2 e-mail client, is something other browser developers should take note of. Although page rendering in Opera is not up to the standard of Mozilla, it is still acceptable.

If you haven’t tried Opera before, the small size of the browser should be reason enough to give it a spin.

Firebird and Thunderbird

Currently under development by the Mozilla.org project are the new Firebird browser and Thunderbird e-mail application. The Firebird browser implements a new high-performance interface based on the Gecko rendering engine included with Mozilla. Thunderbird distils the e-mail component of Mozilla into a stand-alone application.

Alpha versions of Firebird can be downloaded from www.mozilla.org/projects/phoenix. Alpha versions of Thunderbird can be downloaded from www.mozilla.org/projects/thunderbird.

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Alastair Cousins

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