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.
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 website, 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 website 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.
NEXT PAGE: Speed dial, security, and our expert verdict > >