Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Firefox vs. Opera

Firefox is a good program. Anything that can break the Internet Exploder hegemony is a good thing.

But I can't figure out for the life of me why it has so much press and support compared to Opera. I can't see a single thing Firefox does well that Opera doesn't do better, other than attract attention. About the only thing is, Firefox's library of plugins includes things Opera's integrated approach doesn't include; but the price of that is instability, and thus not generally worth it. Strip Firefox down to a rich but stable assortment of necessities and luxuries, and you end up with... a poor imitation of Opera. Firefox is like a gangly, clumsy, untrained, but promising teenager, and Opera is the sophisticated, mature, experienced adult it hopes to become one day.

For years, we Opera users have sat quietly, watching the whole world mindlessly glom onto a bit of software that was mediocre at best, unstable at worst. We've been marginalized, and constantly pressured to join the mediocrity by bad web page designers, but we have held out, confident that one day all the bad juju would add up and people would realize what crap their browser software is, realize there's so much better out there, and catch up with us.

So now the masses have realized, but instead of coming to the most mature, best developed, best standards-compliant, and fastest package, they simply went to something less bad. Better than IE, but that's not saying much. They're just repeating their mistake in a lesser amount now, and for no real reason I can see other than the happenstance of press. So instead of being vindicated and, more importantly, finally freed of the pressure to conform with the bad choice of the majority, we're simply pushed into a different margin, forced to still wait for the masses to wake up and do a fair comparison.

What would it take to get people to give Opera a fair shake, anyway?


litlfrog said...

(shrug) I've given Opera a try twice and wasn't pleased either time. Trying to use it for mail and news was a nightmare; the interface and organization were very dissimilar to anything I had seen before. It may be that once you get to know the program it gains a lot of functionality, but the initial learning curve is steep.

HawthornThistleberry said...

Out of curiosity, what versions? (Not that I plan to argue with you or say it'd be different in another version, mind you. Opera has seemed as accessible as Firefox to me since about v5 at the latest.)

higgins said...

As a Firefox user, I decided to try out Opera after reading your post.

So, at the very fist glance:

You can have any number of tabs open and still navigate between any of them. This is just good. No matter how many tabs you have open, no matter how much they shrink, they still remain clickable and don't go over the edge as in Firefox. That said, I love the fixed position of tab-close button in Firefox -- it's very easy to close multiple tabs unlike in Opera where you have to wave the mouse all over the screen to locate those buttons one by one. Firefox also shows the tab bar only when it's needed (if you have more than one tab open).

Keyboard shortcuts:
No keyboard shortcut for jumping to address bar!? At least I couldn't find one. Alt+D is probably one of the most fundamental web browser keyboard shortcuts (at least to me).

I use keyboard shorcuts for bookmarks as well, pressing Alt+B and then the relevant letter, like M for "My IMDb movies" or W for "Work" folder, as indicated by the first letter. While Opera has a similar function, I really didn't get how exactly were those key letters picked. Pressing E took me to "Medieval" folder etc. I get that the second letter E was the key, but I couldn't find a simple way to determine the keys myself. Plus Opera wasn't willing to take me to my pages bookmarked starting with _ or ; or any other simple punctuation marks by using the method above.

The typical Internet Explorer Find. At least I couldn't find a way to turn on the very comfortable "start finding as you type" function if such exists in Opera.

On the other hand, the option to start off where you left is a nice one. As was saving the session. Changing icon size using percentages was excellent, not that I really needed to change anything.

In the end I think it's a matter of personal preference.

Now I wish Firefox had "reload this image" function.

HawthornThistleberry said...

You can change the position of the close button in Opera to be the same place as Firefox puts it, which I always encourage since putting them on the tabs makes them too easy to hit by accident.

Opera has three different "find while you type" options. I use one in a search bar on my personal bar, but you can just press . or / to start typing. Had these since before Firefox even was born.

Not sure about the keyboard shortcuts because I am not a big user of keyboard shortcuts. My brain ran out of space for them back in WordPerfect days. But there's a help topic that consolidates them all and you can also customize them pretty thoroughly, so I bet you can even get to where the same keys you're used to do the things you want.

higgins said...

Thanks for the tips!

