Los Angeles Times

IBM e-business security solutions

Monday, May 4, 1998

Computer Basics
Singing the Praises of a Browser That Really Delivers the Goods

With so much attention given to Netscape's Communicator and Microsoft's Internet Explorer, I bet you've never considered using another Web browser. It may be time to rethink your position. There's a small company in Norway called Opera Software (http://www.operasoftware.com) with a Web browser of the same name that has been attracting quite a bit of attention.
For starters, Opera is tiny compared with those hard-drive busters from Netscape and Microsoft. The executable file is a tad more than a megabyte. The latest offerings from Microsoft and Netscape weigh in at about 12 to 15mb.
Because the program is small, installation is fast. Opera is ready to go in less than a minute from the time you double-click the downloaded program file. Try that with Internet Explorer. Likewise, the program loads in just a few seconds.
The biggest factor in determining how fast a Web page loads on your screen is the speed of your connection. However, the speed at which your Web browser can process and display information once the site is contacted also plays a role. This is another area where Opera excels over its bloated brothers. Pages seem to pop up on the screen more quickly in Opera than with other browsers I've tried.
Have you ever visited a Web page with your monitor resolution set at either 640 x 480 or 800 x 600 pixels, only to discover the page was laid out with larger monitors in mind? With Netscape or Internet Explorer, you're stuck scrolling from top to bottom and side to side. Opera offers a unique zoom feature that lets you magnify up to 1,000% or zoom out to a reduction factor of as low as 10%. Opera makes it easy to size any page to match your monitor.
When I'm in a big hurry to look up information on the Web, I turn off the graphics so that only the text is displayed. All graphics are replaced by a simple icon. Although most browsers can do this, Opera goes one step further by putting a toggle button near the bottom of the screen. One click on that button and graphics are turned off; another click and they're back on. That sure beats trudging through a browser's menu options to accomplish the same thing.
Opera also has innovations on the list of Web sites Netscape calls "bookmarks" and Microsoft calls "favorites." Opera's "hotlist" of your frequently visited sites is always visible on the left side of your screen. Visiting any site on your hotlist takes only one mouse click. It should be duly noted that during installation, Opera automatically imported my favorites from Internet Explorer without a hitch.
For all its speed and efficiency, Opera is not a "no frills" browser. You can extend it with many popular Netscape-compatible plug-ins such as Shockwave and Real Audio. The current version (3.20) also supports JavaScript. Full Java support is expected in version 4.0, due out later this year.
One other cool feature: When you quit the program, Opera asks you if you want to save the window. If you say yes, the next time you run Opera, you can pick up browsing the Web right where you left off.
If you've come to rely on your browser for e-mail, however, you will be disappointed in Opera. The program offers send-only e-mail. That's handy for clicking on mail to links on Web pages, but you'll need some other e-mail program, such as Qualcomm's Eudora, to fully manage your electronic mail.
The built-in newsreader is better, providing the basic tools you need to participate on the usenet; it should be enough for most users.
In a world where free Web browsers are the norm, the one thing you may find strangest about Opera is that you're expected to pay for it. The download works for only 30 days. After that, you'll need to pay $35 to keep using the program. To me, $35 seems reasonable to pay for a program I use as much as my Web browser.
Right now Opera is available only for Windows 95/NT. But the company is working to develop versions for other platforms, including the Mac, OS/2 and even Amiga.
A smaller, faster browser that doesn't lock you into one company's view of the Internet? Sounds good to me!
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Kim Komando is a TV host, syndicated talk radio host and author. You can visit her on the Internet at http://www.komando.com or e-mail her at komando@komando.com
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Kim Komando Is a Tv Host, Syndicated Talk Radio Host and Author

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