Opera 9 review: Opera 9

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Opera 9 embraces AJAX technology by offering tiny desktop applets called Widgets. Widgets offer specific functionality, such as currency conversion, that stays on top of your desktop screen. But Widgets are not new; they're available all over the Internet and will be a part of Microsoft Windows Vista when it launches next year. It's unclear why the browser needs this feature--other than because it's cool.

One truly handy feature within Opera saves, then reopens, frequently used tabs whenever you relaunch the browser. If you order your tabs the way I do, you'll appreciate the time savings here. Speaking of saving time with tabs, Opera now allows you to mouse over any tab to see a thumbnail of the current content, but the images are too small, with more than half of the preview window displaying the URL of the site. In addition to providing built-in zoom to magnify Web pages, there's Opera Voice, which will read aloud Web content.

Another useful feature is the new trash can icon. Say you accidentally close a Web page that you want to keep open. With Opera's trash can, you can reload that page quickly without having to dig through the browser's history file.

Like Firefox and Internet Explorer 7 beta, Opera 9 allows you to customize and manage your search engines and frequently used passwords, as well as block site content and pop-ups. We were less impressed by Opera's default handling of RSS feeds; the page is clunky and not as stylized as that found in the new versions of IE and Firefox

As for overall security, Opera remains one of the more secure browsers on the market, but that'll change as more and more users start adopting it. Of the vulnerabilities that have been discovered, Opera has been excellent in patching them quickly.

For technical support, Opera enjoys a passionate and devoted fan base that makes its user forums a good place to request technical support. Unfortunately, there are few FAQs on the Opera site, and there is no telephone support.

While we really like Opera 9, its many features are somewhat esoteric for most people who simply want a good, secure browser. For that we recommend Firefox 1.5. But for the technically adventurous, Opera 9 will shine.

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