Too good to ignore: 6 alternative browsers

Internet Explorer, Firefox and Safari lead the market, but there are other browsers out there for PC and Mac users. Which are better?

The bottom line is that Opera is a good example of healthy competition in the browser market, and the price of admission -- free! -- is certainly worth giving this program a once-over.

-- Mike DeAgonia

Opera 9.6

There was a time, years ago, when Opera seemed to be giving Internet Explorer and Netscape a run for their money. Now it's the great forgotten browser, rarely mentioned or used.

And that's a shame. Opera sports a clean interface with easy access to its innovative capabilities, and is a model of simplicity and elegance, with attractive icons and tabs, and plenty of features within easy reach. If you're looking for a powerful alternative to your existing browser, you won't go wrong with Opera.

Much has been made of browser Address Bar tools such as Chrome's Omnibox and Firefox's Awesome Bar. But no one bothers to mention that Opera has already been there and done that. As with those browsers, type parts of a URL into Opera's address bar, and you'll get a list of likely matches. Better yet, type in search terms, and Opera will do a Google search for them.

That's just one of the innovative features you'll find in Opera; there are too many to mention them all. What Opera calls "Speed Dial" is also useful. When you open a new tab, Opera opens a page with space for multiple thumbnails of Web pages. Click on any blank thumbnail and enter a URL, and from then on, when you open a new tab, it will open to a page with those thumbnails. To visit any page, click it.

Opera also features an excellent download manager that lets you pause and resume downloads, and then open any files you've downloaded. For each download, you're also shown information such as where it was downloaded from, where you downloaded it to, file size and so on. There's also a progress indicator showing you current download speed.

Useful for anyone who fills out Web forms (which pretty much means all of us), is the Wand, which not only remembers passwords and fills them in, but also fills in other information, such as name, address, e-mail address and so on.

Opera sports many other features as well, such as a quick way to turn off all images on a Web site with the single click of a button, and a way to view every single link on a Web page.

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