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Opera 10.63: An Old Workhorse Gets an Update

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Opera Software released version 10.63 of their flagship browser on Tuesday, with another round of tweaks, enhancements and bug fixes. Being a consummate Opera fan, I wasted no time checking it out  in both OS 10.6 Snow Leopard (s aapl) and on my old G4 Pismo PowerBook running OS 10.4 Tiger.

I’m happy to report that it seems livelier and more stable than the version 10.62 release, which was already very good. Since the upgrade conveniently runs in the background and allows you to keep doing other things, even surfing, it makes the process easy and painless.

What Opera Offers That Others Don’t

Opera Turbo

Opera offers some unique features, such as Opera Turbo, which uses Opera’s servers and proprietary compression technology to compress webpages, boosting your browsing speed on crowded Wi-Fi hotspots, tethered mobile phones or even dial-up, letting you browse up to 2x faster than its competitors when connected at slower speeds.

Encrypted traffic remains that way around the compression servers, so when you’re on a secure Web site, such as your bank’s, you’re still secure and communicating directly. Turbo can be instantly toggled on and off using a button on the interface window margin, or you can set up Opera Turbo to be enabled automatically when a slow network connection is detected.

Mouse Gestures

Another unique feature of Opera — mouse gestures —  lets you perform common browsing actions with small, quick mouse movements. Gestures can be stacked to perform more complex actions. You can enable or disable mouse gestures in the Opera preferences. There’s even a tutorial to get you started.

Opera Unite

Opera Unite turns your computer into a web server. With Unite, you can share content directly with friends without having to upload anything, stream music, show photo galleries, share files and folders, or even host your own website directly from the browser. It’s a great feature that other browsers don’t really come close to offering, at least not in an all-in-one package.

The Little Things

Opera has a raft of small touches that keep me coming back to it as my most-used browser, such as a very convenient Zoom menu on the interface window that lets you infinitely magnify page content using a slider control to read websites with small text easily, or get an bird’s-eye view of an entire site. Unlike some other browsers, Opera’s zoom resizes all elements of the page, not just the text. You can also toggle images on and off from this menu to improve readability and speed up page loads.

With Opera, you can also search in the address field. Opera uses several keywords to provide quick access to several popular and useful search engines. You can also add any search engine.

Opera’s Closed Tabs button, also on the user interface window, provides a pull-down list of recently closed tabs, so you can easily return to where you left off. Finally, in case you’re concerned about speed, Opera is also very fast, in the same league as the latest versions of Safari, Firefox, and Google’s Chrome (s goog) browser.

Good for Those Who Appreciate a Fine Vintage

Opera is evidently an acquired taste, with about four percent of global browser market share outside North America, and around 2.4 percent overall, which puts it in fifth place behind Internet Explorer (s msft), Firefox, Chrome, and Safari. But it’s also one of the dwindling crop of current browsers that still support older Power PC Macs and OS 10.4, although the Opera folks tell me that version 10.6x will be the last with Tiger support, alas. All the more reason to enjoy it while it lasts.

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