Monday, December 25, 2006

Getting Started with Opera 9.10 (Part I)

Getting Started with Opera 9.10

Earlier this month, Opera Inc. released Opera 9.10 web browser. Though Internet Explorer 7 and Firefox 2.0 get all the publicity, Opera should not be overlooked. Many of the features in both IE and Firefox have long been available in Opera.

If you are new to Opera, here are some tips to get you started. Start Opera. You will be redirected to Opera’s homepage – you can change it easily. On the menu bar, go to Tools > Preference. A new window will appear with several tabs. Let’s start with the “General” Tab

General Tab: Controls for the home page, pop-up controls and language

  1. By default, when Opera starts, it will load the webpage(s) from the last session. There are several options. I recommend starting with the home page. The other choices are self explanatory.
  2. By default, the home page is set to Opera’s website. You can change it to what ever page you want. Or, you can simply click [Use current] and Opera will save the current webpage(s). Important, if you have multiple webpages when you click [Use current] then the homepage will include all webpages opened not only the first webpage.
  3. Under pop-ups, select “Block all unwanted pop-ups.” I find the latter to be the best fit, blocking most pop-ups with the lowest false positive rate (i.e. genuine objects on a webpage incorrectly flagged as pop-ups).
  4. Under language, the default value is English (US). Opera supports several other languages, change it accordingly.

Wand Tab: Opera's password manager and auto form filler

  1. Wand is Opera’s password manager and auto form filler. Check “Let Wand remember passwords.” Afterwards, to see all saved passwords click [Passwords].
  2. The auto form filler is optional. Opera’s form filler works much like Google toolbar’s auto form filler. It is quite accurate.

Search Tab: Quick search controls

  1. In Opera, you can associate keywords to search engines and run queries from the address bar. This is the same feature found in both Firefox 2.0.x and Internet Explorer 7. For example, the keyword for the Google search engine is “g.” So, if you enter “g firefox” (without the quotation marks) in to the address bar then Opera will run a search for the term “firefox” using Google search engine. Opera, by default, already has several keywords associated with various search engines. You can add, edit and delete any keyword(s).
  2. Let’s exam a keyword more closely. Select “Google” by left clicking on it once. Click [Edit]. Under name, is the name of the keyword and search engine association (i.e. Google). Under keyword, is the word you need to enter, on to the address bar, to start the search (i.e. “g”). Click [Details]. 2 more entries should appear. Under Address, you should see the string
  3. To create a new keyword association, click [Add]. I will discuss this particular feature in a later post.

Web pages Tab: Define Opera's layout and appearance

  1. By default, Opera will show al web images; however, there are 2 other options. To speed up the rendering of a webpage, you can select either to show only "cached images" or "show no images." Initially, I select show all images. However, after surfing the Internet for awhile, enough images are saved to Opera's cache that I can switch to show only "cached images." Of course, this isn't feasible if you view webpages where the images are updated frequently. Those who use a dial up connection will notice a mark increase in speed; however, those with broadband connections will not.
  2. Opera's page zoom feature is superior to both Internet Explorer 7 and Firefox In particular, Opera can format a webpage to fit the width of the web browser - no more horizontal scrolling. By default, the page zoom is set to 100% and the "fit to width" is unchecked. I recommend keeping the default settings. However, if you want to automatically format a webpage to fit the width then check the box.
  3. The settings for fonts and color are self-explanatory. Unless you have a pressing desire to use a particular font or color, keep the default settings.

Advance Tab:

  1. Tabs: Check "Open new tab next to active."
  2. Content: Uncheck "Enable Java" for speedier webpage rendering.
  3. History: (1) By default, Opera will save the 500 most recent web addresses; however, decreasing it to "100" will improve performance. (2) Unlike Firefox and, to a smaller extent, Internet Explorer 7, Opera does not suffer from a memory leak. You can increase the memory cache (the amount of RAM used by Opera) to "40 MB" or even "60 MB" for improve performance. In addition, in cache the disk cache to "50 MB." For privacy, you can have Opera clear the cache when exiting the program. (3) Opera will periodically update the documents and images of webpages. By increasing the time interval, you can improve performance but also run the risk of outdated content. For a good balance, I set the time interval to check documents to "10 hours" and check images to "24 hours." This setting is optimized for dial up users but those with broadband connections should just keep the default settings.
  4. Cookies: Select "Accept only cookies from the site I visit." This will block cookies from third parties, such as doubleclick and hitcounter. I recommend keeping the other default settings.
  5. Security: (1) For maximum security, set a master password. Click [Set master password] > under "new password", enter a password > enter it again in "confirm new password" > [O.K.]. You can change the master password at anytime from this window. (2) Under "Ask for password," select "Once per session." Prompting for a password more frequently is just annoying. (3) Check "Use as master password for e-mail and wand." (4) Check "Enable Fraud Protection" for protection from phishing scams. Important, with this feature turned on, the browser will connect to Opera's web servers to check the web address before actually loading the webpage. Opera's privacy statement clearly states it does not keep any personal information; however, if you see this as a privacy risk then you can choose not to use it. With this feature enabled, there is a marginal increase in the time it takes to load a webpage.
  6. Network: (1) If you use a proxy to connect to the Internet, click [Proxy servers] and enter your proxy settings. (2) Click [Server name completion]. To improve performance, you can disable prefix and suffix completion. Nowadays, there is very little use for the completion feature. (3) By default, the "maximum number of connections to a server" and "maximum total connections" is set to "8" and "20", respectively. The default settings are fine for dial up connections. However, if you are using a broadband connection, you can increase the values. I tend to keep the default value for maximum connections to a server but I increase the maximum total connections to "32" for improve performance. I don't recommend going higher than this value.
  7. Shortcuts: Check "Enable mouse gestures."
  8. Voice: Perhaps the most unique feature of Opera. Voice allows users to surf the web via voice command. This requires a separate download and you will need a headset with a microphone for best performance. I have never used the feature myself.


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