Why does Microsoft hate Opera?

Post ImageI just went to checkout the Silverlight website, and was presented with this message:

Your current browser does not support WPF/E (codename). Click here for more details on WPF/E-supported browsers and platforms.

I am using Opera of course. So I click through to the suggested link, and here’s what I find:

Silverlight media capabilities include fast, cost-effective delivery of high-quality audio and video to all major browsers including Firefox, Safari and Internet Explorer running on the Mac or on Windows.

What?!

According to these stats, Safari had 1.7% market share last month compared with Opera’s 1.6%. The numbers are a little lower at Wikipedia, but it’s not like Safari has ten times the market share.

I realize that Safari is the offical browser for the Mac, but I still think that Opera is being unfairly left out by Microsoft. And it’s not the first time – it took them a very long time to support Opera with ASP.NET Ajax.

Especially with Silverlight, I think Opera should be supported. It is widely used on mobile phones and other devices, like the Nintendo Wii.

Read: Silverlight

Opera 9.2 with Speed Dial released!

Post ImageI just installed the latest version of Opera on my desktop and tablet. Version 9.2 adds two major features: Speed Dial and Developer Tools. The full changelog is here (for Windows). Here’s what Opera says about Speed Dial:

Now you have a new way to access your favorite Web sites. Just open a new tab to get your Speed Dial. It’s easy to populate and addictive to use.

It’s actually quite neat (I pay attention to the dev builds so I knew it was coming). You can setup nine “speed dials” that can then be accessed either by clicking the corresponding thumbnail, or pressing CRTL and any of the numbers 1 through 9. It looks somewhat similar to IE7’s Quick Tabs feature, except that it displays websites you specify, not the tabs you currently have open.

The one change in 9.2 that I don’t like is that the Start Bar (the little bar that appears if you click on the address bar) has been disabled by default. To enable it, right click on the address bar and choose Customize, then simply click the “Start bar” checkbox.

You can download Opera here.

Read: Opera

10 Reasons To Love Opera (the browser)

Post ImageI love Opera, I really do. It’s an awesome web browser, and it’s a shame that it doesn’t have more market share (most stats put it around 1% or less). I could go on for days about the many different reasons that Opera rocks, but here are my favorite ten (in no particular order, based on the latest version, 9.1):

Paste and go (Screenshot)
This one really shows the attention to detail that the Opera team has. How many times have you copied a URL to the clipboard, only to go paste it in the address bar of your browser? Then you have to click go or press enter. With this handy feature, Opera saves you that second step. As the name suggests, you can paste and go all in one step!

Instant back and forward
I don’t think this is listed as an official feature, but it should be! In IE or Firefox, clicking back will usually take a few seconds for the previous page to reload – not so in Opera. As soon as you press back (or forward) the previous (or next) page is instantly there. Firefox is pretty good at this too, but Opera is quite simply superior.

Highlighted Text Context Menu (Screenshot)
As soon as you highlight some text in Opera, a context menu appears with a bunch of useful commands at the ready. Again, it saves that extra step of right clicking after you have highlighted text. It might sound inconsequential, but it makes a huge difference.

Top 10 Sites (Screenshot)
Everyone has a set of websites they regularly visit. Opera is smart enough to keep track of these sites, and gives the ten most visited sites a special and easy-to-access menu. It’s kind of like automatic favorites. Very handy.

Notes
After experiencing this feature, you’ll wonder how you ever got by without it. Ever keep notepad open while browsing so you can copy things you might need later? No need to do so with Opera! Highlight any text and you can then turn it into a note, or you can manually create a note with whatever text you want. Notes are associated with a website too, so you can quickly see your notes for a given page. Incredibly useful feature.

Better Tabbed Browsing
All modern browsers have tabbed browsing, but none of them do it as well as Opera does. For one thing, tabs are ordered (say you have three tabs, A, B, C. Click on A, then click on C, then close C. Opera goes back to A, the other browsers go to B). Again with the attention to detail, right click on any link and you have two options: open in a new tab (which brings it to the front) or open in a new background tab (which does not). Awesome.

Search Keywords & Create Search (Screenshot)
IE and Firefox handle search engines pretty well (with the search box I mean), but it’s pretty much up to the site developer to help the browsers recognize the search engine. Not so in Opera. Right click in any search box and choose “Create search…” and automagically you have a new entry in your search engines. You can also associate keywords with engines. So for dictionary.com, you might associate “d”. Then you can type “d word” in the address bar, and Opera will take you there.

Mouse Gestures
Of all my favorite features, this one takes the most getting used to. Essentially mouse gestures allow you to navigate or modify the window using only the mouse. Just another small feature that can save you a bunch of time.

Trash Can
Have you ever closed a tab, only to realize a few moments later that you still need it? In other browsers you have to try to get back to the page again. In Opera, just click on the Trash Can, and choose the tab you closed. So damn handy.

Site Preferences
This feature gives you the ability to modify preferences only for a given site. Want to turn off javascript just for one site? Opera lets you do it. Not a feature you’ll use daily, but it can definitely come in handy.

