PCWorld (USA)

10 innovative Opera features that lured me away from Chrome

Those mouse gestures truly rocked my world.

- BY ALAINA YEE

Chrome might be the most popular browser around, but it’s not the only one based on Chromium, Google’s opensource project. Rival browsers also rely on the same code.

That competitio­n often dangles unique features to tempt users into switching, but Opera ( fave.co/3ymz748) long ago caught my attention with the sheer number of goodies stuffed into its browser. In fact, I abandoned Chrome for years because of Opera. Flexibilit­y, efficiency, privacy—the creators of Opera seemed to know exactly what I wanted.

Even though I’ve since started using Chrome again, Opera still holds a powerful place in my heart. I still use it daily as part of my multi-browser habits, both on desktop and mobile. Why? Here are the top 10 reasons—and I left a few off the list to keep this article from spiraling out of control. (For other alternativ­es, check out our guides to killer Firefox [ fave.co/3xz10kt], Edge [ fave.

co/3tjidc2], and Vivaldi [ fave.co/3qrfw1b] features that might manage to lure you away from Chrome.)

1. MOUSE GESTURES

I actually squeaked in excitement when I first read about Opera’s mouse gestures ( fave. co/3v1oyqj). Like keyboard shortcuts, these enable faster navigation while browsing, but they’re even more seamless. You don’t have to take your hand off your mouse.

With just a click on the right mouse button and one or two small mouse movements, you can zip through the basics: Go back or forward one page, open a new tab, reload the page, close the current tab, open a link in a background tab, or open a link in a new window.

After I turned on the feature, it took only a short time to learn the gestures. If you have wrist issues or have trouble getting the gestures down, you can also enable Opera’s rocker gestures. These let you navigate back or forward one page by holding one mouse button and then clicking the other (right and then left button for back, left and then right button for forward). That’s even easier to learn and doesn’t require any wrist movement. Having so many options for navigation is a dream as someone with cranky hands and elbows—i usually mix rocker and mouse gestures with keyboard shortcut use.

2. BATTERY SAVER MODE

On a laptop, Opera can help prolong the amount of time you get out of a charge. Flip

this mode on and the browser will adjust its behavior—reduced activity in background tabs, changes to video playback settings, different scheduling of Javascript timers, the pausing of plug-ins and animations. Basically, Opera quietly reduces the resources it uses so it won’t gobble as much energy.

The result of using battery saver mode? Opera claims up to 35 percent more battery life. Your mileage will vary in actual use, since most people’s browsing habits aren’t exactly the same each day, but it does help.

3. SIDEBAR

Are you constantly messaging in Facebook Messenger, Whatsapp, or Telegram ( fave. co/3ofwhlh)? Or perhaps you often peek in on Instagram or Twitter? You can get quick access to these popular services via Opera’s sidebar. When active, a row of icons will appear on the left side of an Opera window. Click one to open a site in a window overlay.

In addition to staying up to date with your messages and social media feeds, you can also switch between workspaces (see below), peruse your personal news, hit up your most frequently visited sites, and scope out Opera settings. The list of options is preset, but you can tweak what appears. You can also resize overlay windows to your taste.

For me, being able to communicat­e over Whatsapp via a keyboard is the most useful part of the sidebar—messages are still run through encryption on a linked device, aka my phone. I’m also old enough to appreciate the news feed, which is an RSS reader baked right into Opera. (RIP, Google Reader [ fave. CO/3RREN3Z].)

4. UPGRADED TAB HOVER CARDS

Ever hover your cursor over a tab in Chrome? You’ll see what’s called a tab hover card: It lists the full title of the tab, along with the URL.

Opera has this feature too, as you might expect from a fellow Chromium browser.

Opera’s tab hover cards have a leg up on Chrome’s.

But it does Chrome one better—underneath the tab title and URL is a list of all other open tabs related to that same website. You can then click on items in that list to jump to that tab.

This addition to tab hover cards is extremely helpful whenever I, a person confident she’s clicking on the correct tab among her many squished options in the window, is absolutely wrong. (Turns out that was not my /r/aww tab [ fave.co/3avail9], but /r/ hardware [ fave.co/3s0fagz].) Instead of having to click around until I find the tab I wanted, or bring up the tab search feature, I can hop directly to my desired tab. It’s just one more way that Opera pours on extra navigation options to reduce life’s little hassles that much more. I’m a big fan.

5. AD BLOCKING

You can add a third-party ad blocker ( fave.co/3rnfnrv) to Opera, but you don’t need to. Opera bakes one right into its browser. This feature is available on both desktop and smartphone­s, but it’s particular­ly handy on mobile if you prefer a Chromiumst­yle browser and thus Firefox and its support for extensions won’t do, or if you’re wary of installing a third-party IOS ad-blocking app. It also simplifies remote technical support; no need to explain how to install and manage a third-party extension. With Opera, you just download the app and activate its ad blocker to keep the worst parts of the internet at bay.

6. WORKSPACES

Do you like to have different browser windows open, perhaps to better separate out tabs dedicated to work and personal tasks? But does having multiple windows open also result in a navigation­al headache? You might just love Opera’s Workspaces.

These operate similar to how virtual desktops work in macos and Windows. Each workspace holds whatever tabs were open while you were active in it, and you can bounce between workspaces quickly via Opera’s sidebar.

