Firefox is getting a lot of media attention right now, but it’s odd that Opera hasn’t gotten much. Many of the features that people are raving about in Firefox have been available for years in Opera. This wired article about Opera discusses the history of the forgotten browser.
Unlike the majority of web users, I’ve used Opera as my primary browser since it’s 5.x release several years ago, however, I’m considering a change. There is a glaring usability problem with the new release of Opera 8.0 (beta) that has been irking me.
Before I tell you what it is, take a look at these three screenshots of the tabs in Firefox, Opera 7 and Opera 8. Look at each of them (click on the thumbnail to see the full-size screenshot) and see if you can identify the problem I’m referring to.
Let me also note that I often have this many tabs or more when I use Opera, so it’s not a contrived situation. In fact, it’s quite common.
The first problem is that you can’t tell what page you’re on in Opera 8 because of the ‘X’ on every stinking tab. You can see the first few letters of the title in Firefox and Opera 7, making it easier to distinguish the different sites.
Secondly, how would you close the current tab?
Using the first two browsers you just use the ‘X’ that is in the same location. You can’t accidentally close a tab because the ‘X’ only closes the current tab. But, in Opera 8 you have to search for the orange ‘X’ on one of the many tabs, and it doesn’t stand out all that well because of the colorful favicons in each tab. That means that I end up spending a few seconds searching for the X that will close the current tab.
Additionally, if you want to switch tabs and accidentally hit the ‘X’, the tab is immediately closed without any confirmation. That has already happened a few times because as you have more and more tabs open, the space becomes smaller and smaller, making very easy to inadvertently hit the ‘X’ instead of the tab.
Lastly, I don’t understand why they changed it. It worked fine before and I don’t see the benefit to having an ‘X’ on every tab. Maybe there’s a reason I’m not aware of, but in using it, I’ve only been frustrated by the change.
It has gotten annoying enough since I started using 8.0 that if future versions still have that behavior, I’ll probably go back to 7.54 or begin using Firefox as my primary browser. I already use Firefox for Gmail, but one of the reasons I stay with Opera is because it restores your session reliably. The session saver extension for Firefox doesn’t work when Firefox crashes, but that is precisely the time I need it to work.
If anyone in Norway is reading this, please reconsider the change. I continue to be a fan of Opera and want to keep using it (I’m even a paying customer) but the competition is improving. Please don’t go backwards in usability.