Opera has always been packed with features, but it has yet to garner the same kind of publicity that Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Chrome enjoy. And that's a shame, because version 10 of the venerable Web browser adds a slew of clever features that anyone who surfs the Web will welcome.
Like previous versions, Opera 10 is fast, configurable, and clean-looking, and it offers just about everything you'd expect in a modern browser, including a pop-up blocker, plug-ins, an RSS reader, and an antiphishing tool. Unlike competing browsers, it also has a surprisingly good built-in e-mail client, with support for POP3 and IMAP servers, the ability to create incoming message rules, and a spam filter. And, once again in this version, Opera bristles with features too numerous to mention in this short review, yet it packs them all into an elegant, simple-to-use interface.
The new features don't clutter up the browser or make it more difficult to use. Overall, Opera 10 is sleeker-looking than previous versions. But Opera's added beauty is more than skin-deep. Tab handling, for example, has improved, in that you can now configure the browser so that thumbnails of all of your tabs appear above each tab; the thumbnails are resizable as well.
Another worthy addition is the new Speed Dial feature (pictured above). Speed Dial improves on Safari 4's similar Top Sites feature by virtue of being more configurable. You can customize the page that appears whenever you open a new tab in Opera so that anywhere from 4 to 24 of your favorite Web sites display as thumbnails. That way, you can more quickly get to the sites you visit most often, with a simple click on a thumbnail. The feature is turned on by default, and the settings seem to offer no way to turn it off - not that you'd want to, though, because it has no downside.
Opera has always displayed pages quickly, and the newest version is even speedier, particularly on interactive sites that use a lot of resources, such as Facebook and Gmail. Opera claims a 40 percent increase in speed, but we couldn't verify that.
Among other new features are an inline spelling checker (which will be particularly welcome to bloggers) and Opera Turbo, a compression technology that Opera says will allow you to surf faster on slow connections, such as via dial-up. As a broadband user, I was not able to test this feature, so I can't vouch for it.
Surprisingly, given how many features Opera has, it still lacks one feature that IE, Firefox, and Chrome all have: a privacy mode that makes all traces of your Web-surfing session vanish after you close the browser. If such a feature is important to you, Opera isn't the best choice.
Should you replace your current browser with Opera? Which browser you use is a personal decision, so we can't give a one-size-fits-all answer. But anyone who has ever wished that their browser were faster and more feature-packed will certainly want to give Opera 10 a try.