Like I said, I could go on! If you like what you see, you should definitely try Opera. It’s completely free, and there are no advertisements inside (much older versions had a banner). And if you’re afraid your favorite sites won’t load correctly, don’t worry. It’s increasingly rare to find a site that doesn’t work correctly in Opera. And actually, Opera is the only Acid2-compliant browser for Windows!

In fact, I have just one problem with Opera – my del.icio.us page loads incredibly slowly. I have no idea why, but I’d like to get it fixed. If you have any ideas, let me know!

UPDATE: It appears Opera simply doesn’t like my huge list of tags. I changed my del.icio.us preferences to display as a cloud, and only tags with at least 5 items, and now it loads very quickly!

Read: Opera

Firefox 2.0

Post ImageI had a chance to install the latest release of Firefox this morning, and I have to admit, it’s pretty sharp looking! The user interface and default theme have both been updated with a fresh, clean look. Here are my favorite new features:

  • The updated user interface of course!
  • The close button for tabs is now on the tab itself, like IE7 and Opera.
  • Session Restore – replaces one of my favorite extensions.
  • The new add-ons manager is easier to use than the old extensions box.
  • You can reorder tabs now!
  • It’s not really a feature, but so far it appears Firefox is using way less memory than it used to.

The obvious question when you install a new browser is – how does it compare to the other browsers? Well, Firefox 2 appears to be a good improvement over Firefox 1.5, that much is clear. Compared to IE7 and Opera 9? They are all so similar now, it is becoming increasingly difficult to say one is better than the other. The installer for Firefox is definitely the best, though I have read some reports of errors when trying to uninstall.

As I mentioned a while ago, I have switched back to IE7 as my main browser, but I’ve always got the three (don’t forget Opera!) installed. If you’re a Firefox user, you should definitely upgrade to 2.0!

Bet you didn’t know: the IE Team at Microsoft sent Firefox guys a cake to celebrate their launch!

Read: Firefox

Internet Explorer 7

Post ImageLate yesterday afternoon, Microsoft released the final version of Internet Explorer 7 for Windows XP. I have updated my desktop and tablet, so I am now running the latest and greatest of the IE family. And I really do like IE7, I think it’s a great browser. Today the IE team announced that starting November 1st, IE7 will be rolled out via auomatic updates:

Of course we want to make sure you are ready to upgrade, so AU will notify you when IE7 is ready to install by presenting a welcome screen. You can choose whether or not to install it; IE7 will not install without your consent.

I also want to remind you that IE7 setup will preserve your current toolbars, home page, search settings, and favorites and will not change your choice of default browser. You will also be able to roll back to IE6 by using Add/Remove Programs. Only a user who is a local administrator will be offered the update.

Not everyone wants the update of course (mainly because it may break proprietary applications inside a company) so Microsoft has a free Blocker Toolkit which organizations can use to block the automatic update. This is a good strategy – companies that really want to block IE7 will use the tool, and those that don’t won’t bother with the toolkit and they’ll be much safer as a result of having a better browser installed.

As much as I like IE7, there are definitely some areas that Microsoft needs to work on (and apparently they have already begun work on IE8):

  • The setup experience needs work. It takes too long and requires two restarts (if you have old versions of IE7 installed, not sure about IE6 users which may require only one). The goal should be to have a setup similar to Firefox or Opera – short and sweet, no restarts required.
  • It may not be as bad as Firefox, but IE7 is still a memory hog. And I think the Firefox team have done some work on this in the 2.0 version, so Microsoft needs to keep up and make IE7 less resource-hungry.
  • There’s just no comparison between IE7 and earlier versions when it comes to standards support, but there’s still room for improvement.
  • It would be great to see something in the way of extensions, a la Firefox. The search builder in Opera is cool too.
  • Inline search! Dammit, I really hate that IE7 still has that archaic find box.

All of that side, I wouldn’t wait for the automatic updates if I were you – download IE7 from Microsoft now!

Read: IE Blog

Internet Explorer 7 RC1

Post ImageInternet Explorer 7 Release Candidate 1 was released today by Microsoft. This is supposed to be the last test release before the final version of IE7 is made public, though more release candidates could be added depending on the feedback Microsoft recieves. I hope someone from Microsoft reads this post.

I just installed the browser, and had nothing but problems. Compared to beta 3, the installation for RC1 was a total nightmare. I downloaded the setup, closed all my programs (knowing I’d have to restart), and launched the setup. It did its thing for a while, then said I needed to restart, so I did. Upon restarting, Windows XP did something in the DOS-like blue window before the login screen, then booted normally. Right after logging in, the setup opened again (which required me to click Yes on the security box because the file came from the Internet). Almost immediately, svchost and the Generic Process Service crashed. I had to kill the setup as it was then stalled (no CPU activity whatsoever), and launch it again. After a second restart, the browser was installed properly.

