opera 7.5 || MAIN || dbaron saves opera

May 13, 2004

opera update

It seems that a few people missed the main point I was trying to make. I know that Opera is highly customizable. I know that I can turn off various toolbars. I know that Opera has some nice advantages like small download size and high-quality and performant content rendering. The main complaint I had was that the UI is painful. It starts off way too cluttered. But even it's default cluttered configuration was not my main point. Go back and read the first and second paragraphs of my post below. The main point was that un-cluttering the UI was itself made extremely difficult by further bad UI. I was able to make it look pretty darned good but not without a lot of guessing (wrong guesses, much of the time) about how to do that.

I'm not an Opera basher. I'm pointing out what I consider to be a big failure in usability and I'm looking for input from Opera fans that will help me stick with the app long enough to find additional gems buried in the mountain.

I'm also not a complete computer newbie. Posting my bona fides here would be silly; just take my word for it. I am the kind of computer user that Opera is probably targeting. I use the computer and the internet to perform 95% of my job responsibilities and I spend at least 10 hours a day in my browser and e-mail client. I'm not incapable of using complex software but I do recognize obvious usability failures when I encounter them, and Opera 7.5 has no shortage in this department.

Yes, it can be made better with some preferences customization. But what does that tell me? It tells me that there's a better product that Opera could be shipping with very little effort. Without a single change to the basic application code, Opera could be shipping something that was much more appealing, out of the box, to most people. I'm not saying that solves all of their UI problems. It doesn't -- not even close. It would, however, put the burden of cluttering the app on the (probable minority of) people who want 20 or 30 buttons on 4 or 5 different toolbars.

The menubar is still crazy. Keep in mind that menus are the most difficult GUI widgets for users (maybe mpt or andyed can back me up with the data on this one.) Most usability critics complained about Mozilla's 130+ menu items (and 8 toplevel menus with 12 sub-menus!!) not counting character encodings. Opera has 10 toplevel menus, 28 sub-menus, and over 250 menu items (not including character encodings). Like I said below, Opera makes SeaMonkey look lean. (For comparison, IE has about 75 menu items and Firefox has about 50 -- both excluding the encodings).

But back to my original and central point. Opera has an overloaded UI and I contend that most Opera users don't use most of the front-facing UI. That would be sad, in and of itself, but Opera users are further aggravated with confusing and difficult to discover customization UI which makes improving the situation that much more painful.

Again, I'm not bashing Opera, and just to demonstrate my good will, I'm going to try really hard to make it 50% of my browser usage for the rest of this week. I've got the main window toolbars looking much better and I've got my bookmarks all imported. I suspect that by next week, my complaints will be roughly the same, but I'm willing to give it a go.

And to further distance myself from what might look like bashing, I'm transforming my complaints into suggestions. Here are three simple steps I believe Opera should take to make this browser more palatable to users out of the box

  1. Make the default config look a lot closer to this than this.
  2. Get the menu thing under control. At a minimum, move Mail and Chat under Tools and follow this simple rule: if you have to go to a third level menu, it's probably not something you want on the main menubar anyway (with the exception of character encoding).
  3. Cut some better deals with advertisers (whore out more of the start page or default bookmarks or something) and give users a free browser without the in-chrome banner.

I'm in no position to determine if #3 is even possible, given existing financial agreements and Opera's overall financial situation but I include it because it really is a usability negative for users. If you're an Opera user and you disagree with #1 and #2, I'd like to hear your reasons -- especially if you can support them with usability data.

In the mean time, I'm giving Opera a run and thanks to the few of you who offered good tips or pointed out useful Opera features.

Posted by asa at May 13, 2004 01:22 PM

Wow! I don't even want to look at those 33 comments down there attached to your first Opera post for the day. ;)

I second your comments, though. I am a web developer, and a few months ago I busted out a copy of Opera to test my sites, and I had the same adventure you had. One adventure that had a good ending though was finding the user agent changer. Its just a menu item under file, if I remember right. I'd like to see FireFox add quick user agent switching like that (yes, I know there are extensions for that...)

Posted by: yacoubean on May 13, 2004 05:34 PM

It's hard to simplify the default interface further (other than solve the double navigation toolbar bar bug) because Opera wants to advertise all of its features on the default setup - what's the point of a personal bar if people don't know about it? What's the point of a chat client if there's no menu to it, and no button on the left?

