I haven’t blogged in years, but this seemed serious enough to mention because I have been an Opera fanboy since Opera 8.5 when the browser was made free. Fast page rendering, the latest browser standards support, a clean interface, and a host of other unique features, like mouse gestures and keyword searches, that were years before their time. Opera continued to improve this browser for years and years, and always managed to stay one step ahead. Then came Opera 15, the first colossal mistake I’ve seen them make.
Here are twenty features removed from Opera 12.16, the previous version:
1. Tab Stacking
This was one of my favourite features in Opera. If you want to group some tabs, just drag a tab on top of another, and you had them arranged in a sweet little pile. This is no longer available in Opera 15.
2. Customisable Keyword Searches
In almost all modern browsers, you can search Google by typing your search keywords into the address bar. Opera 12 took this feature a step further. Not only could you search via the address bar, but you could also define search keywords of your own. For example, you could create a “t” keyword for thesaurus.com, and then typing “t audacious” in the address bar would search for synonyms of the word “audacious”. For any search form on the Web, all you needed to do was right-click and select “Create Search”, and choose a keyword. I used to use them for definitions, wiki lookups, and even translations into French. No longer.
Speaking of the address bar, in every major browser (including Opera 12), you can type a word in the address bar, then press CTRL+Enter (CMD+Return on a Mac) , and your word will be surrounded by www. and .com, and your browser will go to that Web address. This feature has been removed.
4. Home Button
For those who use Speed Dial whenever they launch a new tab, this option is nice. But for those of us who prefer to have a blank screen, this option is no longer available.
5. Some Speed Dial Options
It used to be possible to remove the Add button from Speed Dial. No longer. The Google prompt has doubled in size, even though it serves no purpose because searches can more easily be performed from the address bar.
6. Presto Engine
Opera’s custom Presto rendering engine used to make it easy for them to stay one step ahead of other browsers and support features other browsers didn’t. Now Opera is a takeover of the Google Chromium project, and its engine is a fork of the WebKit engine, meaning that improvements to their engine will be based on the WebKit project, and it will be difficult for the Opera team to go in a different direction from its contemporaries. WebKit is an excellent engine to choose, but that doesn’t make this a smart choice. Some users note about privacy concerns with WebKit, citing that information is sent to Google during casual browsing (I can’t comment on the veracity of these claims). At least WebKit is open-source.
Also as a result of the switch to WebKit, Opera now follows this odd “rapid versioning” trend. As such, it randomly jumped three versions and doesn’t specify the version on the download website (which incidentally no longer has a search feature?); this has led to some confusion, especially since upgrades to Opera 15 do not replace Opera 12.
7. Several Settings (Including Important Ones)
I admit to liking the new Chrome-like Settings screen with integrated search. However, there are many options that used to be customisable but now are not, including several accessibility options such as default fonts and colours. This settings screen also replaces the about:config screen, which gave far more options.
8. Tab Previews and Tab Scrolling
In Opera 12, resizing the tab bar showed previews of the tabs, and right-clicking and moving the scroll wheel used to navigate through tabs. Both features have been removed.
9. An Intuitive Bookmark Manager
I myself don’t typically use bookmarks; I simply keep common tabs open when I close the browser. However, there has been a strong backlash from the Opera user base over the way bookmarks are now handled in Opera 15. Opera 15 has moved to a Firefox-like model in that the only way to bookmark is via keyboard shortcut or a button in the address bar. However, they are only reachable by a second screen in Speed Dial called “Stash”. This screen is not shown by default if it is the last Speed Dial screen you browsed.
10-25. Other Removed Features
Here are some other annoying changes:
- Opera Mail used to be integrated to allow easy access to subscriptions and mail links, but now they have been separated. I can understand this choice from a performance perspective, but I can also understand the annoyance.
- Opera Notes has been removed.
- Opera Unite has been removed.
- There is no longer any RSS functionality.
- You used to be able to block certain elements from the right-click context menu, but now you must use go to the Settings screen to add an element to block, and the old urlfilter.ini files are not importable from older versions.
- Opera 12 allowed for custom spelling dictionaries, such as Canadian English. Opera 15 does not.
- The “Open in Background Tab” option has been removed.
- Built-in BitTorrent downloads are gone; now you need an external program.
- The tab bar cannot be moved to the sides.
- Bookmark importer does not import any bookmarks that were stored in folders. Extensions and themes also have to be reinstalled when upgrading.
- The status bar is gone, so any extensions that used it will have to adapt accordingly.
- Quick search with the “/” key. Now CTRL+F is the only option.
- There used to be a trash icon to keep a memory of recently closed tabs in the case that a tab was accidentally closed. This is gone.
- Linux support is gone.
- 64-bit support in Windows is gone. (Opera 15 also doesn’t support Windows 2000, but that’s understandable.)
- For Web developers, all the old Opera CSS vendor prefixes aren’t supported anymore due to the rendering engine being different.
There’s a more comprehensive list here of the features that may possibly be brought back to Opera, but in the meantime, we are stuck with a very feature-poor browser.
Don’t get me wrong: there are some improvements to Opera 15 due to the Chromium integration, such as running separate tabs in different processes and faster browsing. Still, literally every feature that made me choose Opera over other browsers has been removed in Opera 15, so unless Opera starts listening to its user base and re-implementing some of these features, it is likely they will lose a huge portion of their market share. This browser truly is a step in the wrong direction.