Chrome and Firefox might be more popular, but Opera’s cutting-edge tools make it the best browser around now.
Edward Munn, Writer’s Webuser, reveals its best new features.
Browse privately using Opera’s VPN
Opera is the first major Desktop browser to offer a free, unlimited virtual private network (VPN). This protects your privacy when you’re using public Wi-Fi and means you can access content that’s blocked in the UK without having to download any extensions or pay for a VPN subscription.
To use the VPN feature, you currently need to install the Opera developer browser (www.opera.com/developer), but it’s also coming to the stable version soon. To activate the VPN, open the browser’s Settings page, select ‘Privacy & security’ and tick the option to ‘Enable VPN’. Now, when you load a web page, a blue VPN button appears in the address bar. Click it to see your virtual IP address and location, along with the amount of data you’ve used. You can toggle the VPN on and off using the switch, or choose a different location using the drop-down menu.
Recently, Opera introduced a VPN app for iOS (bit.ly/operavpn400), letting you unblock content on your iPhone or iPad. Opera VPN can be used with all your favourite apps, letting you choose a virtual location from the US, Canada, Germany, Singapore or the Netherlands.
It also includes handy features for ad and tracker blocking, which are turned on by default.
Install Opera VPN, open it and follow the onscreen instructions to add the VPN profile to your device.
You can now toggle the VPN on and off from the app or change the virtual region by tapping the lightning icon.
Improve your laptop’s battery life
A recent update to the stable version of Opera introduced a new ‘battery saver’ feature that can extend your laptop’s battery life by a whopping 50%. These savings are made possible by optimising non-essential system processes associated with background tabs and other browser activity. Not only does this feature keep your PC going for longer between charges – and for longer than other browsers – but it can also reduce its temperature by more than 3°C, which isn’t to be scoffed at if you like to use your PC on your lap.
Save mobile data
Opera’s mobile apps can stop you racking up expensive phone bills from using too much mobile data. Indeed,
‘Opera browser’ for Android (bit .ly/opera400) comes with its own data-saving tool, which you can enable to compress both images and videos and then track the amount of data you’ve saved. Opera Mini, which is available on iOS (bit.ly/minii400) and Android (bit.ly/minia400), goes one step further by offering High and Extreme data-saving modes (these are labelled Opera Mini and Opera Turbo in the iOS version). Extreme mode is enabled by default on Android and loads web pages more quickly, as well as saving you mobile data.
If you want to save data when using other apps such as Chrome, Netflix, Instagram and YouTube, you can also install Opera’s dedicated data-saving app, Opera Max (bit.ly/omax400).
This excellent app optimises media content and can identify apps that use lots of background data, so you can block them from doing so.
Install Chrome extensions in Opera
Chrome and Opera use the same rendering engine, which makes installing Chrome extensions in Opera a very straightforward process. First, you need to install the Opera add-on Download Chrome Extension (bit.ly/ downloadchrome400). Next, visit the Chrome Web Store (bit.ly/webstore400) and select an extension that you want to install, then click the button labelled ‘Add to Opera’.
If you get a pop-up warning that the extension has been disabled because it’s from an unknown source, click Go to load the Extensions Manager and enable the add-on from there. You can disable and remove extensions from here at any time.
Block ads on PC and mobile
Opera is the first major Desktop browser to include a built-in ad blocker, so you don’t have to install a separate add-on to get rid of ads that slow down your browsing and distract you from web content. Because Opera stop ads in their tracks early, it can load content- rich pages up to 90% faster than other browser that don’t have ad blockers.
turn on ad blocking, simply load Opera’s Settings page and tick the box to ‘Block ads and surf the web up to three times faster’. Once you’ve done that, a Manage Exceptions button appears, which you can click to whitelist sites that you don’t mind showing ads.
Now, when you load a website, a blue shield appears in the address bar, which you can click to track the number of ads you’ve blocked. You can temporarily allow ads on that site by switching the ‘Ads are blocked on this site’ button to the off position and you can even check how much faster the page loads with the ad-blocker enabled by clicking the Speed Test button.
If you want to add your own custom ad-blocking lists to Opera, navigate to its Settings, click Browser and tick ‘Show advanced settings’. Now, return to the Basic settings page and you’ll see a ‘Custom block lists’ button in the ad-blocking section.
To block ads in Android, install Opera Mini (bit.ly/minia400), open Settings, tap ‘Data savings’ and tick the boxes to ‘Block ads’ in each data-saving mode. There’s a similar option in Opera Browser’s (bit.ly/opera400) Data Saving menu. In Opera Mini for iOS, you can only activate ad blocking for ‘Opera Turbo’ data-saving mode. Alternatively, block ads in all apps on your iPhone or iPad by installing Opera VPN (bit.ly/ operavpn400) as described above.
Watch videos, whatever you’re doing
When you play a video in Opera, a button appears that lets you open it in a separate floating video frame that can be moved and resized. This means you can keep browsing and use other programs while the video continues to play, so you don’t miss any of the action.
To minimise the pop-up player and return to watching the video in the original browser window, simply click the minimise button. Or you can stop the video altogether by clicking the X button.
Manage bookmarks more easily
When you save a bookmark in Opera, you can pick from a number of thumbnails to help identify the page that you’ve saved. When you load the Bookmarks manager, the thumbnail for each site is shown below it, and you can toggle the view to change how large they appear (if you want them to appear at all). If you don’t want to bookmark sites, but you’d like to take a snapshot of your current tabs for future reference, you can take advantage of the browser’s ‘Save tabs as Speed Dial folder’ feature. Simply right-click any tab, select the option and the tabs will be grouped together in a folder that you can rename, load in a new window and then delete when you’re finished.