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Opera 8

This column originally ran in ComputorEdge on June 24, 2005
(Issue 2325, The Great Outdoors)

While the newly released Netscape 8 is getting all the buzz in the press right now, and Firefox is getting the majority of defectors from the security-plagued Internet Explorer (with the open-source Firefox reportedly near or over 10 percent market share), a fourth major player in the browser market, Opera, continues to plug away, if mostly under the radar of late.

The first of the browsers to offer tabbed viewing (so you can have multiple Web sites open in a single browser session – something every browser but IE now offers), Opera remains a viable, workable alternative to the other browsers, as well as a free download.

Not only is Opera available for Windows, Mac and Linux, but also for orphaned systems like BeOS and OS/2. Now, all of those might not be the latest version – but Opera probably offers more variation in platform and language than all the other browsers combined.

In the Windows version, Opera 8 continues where previous versions left off. Version 8 continues to offer the progress bar – a meter that shows how much of a page you've downloaded. Not so useful, perhaps, for those of us on high bandwidth connections, but for anyone on a dial-up this could be a real frustration preventer.

Opera 8 allows you to import bookmarks from Netscape or IE, so if you switch you don't have to start over.

The layout is clean; the buttons modern and intuitive. It's easy to figure out everything you might want to do with Opera without ever resorting to the help files.

While there are always worries of compatibility with the IE-specific coding some webmasters insist on using, most sites I tried worked fine with Opera. MSN displays just fine, as do other Microsoft sites.

The only site Opera couldn't handle was the Outlook server webmail service I use at the university I teach at – Opera would allow me to log in, but could never display the list of messages.

(Interestingly, when I tried that same site in Netscape 8 – which, as we learned two weeks ago, allows you to display any Web site with either the default Firefox rendering engine or the IE engine, I found that the Outlook webmail worked better with the Firefox engine than the IE engine. But only within Netscape 8 – within IE itself, the Outlook webmail worked best.)

If you choose not to purchase Opera, you will have ads displayed in the tool bar – it's how Opera pays their programmers in the absence of subscribers. But they're fairly unobtrusive, and if you like Opera, shouldn't be a deterrent to enjoyable browsing.

You can learn more or download Opera for free at

New version of The Bat

When I (finally) upgraded from a PIII 500 computer to a P4 3.2 a month or so ago, I found I was having problems with my e-mail client on the new machine. As I've mentioned in this space before, I use an Eastern European program called The Bat, as on the PIII it had been far more stable than Eudora, and easier to use than Thunderbird or Netscape – without any of the security holes of Microsoft's Outlook.

But on the P4, The Bat kept hanging when I tried to close it out – often taking as long as 2 minutes to close, and sometimes needing to be manually killed from the Windows Task Manager.

Other times, The Bat wouldn't launch properly – hanging in some weird digital netherworld until I (again) manually killed it.

Just as I was getting ready to give Eudora a try, Ritlabs released an upgraded version of The Bat – and I'm happy to discover that v. 3.5.25 seems to fix whatever issues were creating these instabilties.

The menus continue to evolve in a more modern fashion, and this new version gives you far more ability to customize the look, order and features included in your toolbars. There's even the ability to quickly look at the log of your activity – who you received e-mail from and when.

Mostly, though, like most of you I'm simply happy to not have to switch e-mail clients yet again.