Opera Software Opera 9.5

Opera gets even faster

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Opera Software Opera 9.5
  • Expert Rating

    4.50 / 5

Pros

  • Fast, lightweight, Fraud Protection, Opera Link, Speed Dial

Cons

  • Opera Link limited to bookmarks

Bottom Line

If you want one of the fastest, safest, convenience-loaded browsers available, go for Opera. For speed and improved security alone, Opera 9.5 is a worthy upgrade.

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The core improvements in Opera 9.5 are more technical than cosmetic.

At 6.8 MB, Opera 9.5's install file is about twice as fat as the approximately 3 MB we're used to from Opera — it is even larger than the 5.7 MB install of Mozilla Firefox 2.0 (but not larger than Firefox 3.0 at 7.8 MB).

We were initially afraid that Opera had slapped heavy saddlebags on its slick racehorse of a browser.

We needn't have worried. The core improvements in Opera 9.5 are more technical than cosmetic (though they have changed the looks a bit), in spite of the expanded download.

Faster than ever

In fact, it's like Opera has a new heart. Opera 9.5 loads faster than a greyhound on speed, and pages appear in a flash. Even with a dial-up connection, Opera 9.5 is definitely loading faster than before, and just as fast — or faster — than Firefox 3.0.

As for page loading, Opera Software claims its new browser engine renders JavaScript and HTML more than twice as fast as version 9.2, and is faster at handling third-party plug-ins. While we can't confirm that it's that fast, we've got to say that Opera 9.5 really smokes.

Opera attributes some of Opera 9.5's improved speed to better support for current Web standards such as (X)HTML, XML, XSLT, CSS 2.1, SVG 1.1 and JavaScript.

The company also notes that Opera 9.5 supports aspects of standards under development, such as HTML 5 and CSS 3. In fact, a pre-release version of Opera 9.5 was one of two browsers that passed the new Acid3 browser test less than a month after the test was made available in early March of this year. The other winner was WebKit , whose engine drives Safari. So Opera continues to ride the edge of the curve vis a vis Web standards.

Opera links your systems

A major addition to Opera 9.5 is Opera Link. This is similar to Google Browser Sync, which synchronises Firefox bookmarks, Web history, browser sessions and passwords across multiple computers. (Incidentally, Firefox fans should be aware that, according to a note on Lifehacker, Google Browser Sync will be discontinued rather than updated for Firefox 3.0.)

So what is Opera Link, exactly, and how does it work? Say you have three machines running Opera — your desktop, a laptop and a mobile phone running Opera Mini. If you change the bookmarks on any one of these, Opera Link will automatically update the bookmarks on the other two, synchronising them. What's more, even if you are on a "foreign" browser you can access your bookmarks through the Opera Link Web site, a password-protected repository of your data.

And, while it is not a bookmark backup program, if you lose some earlier bookmarks you can return to your pre-synched list, which is stored on the Web site when you activate Opera Link.

Currently, Opera Link is limited to bookmarks, the personal bookmark bar and Opera's Speed Dial. More items, such as passwords and web history, may be included in later versions. It's a good way to help keep your act together no matter what you're using or where you are.

Speed Dial speeds you along

Speed Dial is not new in Opera 9.5 — it appeared in a 9.2 version — but it deserves a mention here as one huge time saver.

Each time you open a new tab, the new page (which, if you were using, say, Internet Explorer, would be blank) shows thumbnails of any web page(s) you've set up for Speed Dial. There is always one blank thumbnail in the centre of the page — you click on it if you want to create a new Speed Dial; you can then pick the new page from a list of your bookmarks or the list of opened pages.

After that, each time you open a new tab, you click on the Speed Dial thumbnail of the page you want and you are there. Two clicks. It is a tremendous convenience. Granted, you can pick through your bookmarks or type in the URL you want, but Speed Dial shortens the process.

One other upgrade in Opera 9.5 is worth mentioning. Always noted for its security, Opera 9.5 now opens with Fraud Protection enabled by default. Instead of opting in, you have to opt out, which is a good idea, considering the thieves and scoundrels lurking on the web. Opera draws its phishing information from Netcraft and PhishTank and malware protection from Haute Secure. And Opera 9.5 also supports Extended Validation certificates, providing added assurance and trust for secure Web sites.

Struggling for Christmas presents this year? Check out our Christmas Gift Guide for some top tech suggestions and more.

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