Opera is an excellent browser, loved by those who use it. It's not only a Web browser, but an entire Internet suite, known for offering more features than you could possibly know what to do with. It was among the first to include tabbed browsing and advanced bookmarks and search bars, but the browser also bundles its own chat and e-mail client, as well as additional features few other browsers have, like mouse gestures and file sharing.
Opera is arguably the safest Web browser available today. This is partly because Opera is a smaller target, often overlooked by hackers and virus makers (in the same way that OSX is safer than Windows even though it is far less secure). But Opera also makes an active effort to keep its browser safe and secure, starting with an integrated phishing and malware database and backed by a strong bug support team. To put it into perspective, Opera's mean average of unpatched exploits is a mere .01, compared to Internet Explorer's 38.3 and FireFox's 5.7.
Opera has always been a pioneer of Internet standards. It was the first browser to support CSS as well as the first browser to pass the Acid 3 test. It's also among the first to incorporate the HTML5 standard (planned to give Adobe Flash a run for its money). Opera even takes the top score in Google's Sputnik compliance test, failing only 78 cases, less than half of second place's Safari and just a third of Google's own Chrome browser. Sadly, Web programmers don't necessarily code to the accepted standards. In fact, most Web programmers base their code on the most popular browser, Internet Explorer, which is by far the worst-off in terms of standards compliance. This unfortunately means that some sites have trouble rendering properly in Opera.
Opera's latest big update came with a feature it calls Opera Turbo. It is a clever concept designed to greatly improve browsing speeds over slow connections, such as dial-up, satellite, weak wireless, and cellular Internet. It works by using Opera's own super-fast Internet connection to download your Web pages for you, compress them by up to 80%, and then send them your way. Because the data is passed through Opera's servers, it is significantly optimized. For example, it pauses Flash playback before forwarding it to your computer. The Opera Turbo icon can be found in the bottom left of the browser window and configured for Automatic, On, and Off turbo functions.
It's not uncommon these days for people to have multiple computers, including a work and office computer, a home desktop, and a laptop. With all of its customizable features, it would be a pain to configure Opera for each of those systems. This is where Opera Link comes in. When enabled, it will automatically synchronize your settings, from bookmarks and notes, to typed browser history and custom searches. You can enable Opera Link by clicking on the icon in the bottom left of the browser window and following the prompts.
Back when tabbed browsing was just coming out, many people were skeptical, thinking "How is that any different from using a separate window?" But after trying it for themselves, there was no turning back. In fact, any browser without tabbed browsing support would probably fail utterly today. Mouse gestures are a lot like tabbed browsing, in that it doesn't seem very useful until you try it. The convenience is amazing, giving a five-button mouse over 15 extra functions from just the flick of the wrist. With just one hand you can perform just about every function you need, including closing a tab, opening a new tab, minimizing a tab, and even duplicating a tab. To enable mouse gestures, select Tools, Preferences, Advanced Shortcuts, and check "Enable mouse gestures." There is also a list of gestures available.
Opera makes great use of search prefixes, letting you do just about everything directly through your address bar. Using the appropriate prefix, you can search Google for a general query or Ebay for a last-second auction. You can even use search prefixes to search through your history or find text within the current page. And that's just what comes standard, while adding additional prefixes only takes a couple steps. Just go to Settings, Preferences, and under the Search tab, you'll see your current prefixes and buttons for adding and editing others.
Opera Unite is a feature that lets you access files on your computer from just about any Web browser in the world, including most mobile Web browsers. To enable it, simply click on the little Opera Unite icon in the bottom left of the browser window. It will prompt you to create an Opera user account or sign in using an existing account. After that, it will automatically log you into the Unite service, unlocking a wide array of Unite applications and features all contained within Opera browser. The Unite features can always be disabled later using the same button and selecting Configure in the menu. Once enabled and configured, you can access your Unite homepage from anywhere just by going to, for example, home.username.OperaUnite.com.