After the first restart, when the processes crashed, my audio didn’t load (I only noticed because Skype popped up an error message). That was fine after the second restart. Worse though, is that something happened to my external hard drive. Maybe it was just a coincidence that it happened at the same time as the install, maybe not, but Windows thinks the drive needs to be formatted. I am currently running chkdsk on it now, and it’s found a bunch of unreadable segments. I can’t imagine that the IE setup would have touched the drive, but you never know. I didn’t have anything on the drive that I couldn’t afford to lose, but still, it’s very annoying. I’m hoping chkdsk will fix it (it’s fixed a ton of errors so far it appears…and as I type this, I see that chkdsk just encountered an unspecified error…so much for fixing it…).

Other than that, I really like IE7. It does a great job of rendering CSS and the other standards (in my opinion) and RC1 feels much faster at loading pages than beta 3. Perhaps my only complaint right now is the find feature (CRTL-F). Why doesn’t IE7 have the inline search that Firefox and Opera have? That stupid, useless little find box feels so 1996.

Overall though, I quite like IE7.

UPDATE: I ran chkdsk one more time, just for kicks, and it seems to have fixed everything! As I said I didn’t need anything on the drive, but there were a few things I wouldn’t have minded keeping. I am now copying them to network storage, just in case the drive dies again.

Opera plans for version 10

Post ImageJust weeks after officially launching Opera 9, the browser software company has already started sharing plans for the next version. Aside from the usual “we want to take market share from Internet Explorer”, one idea caught my eye:

There is also a big push in the company toward creating developer tools.

“We will be unleashing developer tools, which are still in the planning stages,” Ford said. “We want developers to use Opera as a Web development platform, using open standards. We need to keep the Web ready for open standards.”

I have been using Opera 9 as my primary browser on my tablet for about two weeks now. I find it very fast, and much easier on the memory than either Firefox or IE7. I have also been using Opera 9 on my desktop when developing websites, so any extra tools for web development would much appreciated! Opera is a great browser for testing websites, because if it works in Opera, it’ll likely work elsewhere too.

I would suggest giving Opera a try, just to see what else is out there. The only thing I still can’t get used to is clicking on the address bar to get to the Home button.

Read: CNET News.com

Immortalized in Firefox 2

Post ImageAs you might have heard, Firefox recently released a beta of the next version of their browser, code-named Bon Echo. Interestingly enough, they have also announced a program that would let you get your name right in the source code:

To commemorate the three-year anniversary of the creation of the Mozilla Foundation on July 15, the open-source group announced that if a Firefox user persuades a friend to download the browser, both the user and the friend’s names will be added to the source code of the next version of the browser, Firefox 2.0.

It’s an interesting marketing experiment, I’ll give them that much. Read that article, and then read Jeremy Wright’s post titled Firefox Copying IE. What Jeremy has to say is dead on, Firefox 2 probably isn’t worthy of a complete 2.0 release. I’ve been critical of Firefox on this blog and elsewhere recently, and this only adds to my feelings. Perhaps the Firefox team should be focusing on creating an incredible next version rather than one full of people’s names.

Read: CNET News.com

Internet Explorer 7 Beta 3 Released

Post ImageMicrosoft today released Beta 3 of Internet Explorer 7. The main changes are around the user interface, though there are also improvements to tabs, RSS feeds, and security. You’ll have to uninstall any previous versions of IE7 before installing the new beta. According to IE General Manager Dean Hachamovitch, this is the last beta version, meaning we’ll see only release candidates until IE7 goes gold.

There’s a great overview of the interface changes up at the IE Blog. The stop, refresh, and search buttons have all been lightened, which is good as they don’t clash as much now. There’s horizontal lines separating the links toolbar from the rest now too! I don’t remember if Beta 2 had it, but when you type a URL in the address bar, the refresh button changes to become a “Go” button with an arrow. They have finally made the awkward image zooming from IE6 much easier to use as well.

And my favorite change? You can now drag and drop tabs to reorder them! I wish Firefox had this feature too, it’s so useful when you’ve got a lot of tabs open at once. IE7 isn’t the first to have this feature though, Opera 9 has tab reordering as well.

Read: Internet Explorer 7 Beta 3

Browser Extensions

Post ImageAs I mentioned before, I have been testing Internet Explorer 7 Beta 2. As part of my testing, I have been using it almost exclusively. Turns out, some pages simply do not render in IE7! Sometimes this is because the rendering engine has changed so much, other times its because of crappy programming on the part of the web developer. In any case, I found that I needed to load these pages in Firefox (sounds eerily familiar to when I started using Firefox way back when and had to view pages in IE).

I have had the IEView extension for Firefox installed forever – it lets you right click on a page or link and display it in Internet Explorer. Today I came across FirefoxView, which as the name suggests, lets you right click a page or link in IE to display in Firefox. I love it! The only strange thing? It’s a Firefox extension that adds things to IE – go figure!

I am starting to think my friend Kevin was right. We chatted last week about the two browsers and he remarked that unless IE had extensions like Firefox, there was no reason for him to switch. I have to admit, I wish IE had extensions like Firefox.