Opera is no longer my default browser, Firefox is

I made a big jump last night when I transitioned from Opera to Firefox as default browser.

It is a big deal for me and using Opera is so ingrained that I have a bit of a writer’s block.

I started to use Opera 7 in March 2003. As I was using Opera M2 (the built-in mail client) it very soon became my default browser, all the way through Opera 12.16, until last night.

My favourite Opera features:

I’m scanning the Opera version history, and peruse the list of wonderful features my browser had. Here are my rock stars:

  • Sessions (1.0)
  • Nicknames (3.0)
  • Tabbed browsing (4.0)
  • Zoom (2.10)
  • M2 e-mail (7.0)
  • Drag-and-Drop of Tabs (7.0)
  • Panels (7.0)
  • Notes (7.10)
  • Wand manager (7.10)
  • RSS newsfeeds (7.50) & Atom news feeder support (8.0)
  • Fit to Window Width (8.0)
  • opera:config (9.0)
  • Widgets (9.0)
  • Opera Dragonfly debugger (9.50)
  • Opera Quick Find (9.50)
  • Alternative tab-closing behaviors (9.50)
  • Follow/Ignore threads and contacts (9.60)
  • Go To Thread (9.60)
  • Visual tabs (10.0)
  • Tab stacking (11.0)
  • Grouping and pinning of messages (11.60)
  • opera:cpu (12.0)

Between Opera and I, it’s become complicated

A few months back I heard the news that Opera was going to ship a browser based on a different engine (It has started in the meantime). Opera then shipped a stand-alone Mail application, which I’ve been using since then. Although there is still a little dev planned for the Opera 12.x series, it is a matter of time until Opera suggests its users upgrade to the Chromium based version.

But already before that, my using Opera had become an act of faith. I have migrated the same profile over the years –ten years. The Opera folder that is in my Library/Application Support/ folder has 144K items and occupies 8.17 GB on disk. Most of which is mail storage, but still, that too was migrated in each major Opera update. I have had strange bugs, common bugs, found work-arounds, etc. Up to a certain point, there was no more satisfaction in having yet another bug to work around.

An act of faith, I wrote. Yes. For some reason, Opera has become even less stable on my machine during the Fall or Winter. It would crash both during usage or when running in the background. It would crash and crash while restarting. Every time it restarted after crash I had to restart it properly otherwise clicking links in other apps had no result.

Everything put together, the cost of troubleshooting overpowers the rest, and the browser has already become foreign to me as much of the rock star features that truly made Opera my default browser are not yet available in the current release. Exit Opera. Enters Firefox.

Hooking up with Firefox

Of the browsers I use, I’ve made Firefox my default browser last night. I sorted a bit the existing bookmarks, made a backup. I sorted through my 90+ open tabs in Opera, saved them as a bookmark folder, exported my Opera bookmarks as HTML and imported this in Firefox. I went trough the preferences, grouped my tabs, place the windows where appropriate, reduced the size of icons and page zoom (struggled a bit for the latter, as I want to rely the least on add-ons). And that is it.

So this morning, rehab has started, so to speak, and there are a few things that I am still wrestling with:

  • Missing the ability to see all 90+ tabs in one bar & Tab Stacking
  • Missing the Tab trash (but History is good enough)
  • Missing Opera Notes
  • Dreading to re-set expectations in terms of search (history, bookmarks)

I wrote ‘rehab’ mostly because I have to adjust ten years or so worth of habits with a given tool. There are equivalent features in Firefox, I just need to find them and get used to them. There are other ways to work, too, that I’m considering to explore. And if it doesn’t work for me, I’ll just quit my job and try to make a living out of photography. I’m jesting. I’ll just go and try out another browser.

Stand-alone Opera Mail client

I found out today that with their release of Opera 15, Opera made M2 a stand-alone application. I question their claim that:

On popular demand we have split the Opera Mail client from our desktop browser.

But I’ll probably use it, if their business decision remains to keep the Mail client separate from the browser, despite the numerous comments I read this morning. I estimate that 1 out of 3 lamented the split in question, and much more lamented the lack of much-appreciated other features such as dragonfly, notes, RSS, bookmarks etc., just to quote those which I care about.

I downloaded the application and asked the New Account Wizard to import my data from the Opera Browser. It took a long while. The wizard was stuck with 42% imported and the application was “Not responding” for a moment. I have been using Opera and the built-in Mail client for more than ten years, so it had a lot to work with.

Import complete

It looks and feels exactly the same as the built-in client. Only the panel just has “Mail” and “Contacts” now. Even the panel is placed where it was in the browser.┬áMy 159300+ messages are still there, and the custom labels as well.

The one thing it doesn’t know to do is to open the Opera browser (which is my default browser) in order to resolve a URI that I find in a mail. But when the browser is running, clicking a link in e-mail opens a tab in the other window of the Opera Browser.

There is one thing that is missing in the mail client: a Notes panel; and here’s why.

Bring back Notes in Opera Mail!

Notes is helpful in Mail. When I switched from Netscape Mail to Opera M2, the latter lacked the notion of e-mail templates. The alternative was to create the body of such templates as notes and use them as appropriate. For example, selecting one of these notes and invoking a Compose Message window pre-fills it with the content of the note in the body.

Today I can still do a variation of this, picking the content I want to re-use from the Notes panel of the Opera Browser, and pasting it in a Compose window of the Opera Mail client. But it is a work-around.

Giving Notes to Opera Mail would be convenient. That, or real e-mail templates.

Getting used to it

I have set up Opera Mail to leave messages on server so I can stop using it at will, and take it where I left it in the Opera browser. I doubt I’ll do it. Although I really find it convenient to have Mail in the browser, I doubt that Opera will change the business decision they took and I figure I need to get used to it this way as soon as possible, rather than to be in denial and sulk.

For now I keep looking for the Mail tab in the Opera Browser window. Also, I’ll need to rearrange my windows to accommodate the new one. That means less screen real-estate (15 inch screen, I no longer use virtual desktops).

Update 22 October 2013: I have not reverted to using Mail in Opera 12.16. After almost 5 months, I have just set up Opera Mail to no longer leave messages on the server; so it instructed the server to get rid of 8987 messages (about 1800/month).