Fast, flexible, secure, and intuitive, Opera is my favorite browser, both for daily use and for web development. Here are the things I do to make it even more secure and useful for me.
These notes are based on Opera 12.16 and were last updated 8 July 2013. Version 15 introduced significant changes and is not considered here.
Opera is more than just a browser. It is also an email client, Usenet client, feed reader, and more. This article focuses on setting up and using the browser; the additional functions are considered separately.
On Linux, some distributions’ package managers include Opera. In such cases, use yours to fetch and install Opera. Otherwise, download the appropriate package and install it in your distribution’s normal manner.
On Windows, download the appropriate installer and run it in the normal manner. You will have the option of installing only for the active user or for all users. You will also have the option of either installing normally to the computer or creating a portable version installed to a removable device such as a USB memory stick.
You can toggle between the default menu button and a more traditional menu bar with Alt-F11. Where items are found depends on whether you are using the button or bar; the following assumes the button.
If you have an Opera Link account or wish to create one, click on the cloud icon in the bottom left corner and follow the instructions. An Opera Link account enables synchronization of selected preferences and data across browsers, and web access to your data when using other computers. I choose to synchronize bookmarks, typed history, Speed Dial, notes, search engines, and content blocker rules.
Most configuration is done is the Preferences window (Settings – Preferences). I usually set:
- General – Startup: Start with Speed Dial.
- General – Languages: Set preferred languages.
- Forms: Disable password manager and use LastPass in its place. Fill in personal data.
- Search: Edit as desired. I usually add DuckDuckGo as my default and Speed Dial search engine.
- Advanced – Browsing: Show full web address in address field.
- Advanced – Programs (Windows only): If desired, confirm on startup that Opera is the default browser.
- Advanced – Security – Ask websites not to track me: Enabled.
- Advanced – Security – Enable fraud and security protection: Disabled, to improve privacy.
- Advanced – Security – Security Protocols: Enable TLS 1.1 and 1.2.
- Advanced – Security – Auto-update (Windows only): Automatically install updates.
- Advanced – Network – Send referrer information: Disabled, to improve privacy.
- Advanced – Network – Enable geolocation: Disabled, to improve privacy.
Opera’s appearance is configured in Appearance. I usually set:
- Panels: I enable Notes, Links, Downloads, History, and Information.
- Toolbars – Navigation Bar: Enabled; visible only when needed.
- Toolbars – Progress Bar: Pop up at bottom.
Additional advanced configuration settings are found by entering opera:config in the URL field. Most users won’t want to change anything here, but settings I change are:
- User Prefs – Enable WebGL: 1
- User Prefs – Search Field On Error Pages: Disable
Press “Save” after making any changes to opera:config. Some settings will require a restart to take effect.
I find the search box (embedded in the address bar) superfluous, so I remove it (right-click on it, then Customize – Remove From Toolbar).
Speed Dial (the default initial page shown upon browser launch) is configured by pressing the wrench icon in the top right corner of the viewport. I prefer to enable “Hide + Speed Dial button”.
Opera has built-in spell checking in the language of the GUI, but you can download additional languages. Right click on any word marked as misspelled, choose Dictionaries – Add/Remove Dictionaries, and follow the instructions.
EXTENSIONS AND PLUGINS
Opera extensions are analogous to add-ons for Firefox; they extend Opera’s functionality. To select and install them, see the extensions notes.
To select and install particular plugins, see the browser plugins notes.
Some packagers, thinking themselves helpful, ship Opera pre-bloated with plugins you might not need or want. View your current plugins by typing opera:plugins in the URL field and disable all unwanted plugins. Optionally, by checking the “Details” box you can use the additional information to remove the executable of any plugin manually.
KEEPING UP TO DATE
When configured as described above, Opera will periodically check for updates to itself and will either notify the user about available updates or automatically install them.
Backing up Opera
When traveling, I’ve used Opera Portable on a USB stick. I have since noticed that Opera’s Windows installer has an option to install to a USB stick.
I’m not sure why Opera doesn’t enable TLS 1.1 and especially 1.2 by default. The default 1.0 is exploitable, and Opera’s implementation of 1.2 works fine.