CNET Editors' review
The bottom line: Extensions, competitive page-load times, solid features, and good support for "future Web" technologies make Opera 12 an excellent browser, but it's treading water where it used to lead.
The second-oldest browser currently in use, Opera debuted way back in 1994 and continues to attract attention. Its feature-phone version claims more than 160 million users worldwide. While desktop Opera isn't quite as heavily used, it has developed a reputation as a leader on feature development, and can hold its own against the big four.
Opera covers the basics with tabbed browsing, mouse-over previews, a customizable search bar, advanced bookmarking tools, and simple integration with e-mail and chat clients. Mouse-gesture support, keyboard shortcuts, and drag-and-drop functionality round out the essentials.
Opera 12 warbles a high note
Installing Opera is a fast and short process, taking less than 2 minutes. Many of Opera's built-in features require creating a MyOpera account, but the browser will only prompt you to do so when you use them for the first time -- it's not required to browse.
Tap the Options button on the first install screen to reveal configuration tweaks. Besides changing the browser's default language and install path, you can also install for just the currently signed-on user, or choose to install Opera directly to an external device. It's a great, simple way to create a portable version of Opera for a USB key.
Opera's interface keeps the same look that debuted in Opera 11, with a condensed menu button in the upper left corner, tabs on top, and a translucent status bar on the bottom that hosts buttons to reveal Opera's Panels, and to activate Link and Turbo. The bottom right corner of the status bar sports a dedicated zoom slider.
The navigation bar and its associated buttons and extension icons are a uniform height, keeping the browser's chrome, its interface, to a minimum. It's a polished look, and one that most browsers offer today. The search box, located in its default space to the right of the location bar, can be removed. That and further interface customizations can be made by right-clicking on the navigation bar and selecting customize.
The influence of the radical interface changes that Google Chrome introduced in 2008 can be seen here, from tabs on top to the extension icons, yet Opera's personality does still come through enough to have a different vibe and feel from Chrome. A red Opera "O" logo button in the upper left corner reveals options and menus, while a wrench icon on the New Tab page allows you to customize Opera's forward-thinking Speed Dial.
Features and support
The five major browsers have been liberally borrowing features and innovations from each other for years, yet Opera has developed a reputation for showcasing some of the more interesting browser developments first. That's fallen off a bit in version 12, which showcases more catching up than trailblazing leadership.
Quirky features such as Widgets, Unite, and Voice have been killed off, which means that there's less bloat in the browser. But no doubt that those executions were performed also because of a lack of user interest.
Opera 12's hardware acceleration, which is when the browser uses the graphics processor to render animations faster and more smoothly, is still a work-in-progress. It's in the browser, but you must manually activate it for now.
This isn't to say that Opera can't compare, because it holds up well. It's just not quite as innovative in this version as in the past. You still get tab stacks, a way to group tabs and cut down on tab clutter; tab pinning; and Opera Link for syncing Bookmarks, Speed Dial, Notes, and passwords to other instances of Opera, including Opera Mobile and Opera Mini. Sadly, there's still no tab sync in Opera.
There's Growl and multitouch trackpad support on Macs, support for some HTML5 including next-generation video and audio codec WebM, geolocation compatibility, Web Workers, App Cache, and Web fonts. The Web Open Font Format (WOFF), which Opera co-sponsored, hasn't yet been added, although Opera expects it will be soon. And Opera 12 has added HTML5 support for controlling local media hardware, such as Webcams, from Web sites.
One of Opera's lesser-known features is its integrated mail client. It's a reasonable alternative to Outlook, offering many similar features. It can handle importing mailbox files from Outlook Express, Thunderbird, Netscape, and Eudora, supports POP3 and IMAP, and quickly synced with Gmail when we added our account.
There are other features in Opera, including tab previews, newsgroups support, a built-in session manager, and a fantastic array of customizations that rival Firefox. Of all the browsers out there, Opera ships with a massive feature set and is an excellent choice for users who want something fast and robust but just a bit old-school right out of the box. However, aside from the integrated mail support, much of what Opera offers can now be found elsewhere.
Full benchmarks will be added here as they are completed, but preliminary results indicate that Opera 12's page-load times remain comparable to its competitors on publicly available benchmark tests. Short version: It's an extremely fast browser. And although rumors persist about Web site incompatibility, we've yet to encounter any major site that Opera had problems with.
Opera is in firm grip of the fifth-place slot in the race to be the world's most-used browser. It doesn't have the backing of a major corporation like Apple's Safari, Google's Chrome, or Microsoft's Internet Explorer, and it lacks the massive, open developer's community of Mozilla's Firefox. What it does have are a fantastic combination of speed and built-in services, and a mobile base that's enormous.