The menus - there's so much of it compared to Firefox, obviously because Opera does so much more than Firefox. For example, Firefox doesn't have the Mail, Chat and Windows menus simply because it does not have this functionality.

You cannot compare Opera to Firefox. A fairer comparison is with SeaMonkey, but when Firefox users think of the Mozilla Suite, they think "slow... bloated... clunky". SeaMonkey gave the all-in-one approach a bad image because firstly, it's slow, and secondly, it only did a quarter-arsed job at integrating. But Opera shows that it's possible to have all your internet programs in one package, without compromising anything.

Posted by: Kevin on May 14, 2004 12:03 AM

I agree that the out of the box UI is..... daunting and I can't for the life of me work out why the "panel selector" even exists.

Uncluttering the UI isn't that difficult once you realise one crucial thing.

If you want to customize something in Opera then right click on it...

Posted by: Paul McGarry on May 14, 2004 02:42 AM

By choosing for the non-google ads, you've made the default look a lot worse than needed. You are right that the ad banner, in one way or another, is a pain for the UI.

For people who want to use the mail and chat clients, I don't see the big problem with having them as top level items. That's the least of the problems you mention - moving them to submenus would only overload the tools menu.

A lot of the high number of menu options is probably caused by things like the 'reload every' option. Should we popup a window to select the interval, instead of enabling the option and selecting the interval with one quick action?

I don't see much scope for reducing those numbers without introducing lots of popups. And remember that Firefox simply has less options to present.

Just my 2cts :)

Posted by: Rijk on May 14, 2004 03:00 AM


I'm not going to comment on too much here, but since you asked for input on #1 and 2 :)

A usability study of 7.5 this winter showed that even less advanced internet users expected the personal bar, since they're used to that functionality from IE/NN. This was one of the items they specifically complained about when presented with a stripped version of Opera.

In 7.5 we managed to get a slim version of the Google banner when you turn off "View->Toolbars->Main bar". That's the default setup on a clean install, while the Main bar is kept for backwards compatibility for old users.

Opera's menus are heavy, although less so than in previous versions and the work on reducing complexity continues. However, the main menu is also the place new users can most easily explore the functionality of a new product. Hiding the Mail entry under Tools is almost like saying that Thunderbird doesn't need a menu bar (as long as Opera is an integrated suite).

Uncheck "Preferences->Programs and paths->Enable Mail and Chat" if you want to use Opera as a pure Web client.

In general we try to simplify and modernize the product without alienating the current user base, something Mozilla found hard enough to create an entirely new product line (FF/TB). That's currently not an option for Opera.

When it comes to default home page, bookmarks and ad banner format we're in a different position than IE (burning MS money for monopoly), Netscape (burning dot-com-money for lost monopoly) or FF/Moz since we need to fund our development. Finding the right line between better user experience and maximized profit isn't necessarily easy ;)

(btw, feel free to contact me by e-mail if you have specific questions or general feedback)

Posted by: Johan Borg on May 14, 2004 03:16 AM

Quote: [snip]
"Opera has 10 toplevel menus, 28 sub-menus, and over 250 menu items (not including character encodings). Like I said below, Opera makes SeaMonkey look lean. (For comparison, IE has about 75 menu items and Firefox has about 50 -- both excluding the encodings)."

This is ust not true! You have to count without all the items from mail and news client! Without Mail+News Opera has just 8 toplevel menus like Firefox (and they have nearly the same names)

Posted by: Rainer on May 14, 2004 06:50 AM

Quote: [snip]
"Opera has 10 toplevel menus, 28 sub-menus, and over 250 menu items (not including character encodings). Like I said below, Opera makes SeaMonkey look lean. (For comparison, IE has about 75 menu items and Firefox has about 50 -- both excluding the encodings)."

This is ust not true! You have to count without all the items from mail and news client! Without Mail+News Opera has just 8 toplevel menus like Firefox (and they have nearly the same names)

Posted by: Rainer on May 14, 2004 06:50 AM

Why count without all of the menus? I see a little where you are coming from, but you are wrong. If it is a menu--especially a toplevel one--it gets counted in the above scenario. It just goes to show how cluttered the interface is.

