A Look at Opera 10: Mail, News, RSS

Opera v. 10 was released this week for Windows, Linux, and just about every other operating system. Since a lot of persons have never tried it, I thought I’d take anyone who’s interested on a tour of it.

This is not an unbiased review. I am a rabid fanboy; I’ve been using it since v. 5 (I think) and gradually have gradually moved more and more of my Internet life to . Nevertheless, I hope it is a realistic review.

I started using Opera when I was working on my boating website back in the HTML 3.0 days. I started hanging around in alt.html looking for hints–I don’t think I ever posted there, but I learned a lot. And bunches and bunches of the experienced web designers who hung out there said, “Use Opera.” So I did.

And I haven’t looked back. It was faster over my AOL dial-up connection than AOL’s internal (which was an IE variant).

The reason so many alt.html posters gave this advice was that Opera was then and has continued to be resolutely standards compliant. If a website works in Opera, the odds are that it would work in anything, except, of course, in IE, which is, and at that time was aggressively, standards non-compliant.

One of the things I like about Opera, in addition to the performance and versatility, is the eye candy. It is skinnable and there are thousands of skins available at the Opera website. If you get far enough to look at the pictures in this post, you will see that, just for grins and giggles, I changed skins several times while I was taking my screen shots. (You can click on most pictures to go from a 450 pixel width to a 600 pixel width.)

Main Browser Screen
Using the O’Simple Mini skin.

The column of icons on the left represents Opera’s Panels, which I have really rely on heavily, particularly the and notes panels. The top of the screen houses the navigation bar, the tab bar, and the two tool bars I find useful. Any tool bar, except for the menu bar at the very top, is configurable. Buttons may be added or removed and the bars may be placed at the top, right, left, or bottom. (There is some question as to whether Opera actually invented tabbed browsing, but it was the first one of the first, and had something sort of like tabs as early as 1994. They had before Firefox was).

V. 7 incorporated a mail client, M2, which not only handled email, but also included a newsreader and an reader, making Opera by far the first browser to incorporate an reader. It was probably v. 8 when I first tried it, and since then I’ve ported all my mail to it.

(Do not use the the newsreader for binary newsgroups or you will find yourself having to reassemble files in a text editor; back in my Bluewave and BBS days, I had macros in QEdit–now TSE Jr–for doing just that). QEdit was easily the best text editor EV-VAH and is one of the two Windows programs I miss. The other is Vueprint.)

Opera M2

The skin is Metal Mini.

The panel to the left contains the mail accounts, RSS feeds, and news group accounts (I collapsed them for this screen shot). They appear in the order in which they are created under Tools–>Mail and Chat Accounts.

The preview window can be turned off or configured to appear on the right side; I usually move it to the side when I’m reading newsgroups.

If you have multiple accounts, Opera gives you the ability to change your “From” account in the “Compose Mail” window. In other words, if an email comes into one account and you want to reply to it from another account, you do so with a couple of mouse clicks. I frequently do that when I receive an email from the “mailto” link at my website, which has its own account. If it’s a legit email, I respond from my primary account. The “From” selection dialog is shown below. No, I’m not giving away my addresses.

Compose email

The skin in Trekkie Lix 2.0.

New in v. 10 is the ability to send HTML email. Opera has long been able to read and display it, but held out against including composing it for a long time. I heartedly approved of this, for HTML email is evil.

Here’s the HTML email composition window with the font dialog open. The skin is Slim Expedition with the “Jungle” color scheme selected in the Opera color scheme dialog.

Opera HTML Mail Menu

When you hit the “Reply” or “Compose” buttons, a selection dialog in the upper right of the compose window allows you to switch back and forth between HTML and text. This is not a global setting; you can do this on a message-by-message basis. You can also set a global preference for each mail account, then change it for a particular message.

Here’s the newsgroup window. I’ve changed the arrangement of the mail window and placed the tabs on the right.

Opera Newsreader

This shot is using the “She” skin. It no longer seems to be available on the Opera website. I also changed the color scheme in the Opera skin selection dialogue from “System” to “Sand.”

The RSS window is arranged just like the newsgroup and email windows. In this picture, I have the “View” menu open.

Opera RSS

Media included in an RSS feed renders properly. This includes embedded video and audio.

Opera has an excellent mail filter system that you can apply to all the elements of M2: mail, news, and feeds. It does not filter the incoming mail into separate parts of the database; rather it filters the display of the mail in the browser. Filters can be nested inside of other filters. I have about 20 filters that I use to manage incoming stuff. I’ve set it up so that filtered mail is “marked as filtered”–that way, it shows only in the filter, not in the main “Unread” and “Received” (all received mail) views, just in the filter–but it is not “Marked as Read” (except in the Spam and Jerks filters). Then, when new mail hits a filter, the filter name goes bold.

Filter Configuration

New with v. 10 is in-line spell checking. Earlier versions had relied on Aspell; you had to install Aspell (which comes in both GNU and Windows versions), then download the appropriate dictionary (Aspell comes with many Linux distros). When you wanted to check your spelling, you clicked on “Check Spelling.” It worked fine.

The new in line spell check highlights questionable words as you type; you can right click on an underlined word and get alternatives. It not only works in email; it works in web forms, like the one I’m typing in right now. I can do without read underlines; I turn them off in word processors whenever I can; they distract me. But being able to check spelling in a web form is a definite plus.

Opera Spellcheck

I used to see complaints in the Opera newsgroups of problems with the mail databases; the Opera experts in the newsgroups said that there was an “indexing” problem that sometimes occurred and that the solution was to export your mail, delete it, then import it back in. It was on the bug fix list for v. 9, but I heard reports that the fix wasn’t ready in time.

I never experienced the problem myself. I do know that, when I installed v. 10 this week, the first time I exited Opera, a window popped up saying that Opera wanted to massage my mail database.

I have experienced some problems with Opera, but never something nearly so serious as a database’s rolling over on its back and playing dead. I’ve been willing to put up with the problems I have run into because of cost-benefit analysis.

Frankly, Opera rocks. If a pebble gets in my shoe from time to time, I can deal.

Tomorrow: Browsing, Preferences, Advanced Configuration, File Management.

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