In truth, if it weren’t for this job, this feature would make switching to Opera very seamless. I live a multi-browser life partially to better keep my writing, research, and communicat­ion organized. (And then I use other browsers for social media and personal things.) Chrome may have profiles ( fave. co/3po7iew), but I don’t need to have complete separation between my bookmarks, history, and other settings—just my tabs. And Chrome’s tab groups ( fave. co/3yy2jtm) can still contribute to window clutter, though just not as intensely.

7. SPEED DIAL

It’s a small thing, but Opera’s start page can display links to the sites and extensions you most frequently hit up in a tidy grid format. It’s a design feature now found in other Chrome

rivals (hi, Firefox [ fave.co/3xz10kt]), and for good reason—you can immediatel­y get on with your daily routine. If something’s not on the auto-generated list, you can add a manual entry as well. I love this for the visual ease in navigating to an oft-visited site (for instance, Twitter), rather than having to find a link in my bookmarks bar.

8. AUTO-BLOCKING OF TRACKERS

Opera takes privacy and security seriously— and as part of that, it keeps websites from tracking your browsing activity across the web. As all tracking blockers warn, this feature can break websites or otherwise cause them to not function properly, but you can easily toggle the blocker on and off.

As with the other built-in privacy features, you can still use your own third-party app for the same purpose (like Ghostery [ fave. co/3rrfrov] or Privacy Badger [ fave.co/3ktjcwt]), but having this accessible from the moment you install the browser is simple and takes less work. I appreciate the time savings, since I don’t need to have an account for syncing extensions on new Opera installs. (I work with a lot of different computers over the course of a year.) It also results in less explaining when providing remote tech assistance. Just download, set up, and go.

9. NEWS READER

As I mentioned already, I still follow RSS feeds for sites to keep up breaking news and other developmen­ts within various topics. And

while it’s not perfect, Opera’s built-in feed reader helps me stay on top of a few select ones I particular­ly focus on.

It’s dead simple to use this RSS reader— you can choose from some suggestion­s, peruse Opera’s top 50 list, run a search for a site, or manually add a link. (Be sure to include the https:// part of the link, otherwise Opera won’t recognize it as valid.) On occasion, a feed won’t show thumbnail images for articles, but generally it works well.

10. BUILT-IN VPN

You’ve probably already heard of virtual private networks (VPNS) and how they shield your online activity from prying eyes. People sharing your connection can’t monitor the sites you visit and the informatio­n you share, which you want to especially ensure on public networks.

Usually the best option for a VPN is a paid service (see our top recommenda­tions, fave. co/3ftttms), but not everyone can afford a regular subscripti­on. Opera solves that issue by offering a built-in VPN that protects your browsing activity without requiring a separate app or extension. The service is 256-bit encrypted, with no bandwidth limitation­s, no logging, and worldwide servers. Not bad for a grand total sum of $0.

Of course, if you need to guard yourself while using apps outside Opera, its VPN doesn’t extend that far. You’ll need a good standalone free VPN ( fave.co/3ftttms) for that. But for any browsing, Opera’s solution is supremely convenient.

AND THERE’S STILL MORE…

Opera has other features that further boost its appeal, but perhaps not everyone will think them special enough to call out. They still matter, though. Reader Mode lets you transform busy, visually cluttered webpages into clean, legible sets of text and relevant images; Chrome extension support ( fave. co/3cw9qlx) means you’re not actually giving up anything by switching; and Opera is far less of a resource hog.

But if this list of awesome features still leaves you cold for whatever reason, there are still other alternativ­es to Chrome you should check out— maybe Firefox ( fave.co/3xz10kt),

Edge ( fave.co/3tjidc2), or Vivaldi ( fave.co/3qrfw1b) will float your boat instead.

 ?? ??
 ?? ?? Opera can actually help you stretch your device’s battery life.
Opera can actually help you stretch your device’s battery life.
 ?? ?? If you are literal about following directions like me, be aware of those that say to move in one direction and others that do not actually require a U-shape movement.
If you are literal about following directions like me, be aware of those that say to move in one direction and others that do not actually require a U-shape movement.
 ?? ?? I love not having to deal with autocorrec­t headaches when responding to Whatsapp messages.
I love not having to deal with autocorrec­t headaches when responding to Whatsapp messages.
 ?? ?? Toggling on the ad blocker is simple: It just takes two clicks.
Toggling on the ad blocker is simple: It just takes two clicks.
 ?? ??
 ?? ?? Primary on the left, and a fresh new workspace on the right. You switch between them by clicking on the buttons in the upper left of the Sidebar.
Primary on the left, and a fresh new workspace on the right. You switch between them by clicking on the buttons in the upper left of the Sidebar.
 ?? ?? Opera’s Speed Dial can contain many more links—this sample is on the sparse side.
Opera’s Speed Dial can contain many more links—this sample is on the sparse side.
 ?? ?? A sample setup for Opera’s Personal News (aka RSS reader).
A sample setup for Opera’s Personal News (aka RSS reader).
 ?? ?? When tracker blocking is active, you can manage it by clicking on the hexagon icon in the address bar.
When tracker blocking is active, you can manage it by clicking on the hexagon icon in the address bar.
 ?? ?? Of the free VPN options out there, Opera’s built-in option is a good starting point.
Of the free VPN options out there, Opera’s built-in option is a good starting point.

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