Review: Opera 4 beta 5 for Linux

Date: 2001.01.08

Home site:
Test system: AMD K6 2 running Redhat 6-ish. X11R6. Modem: 33.6 kbps.

Opera is a lesser-known web-browser, available for various platforms.

I took the statically linked RPM for simplicity, but it's 2.27 megs. The dynamically linked version is of course, smaller -- around 1.2 megs. The difference? Dynamic linking requires you to already have the Qt 2.2 library.

It's simple enough to install the RPM -- there's nothing to do but ``rpm -i opera*''. Run it from the command line with `opera'. The license agreement, which pops up right after the rpm installation, gives a 30 day evaluation period, after which the software must be bought and registered.

Running Opera results in a standard browser window, with three panes: bookmarks (useful ones) on the left, and a browse window on the right. Tooltips don't seem to be in evidence, making the default behaviour of buttons without text difficult. A lot of desk space is taken up by various toolbars and status bars, which can be turned off if required.

The Preferences option is, for some reason, under File instead of Edit. There is some indication of customizable buttons -- buttons.ini was found lurking in an appropriate directory. The Preferences pop up a new window with a twisted maze of sections, all different.

One noticed an ability to save a page, as well as page plus images on the page. Useful, that.

The zoom can be adjusted anywhere between 30% and 1000%, though one does not recommend zooming beyond 300% for performance reasons.

Multiple child windows are available with quick-change buttons. Supports frames, which can be turned off. This'll help developers view their site in a non-frames capable browser. Also good for those who hate frames.

It is Javascript and PNG capable, although it seems selective about it. Some Javascript didn't work.

Can have a user interface based on Windows, CDE, Motif, SGI, and others. Makes it quite simple to use. It doesn't stay put, though. Fonts and font sizes are customizable.

Good download capability, shows enough information to be useful but not too much, so doesn't overwhelm the novice user.

Appears to have a quick startup and a small memory footprint -- always good.

It seems reluctant to display partial documents. URL completion works, though. Opera appears to support all the usual HTTP stuff including access restrictions -- HTTP user/pass authentication works well, for example.

For some reason, the http://localhost/ address was unavailable, though lynx and Netscape could see it easily enough. Opera seems to have trouble with localhost -- ftp was unavailable, as well. Maybe it's in the DNS code, as the IP had no problem.

The help system is not yet implemented. It's not really necessary, but one would like to have some help at certain points. For example, how does one add plugins? Say, for Java and Flash? The Enable Java option is itself disabled.

The registration fee is another put-off for Linux users used to freebies.

The download manager could use some work -- support for resumes and aborting downloads in progress.

Why is the "Set as home page" option a menu item instead of being in preferences? The menu system needs some work.

There doesn't appear to be a way to change key bindings -- this is important to Linux power lusers. For that matter, where is the list of key bindings?

Screen update seems a bit jerky, but that could be an X or window manager artifact.


Don't be put off by the negatives, remember this is a beta release.

Very good browser. Slightly quirky, but they all are. I'd give it a 4 out of 5. I'd also use a stable version regularly, make it my default browser.

Copyright © Satya 2001. All Rights Reserved.

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