I just spent my evening at the Opera. Not the fat lady sings kind of opera, more of a browser with wings kind of thing that just happens to go by the name Opera. And I am really impressed (even though I'm tone deaf and can't tell a libretti from a Lambretta).
I have checked out the Opera browser several times in the past and each time was impressed at the way successive versions added new features, often ahead of IE (not hard to do) and Firefox (quite a bit harder but Opera has been doing it). However, I did not feel compelled to make it my default browser. When Google Chrome came along, seemingly faster than Firefox and with good stability, I made it my default browser. The recent emergence of the Mac version of Chrome into beta meant I could run it on both of my work boxes (one a PC, the other a Mac--yes, when it comes to tech--I go both ways).
But the latest Opera, version 10.10, has really impressed me and may become my new default. I was particularly interested in a combination of three capabilities that might be unique to me, but could make a difference to many other users.
First capability: An integrated email application that can read Eudora files. (For the younger generation, Eudora was a very popular email application last century and I still use it today because it's reliable and easily searchable. Unfortunately, the makers of Eudora abandoned it many years ago and it's starting to show its age.) I've been looking for a Eudora replacement and Opera might be it. I had been reluctant to give up Eudora's trusty filter/folder system of message management but Opera replicates it while using a more flexible system of "views."
Second, there is a Turbo feature that speeds up browsing on slow connections. Regular readers of this blog will know that my home office connection to the Internet is via satellite, specifically HughesNet, which can be very slow at times. Tada! Opera Turbo helps me cope with that.
Third, regular readers of this blog know that HughesNet makes it hard to access my own blog. (Something so weird I made a video about it.) But guess what, Opera sees my blog even when Firefox and Safari and Chrome and IE7/8 do not! Yes, it sounds crazy, but it is verifiable (a video of this phenomenon in action is coming). So there is no other way to put it: Opera works when the others don't. (And no prizes for figuring out with which browser I am writing this.)
There's a bunch more cool stuff in Opera 10.10 that I have not fully explored yet, including file and photo sharing and audio streaming (the audio thing was the source of the "worth a listen pun" in the blog post title). Even though Opera does not have a large share of the notebook and desktop browser market, the company is clearly pushing ahead with innovations and picking up enthusiastic users in the process. The company is also well established in the mobile and embedded browser market (check out the browser in your Nintendo Wii).
Over the next week or so I will be checking out more features and, if this whole HughesNet workaround capability pans out, I will be posting my impressions here.