What's missing is a compelling argument for adoption beyond a dislike of the other four. As much as we enjoy our time using Opera, it doesn't surpass the competition -- it only matches it.New Opera blazes onto Mac:
From Opera Software:
Opera is a free and innovative web browser which allows you to experience the web on your terms. Discover what over 40 million people have already experienced by downloading Opera's fast and safe Internet browsers. Opera 12 combines elegant design, smart updates to some of our most popular features and new ways to customize Opera to your preferences.
What's new in this version: General and User Interface
- Fixed an issue where the search bar's default engine could be overridden by third-party apps.
- Fixed a moderately severe issue, as reported by Attila Suszter; details will be disclosed at a later date.
- Added safeguards against attacks on the RC4 encryption protocol; see our advisory.
- Fixed an issue where cookies could be set for a top-level domain; see our advisory.
More Products to Consider
- Web browser with Mozilla's rendering engine.
- Surf the Web, block pop-ups, and keep spyware at bay with a lea...
- Browse the web with minimalism.
- Explore the web using Google's super-fast browser.
- View Flash content in your Web browser.
- Browse the web comfortably.
- Download a new, fast browser.
- Connect with friends, preview search results, and get website u...
- Rich media content plugin for the web.
- Beta channel of Google's web browser.
- Get a copy of your favorite websites and browse them offline.
- Get access various kid-friendly Web sites, pictures, and videos...
- Access Facebook without a web browser.
- Update Mac OS 8 for better performance.
- Combine powerful browsing with media downloading and sharing.
- Get to your favorite Web sites quickly using this free-standing...
- Get the latest version of this comprehensive set of Internet to...
- Web browser.
- Get the most out of social networking and the Web in this brows...
- Watch Web television with over 1500 channels in different langu...
- Protect your privacy by blocking online tracking.
- Collect and view Webcam images from around the world with this ...
- Block ad elements in Safari.
- Fast Tetris-like game.
All versions:3.4 stars
out of 132 votes
Current version:0 stars Be the first to review this product
My rating:Write review
"Should be #2 in browsers"
Version: Opera 12.14
Does everything other browsers do, BUT better.
Unfortunately it is not recognized by many app downloaders
If it was accepted more it would give Chrome/Firefox a run for the money. A great browser.
"not displaying web pages"
Version: Opera 12.00
none, I've tried 3 different versions over the years
like other reviewers I can't get web pages to display correctly so renders it useless.
This has happened for the past 3 years...........not good enough
try SWR iron
Chrome + security!
Version: Opera 11.61
"It doesn't display the web pages correctly."
Version: Opera 11.61
Nothing I can think of.
It doesn't display the web pages correctly. For sample in my.yahoo.com. And a sign up page for Yahoo is not displaying correctly either. Something missing?? Flash??
"Deal-breaking flaw: no 1Password support"
Version: Opera 11.61
Great browser, ....
.... but the 1Password extension is indispensable, so the lack of it in Opera is a deal-breaker. Since Opera does use extensions, perhaps they'd make this possible some day, when I'd love to use it. In the meantime, Safari, Chrome, and Firefox are all pretty good, too.
""THE" Mac browser"
Version: Opera 11.60
Easy account set up
Sign up for free email and file hosting
...and lots more
Firefox grabs all the glory.
Pretty much it's the perfect browser
"Opera 11.52 won't install..."
Version: Opera 11.52
I like Opera as a browser, but...
11.52 will not install and run on my Powerbook (power PC) running OSX 10.5.8. I had to restore version 10.63 in order to get it to run.
I won't attempt to download it again until I can be assured that it will install and run on Power PC with OSX 10.5.8. Otherwise it's a big waste of time. I'm sure it's fine on an Intel Mac.
"A decent browser - works well most of the time"
Version: Opera 11.52
Lots of things to like - frequently updated
Has all the bells and whistles you need, but mainly, it is just a stable and easy to use browser.
Nothing comes to mind
Not the best software I have ever used. But it does what it is supposed to do without muss and fuss.
"Very good secondary browser."
Version: Opera 11.51
Easy to use & web pages load fast.
Glad I downloaded it, its so easy to save web pages just like I want them without the extra web crap.
"I just got 44 emails from cnet to review *. WHY???????"
Version: Opera 11.50
none - Do you think everyone has to find some "pros"???
Too many emails!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I'm going to delete the program.