Things I've discovered since:

- Tiling tabs glows of potential. Haven't figured out where I could benefit from them though.
- The page loading delay which bugged me was actually a feature.
- Right click search way owns Firefox.

I've also found the "jump to address bar" button. I was F8. Pretty weird, but I changed it to Alt+D with only a little trouble.

I also found the three types of find, one of which still reminded me of Internet Explorer. Would take some time getting used to which one to use in which situation.

I also probably missed something big and couldn't put the tabs below the address bar. At the bottom of the screen, yes, but not just below the address bar.

Reaching bookmarks by keyboard is still a serious downer. Okay, I know I can access my Medieval folder by pressing E, but since I cannot access it by pressing M it kind of loses the intuitiveness -- the very reason I use keyboard shortcuts.

It has always felt so natural for me to use them. Actually it was even more comfortable in the Internet Explorer since Alt+A for fAvorites is considerably easier combination than Alt+B for bookmarks, but I got used to it. I have never used WordPerfect, so I can't speak for that, but the *must* to know a bunch combinations by heart feels radically different from the option to reflexively use certain key strokes. Putting a web page loading with two srtokes instead of finding it with the mouse just makes me feel pretty darn good and efficent.

higgins said...

Oh, and I could make the Opera tab line to disappear if only one tab is open just like in Firefox. That was nice, but how to make the right click search results to open in a new tab?

I also noticed an unconsistency in my translation -- using M to reach both "My IMDb movies" and "Medieval". All the names and folders are in my native tongue of course. I chose the "mEdieval" folder as an example since the word structure was similar to my native "kEskaeg".

HawthornThistleberry said...

There is a setting to open windows in a new tab which will control the search results as well as a number of things. Some people have asked for a more fine-grained control over that, but for me, this setting works just fine. Did take a little getting used to at first but mostly I just found myself retraining myself not to do extra steps I had gotten used to doing.

You can't put the tabs below the address bar because the address bar is part of each tab, not a global thing. However, if you really wanted to, you could customize the bars and move the fields you want onto different bars to achieve the same effect. Personally I keep the tabs at the bottom, similar to how they appear in... well, pretty much everything other than browsers. Like spreadsheets, text editors, etc. I'm not sure why browsers have them on top and everything else on the bottom, but as long as everyone can put them where they want, I suppose there's no harm.

higgins said...

The setting to open windows in a new tab... I can make the search result to open in the same tab or in a completely new window. I haven't managed to get the search results open in a new tab.

I get that the address bar is a part of a tab, but I'd just like it to be positioned above tabs, not below. I've not managed to do that yet.

It's nice that I can choose in what kind of order tabs rotate when I use Crtl+Tab, but if I close tabs, the most recent active tab becomes active. I found no way to control this and it doesn't seem to follow the rotating tabs setting either. As for tabs being above, this just makes somehow sense to me, but it's probably a matter of habit.

Also I've noticed that the web page has to be fully loaded for the links to be clickable without an error or delay in Opera.

Opera doesn't have the major bugger that Firefox has however. If you apply bbCode tags in a forum, Firefox automatically takes the cursor in the beginning of the text field. Dumb as hell.

HawthornThistleberry said...

The setting I'm thinking of is unchecking "Reuse current tab" on the Tabs part of Preferences. That lets search results, bookmarks, etc. open up in new tabs.

I agree that the default behavior on closing a tab, opening the most recent one, is dumb. I mostly close tabs via mouse gesture and I reconfigured that ages ago to move to the tab to the left, not the most recent one. Not sure if you can redefine whatever action you use to close tabs, though.

Not sure what you mean about links clickable before loading is complete; I click links in pages that haven't finished loading all the time.

higgins said...

As I was trying out the new Adobe Reader, it had the silliest installation option in Firefox. Much like IE plugins had. This "click 'yes' in the browser" type of install. I wasn't even able to download the damn installer.

So, I searched out your post, reread my issues and gave another shot on the Opera. It seems like it has "bookmark nicknames" which is basically the same thing I use, only it briefly opens some popup, but that's not a problem.

I'm still stuggling with ". find" though. I want to hit enter, not the uncomfortable ctrl+g when finding the nex word. And I like the firefoxes audible and visible notification the moment the search bar includes a word tha is not on the page. Any way to emulate that on Opera?