As web browsers go, Opera stands out as having one of the most extensive feature lists.

Besides a comprehensive set of web browsing capabilities, Opera includes an email client, RSS reader, IRC chat client, NNTP newsgroup reader, BitTorrent client, web development tools, support for user-created "skins", and even widgets. It has everything but the kitchen sink - but that includes a few rough edges.

When it comes to browsing, Opera offers a ton of customisation options. You can turn on (or off) several different toolbars, and otherwise modify them to meet your needs.

Opera's Panels feature gives you easy access to bookmarks, widgets, notes, history, and more in a window sidebar. Thumbnails appear when you hover over a tab, and you can rearrange the tab order. You can also save sets of tabs and windows (called sessions) and restore them easily; plus, Opera is able to restore your last session when you launch the program.

The main toolbar's search field is also configurable, so you can use whatever search engine you prefer.

Opera's web-development tools provide extensive information about every element on a page, making it easy to tailor pages to your exact needs.

One of Opera's latest features is Speed Dial, a grid of up to nine favourite websites that appears every time you create a new tab - a feature that the company has added since Opera 8.5. Speed Dial lets you access any site from its grid with a single click (or keyboard shortcut). This seems only slightly more useful to us than conventional bookmarks, though it may be handy for users who regularly visit a handful of sites.

Opera now has an antiphishing filter that helps to identify fake websites that may be trying to steal personal information. It also has highly configurable pop-up blocking and numerous other site-specific security settings.

Opera can automatically remember usernames, passwords, and other form values and fill them in at your request. However, its facilities for editing stored information are weak; for example, there's no way to see what password you've saved for a given site.

The company claims that this is for security reasons, although we would prefer a password-protected option to access this information.

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As web browsers go, Opera stands out as having one of the most extensive feature lists.

Opera uses a proprietary rendering engine called Presto. In almost every test, it displayed pages exactly the way other browsers such as IE, Firefox or Safari do. However, we did notice a few display glitches and loading problems, especially when it comes to forms.

At times, Opera displays buttons, pop-up menus, and text entry fields improperly (occasionally to the point of making a form unusable), and the text on the controls themselves can appear off-centre.

Opera is aware of these problems and claims they should be rectified in version 9.5. (When we tested the beta version of 9.5, the situation did appear to be improved.) In general, Opera is reliable and reasonably speedy, though the application sometimes launches slowly, and even crashes every now and then (again, the company is working on a fix).

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Opera 9.25: Specs

  • Windows 95 or later, OS X 10.3 or later
  • 20MB of free disk space
  • internet connection
  • Windows 95 or later, OS X 10.3 or later
  • 20MB of free disk space
  • internet connection

OUR VERDICT

With its comprehensive set of browsing and other features, Opera 9.25 is an interesting choice for anyone who wants an all-in-one internet application. But if you don't need all those extras, you may have a more pleasant web surfing experience with Internet Explorer, Safari, Firefox, or another browser.

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