Greg Gore is Vice President of Praxis International, Inc.
Technical Training, Consulting, and Publishing since 1988



Opera: The Web Browser that "Sings" with Features & Speed
Greg Gore


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Recently, several readers of this column have asked questions about web browsers. One reader is using an old 386 IBM-compatible computer running Windows 3.1. In addition, his computer has a small hard drive and limited memory. The new versions of Microsoft Internet Explorer and Netscape simply will not work on his system. Another reader asked if there was a browser that might work better and faster than Microsoft Internet Explorer and Netscape. 

Opera is a web browser worth considering on several counts. First, there are Opera versions available for many platforms. A new version, Opera 5.12, for Windows 95/98/NT/2000 was released on June 27. Older Opera versions are available for Windows 3.x, Mac, Linux, BeOS, EPOC, OS/2 and other platforms. Additionally, Opera versions are available for devices such as PDAs and cordless phones. 

Second, Opera is small in size. The latest Windows version is only a 2.2MB download for the basic configuration. A Java-enabled version that includes the newest Runtime environment (JRE 1.3.1) is a 9.8 MB download. The version for Windows 3.x is a 1.4 MB download. By comparison, according to specifications found on, a typical Netscape 6.1 installation is 15.4 MB and can run to 26 MB for a full installation. A typical installation of the new Microsoft Internet Explorer 6.0 is 11 MB and can run to 45 MB for a full installation.

Third, user reviews of the three products posted on as of September 5, 2001, show Opera 5.12 with a positive rating of 93%, Netscape 6.1 with a positive rating of 78%, and Microsoft Internet Explorer 6.0 with a positive rating of 68%. Users like the speed of Opera and indeed, the tag line of Opera is, “The world’s fastest browser.”

Fourth, Opera has a number of useful features. Opera 5.12 includes a full-featured built-in email program that can be used with existing POP/SMTP email accounts. Opera also offers OperaMail which is a web-based email service that can be accessed from the Internet using a web browser. Along with these email capabilities, Opera offers “instant messaging.”

Two extremely useful features are the keyboard/mouse shortcuts and the ability to open multiple windows. To browse backward, you can hold down the right mouse button and click the left button; to browse forward, you can hold down the left mouse button and click the right button. Of course, as with other browsers, you can use can the “backward” and “forward” navigation tools that appear in the toolbar.

To open a new window, the keyboard shortcut is “CNTL”+ “N.” The new window appears in the foreground and the normal Windows Tile and Cascade functions can be used. Another very handy feature is being able to load a document under the active link in a new window while the current window remains open. In standard web browser procedure, when you are viewing a web page and click on a link, the current page is closed and the new page is opened. Opera works this way, but also gives you two other options: you can load the new link in a new window in the foreground using “SHIFT” + “mouse click,” or you can load the new link in a new window in the background by using “CNTL” + “SHIFT” + “mouse click.” By loading the new page in the background, you can continue browsing the current page until the new page is fully loaded. Opera can also be set to load multiple windows at start-up. 

Opera prides itself on its security features, including 128-bit encryption.  For secure websites that do not recognize the Opera browser, Opera can be set to identify itself as being a Netscape browser or a Microsoft Internet Explorer browser. Identification preferences are set by navigating to “File/Preferences/Connections” and selecting “MOZILLA 4.76” for Netscape or “MSIE” for Microsoft Internet Explorer. 

Is there a downside to using Opera? Whereas Netscape and Microsoft Internet Explorer are free, Opera versions are available as either shareware or ad-sponsored freeware. Version 5.12 for Windows 95/98/NT/2000 is offered as ad-sponsored freeware. What this means is that an advertising banner appears at the top of the screen in the toolbar section. The banner does not interfere with the web page being viewed. The banner takes about 1/12 of the entire screen and I do not find it distracting or annoying. Users can eliminate the banner advertising by registering the software for a fee of $39. The shareware version available for Windows 3.x has a 30-day free trial. Users may continue using the software by paying a registration fee of $35. Other versions are offered on a similar basis. 

Opera Software is a Norwegian company. Two Norwegian telecom engineers, Jon S. von Tetzchner and Geir Ivarsøy, developed a web browser in 1994. Although a shareware version for Windows was launched in 1996, the breakthrough came in December 2000 when Opera 5.0, the ad-sponsored version, was released. During that month, two million copies were downloaded worldwide. The company says there are now 3.5 million users worldwide with new users being added at the rate of 20,000 per day. 

Opera 5.12 and the other Opera versions can be downloaded at The site has a wealth of information and user tips. The Opera 5.X Book by J.S. Lyster (Copyright 2001 by No Starch Press, $29.95) contains detailed information on using Opera and includes a software CD of Opera versions and utilities.


The Greg Gore Web Site on Computers and the Internet (

This column was published in the Daily Local News, West Chester, PA on September 12, 2001. Greg Gore can be reached at

© 2009 by Greg Gore. All rights reserved.