Lars Nielsen's Discoveries

April 3, 2011

No good for SharePoint, but Opera is great for web development

Filed under: Development — Lars Nielsen @ 9:55 pm
Tags: ,

It’s a source of more than a little frustration that SharePoint 2010 still doesn’t work properly with the Opera browser.  I’ve been using Opera pretty much since it started around 1996, when it was the smallest and fastest browser available for the PC.  Netscape and IE were free, but Opera was so much better that I paid for a licence.  The best thing was the tabbed browsing, which came in about 11 years ago.

I have tried a few times to wean myself away over the years, uninstalling Opera and trying to use IE only.  I flirted with Firefox for a while (pretty good, once you get all the plugins you need, but I found many sites had fonts too small or large, even though they looked OK in Opera).  I tried Chrome as well, but it doesn’t give you enough control over cookies, scripting, and privacy, and I found it sending my CPU utilisation to 100% all the time.

So in the end, Opera’s big red “O” icon has kept on worming its way back into my Quick Launch area.  Why stick with this obscure browser that is barely a sliver on the pie chart of browser market share ?  There are a number of good reasons, but I find that Opera is particularly good for web development:

  • Opera’s claim to be the fastest browser is largely true – over a range of benchmarks Opera scores consistently highly. Plus new versions of Opera actually (sometimes) go faster than the previous version.  I always think that new versions of a software product should sometimes just add speed, with no new features.  After all that’s how CPU’s and cars work.  Imagine if Intel released a new processor that was actually slower (but with more features) than their current ones – noone would buy it.  So why do software products always have to be bigger and slower with each new release?
  • Opera has always been, literally, a standard-bearer for the web.  One of the first browsers to support CSS, first Windows browser to pass the Acid test, it’s always tried to comply with the web standards of the day.
  • The adherence to standards makes Opera a great browser for web development.  In addition it has a great web developer toolbar, Dragonfly, with all the usual developer features found in Firebug, plus some extras. For example you can create a timeline of web requests on a page, to identify bottlenecks in page performance.
  • Another feature I use a lot for web development: you can edit the HTML source code of a page directly in a browser tab, and then see the results rendered right away.  You can use this for all kinds of things: debug Jquery scripts, fine-tune CSS settings, temporarily remove problem elements on a page to see what it’s like without them.
  • There’s a built-in cookie manager that allows you to search for individual cookies by name, and then edit them.  That’s really useful if you’re working with cookies in ASP.NET
  • The Error console can be configured to show all errors on a page, but you can also filter to show only errors related to HTML, CSS, Javascript, XSLT, Persisent storage, network errors, and others.

There are plenty of other good general features in Opera as well but I really haven’t found a better browser for web development, or certainly none that gives you so much power and control.  I’m also pleased that Opera have taken over FastMail, the excellent Australian e-mail service that has features not available elsewhere.  FastMail’s webmail is so fast and lightweight that you can use it like an e-mail client app.  They also give you unlimited e-mail addresses and let you write complex e-mail rules that run on their e-mail server.  I use this to filter my e-mail into folders according to whether it’s written in English or Japanese – can anyone do that in Outlook or Gmail?

I’ll always have my IE 8/9 around for working with SharePoint (and for browsing MSDN, which crashes with Opera), but I’ll stick with Opera when it comes to working with CSS, HTML or plain ASP.NET applications.

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