A Look at Opera 9.5

Up until about a year ago, Opera was my browser of choice. It was small, fast, and had a number of features not found in other browsers. I especially liked its ability to turn images on and off on a page, easy text and image zooming, and comprehensive keyboard shortcuts. Unfortunately, an increasing number of web sites stopped displaying correctly in Opera.

For those compatibility reasons, I eventually made the switch to Firefox (although I did add some of the Opera specific features using plugins). Firefox is an excellent browser, but small and fast aren’t adjectives often used to describe it. With the release of Opera 9.5, I decided to give Opera another look. Opera 9.5 features a new look and a new rendering engine. Every web site I have tried has rendered perfectly, even some e-commerce sites that confounded earlier versions. The user interface feels very responsive, and web pages scroll very smoothly.

One area in which Opera has always excelled is keyboard shortcuts. You can do just about anything in Opera using only the keyboard. The new version improves on the old behavior by more clearly highlighting elements when you select them with the keyboard. One minor difference is that Opera 9.5 disables single key shortcuts by default. If you prefer the old behavior, you can re-enable the single key shortcuts using the preferences menu.

Opera 9.5 also includes an alpha version of Opera Dragonfly, a very promising web development tool. It has similarities to Firebug or the Web Inspector included in Safari, but could potentially become more powerful than either one. I especially like the command line feature, which allows you to execute JavaScript commands interactively. The current version of Dragonfly is alpha, meaning that there are missing features and rough edges. One weakness is no clear way to exit Dragonfly once you have activated it. The less than obvious solution is to use CTRL+F4 when the Dragonfly window is in focus.

I am quite impressed by Opera 9.5, and Opera has once again become my default browser. Opera 9.5 is available as a free download for Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, FreeBSD, and Solaris.

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