Posted by: Neil Paris on May 14, 2004 08:12 AM

One thing I definitely would change in your "make the default UI look like this" screenshot is that you've taken out the Rewind and FastForward buttons. I was skeptical when those were first introduced in 7.0, but I am a believer now; they are quite useful features once grok'd.

I'm not sure what that little monkey is at the right end of your screenshot's address/nav bar (prob. because I haven't looked at the default icons). But the other thing that normally appears next to the address field is the image/style control button -- this feature is indispensable, and one of the main reasons why I use Opera instead of Mozilla/FF as my preferred browser. Be sure to give those a spin while using Opera over your test drive period.

I was taken aback when I saw the "dual navigation bars" feature, too. My first response was to reconfigure to the way I had 7.2 set up, but from that position of comfort I'm reconsidering. And I had some problems getting the toolbar customization working smoothly, despite being an Opera partisan since 4.0.

Menus are more of a philosophical thing than UI gurus care to admit, I think. I tend to agree with those who posit that the menu is where you go to explore what features are available; therefore, everything ought to be there, somewhere. Still, I would change some things in the Opera menus, and I would change some in Mozilla too (in fact, I *have* changed some in Mozilla :)

I have plenty of complaints with O7.5 -- carryovers from earlier 7.x versions that weren't fixed (TOOLTIPS AMOK), and the new and extremely irritating change to the text editor's by-word keyboard navigation, which may force me to revert to 7.2. But I'm not giving up on Opera.

Posted by: Mike Cowperthwaite on May 14, 2004 08:43 AM

I suspect Opera might be a bit overwhelming at first for someone not comfortable at computers. I didn't like the Panel on the left either and got rid of it. 7.50 final now makes a compromise between the earlier design and the old Hot List, so that one can toggle it. A more obvious indicator of how to modify the Panel, like a Panel edit button on the Panel itself, would definitely help. Likewise, a quick help text rather than a longer "how to" would help users make their way through customizing more easily. Generally, customizing Opera forces the user to raise their computer skills a bit and I think that's a good thing.

Posted by: Gene on May 14, 2004 09:49 AM

Have you checked your website with Opera lately? I wanted to say separately that the irony of your comments about "clutter" is that in Opera 7.50 final your own page is "cluttered!" Specifically, your layout runs full screen width to the right and, in fact, the last character is cut off on some lines. The latter does not occur with IE6. Zoom in Opera is set at 100%.

Posted by: Gene on May 14, 2004 09:55 AM

> I suspect Opera might be a bit overwhelming at first for someone not comfortable at computers.

Umm, I'm not sure being patronising is going to help anyone. I'm by no means "not comfortable at computers" and I would describe the default configuration of Opera as "barely usable".

"Generally, customizing Opera forces the user to raise their computer skills a bit and I think that's a good thing."

Uh, but so does working at the command line. As does using VI instead of Word/Opennoffice/etc. As do many other things that people don't want to do because there's an easier way that allows them to use their computer rather than fight it.

If the people at Opera dn't clean up the interface, it will always remain a marginal desktop browser even among the IE-alternatives. Wanting easy-to-use software desn't mean that you're a clueless n00b; it means that your life s rch enough that you consider the investment of time required to learn a complex tool that does a very smilar job to several simple tools isn't worthwhile given your prior estimate of the probability of long term gains.

Posted by: jgraham on May 14, 2004 11:26 AM

> given your prior estimate of the probability of long term gains.

And, moreover, the interface affects this initial evaluation of probability the using the software is worthwhile in the long term.

With Opera, I have found that the interface has a very negative impact on my assessment of whether the software is likely to be useful in the long term. I mean, if the people that designed the interface did such a bad job, why should I assume that the people who designed the rest of the program did a better job?

Which is tottally unfair of course and a rational person might conclude that there's no correlation between the quality of the UI and the quality of the rest of the program. But I've yet to meet a rational person.

Posted by: jgraham on May 14, 2004 11:37 AM

My custom software doesn't have a TrackBack implementation (yet), so here are my comments:

Posted by: J. King on May 14, 2004 03:57 PM

Mike Cowperthwaite,

The screenshot of the "make the default UI look like this" is mine.

About your concerns: I don't have the fastforward and rewind buttons on the address bar because I use mouse-gestures for those.

I use keyboard shortcuts for the images/style controls and the "little monkey" opens Nontroppo's Web Developer toolbar (http://nontroppo.org/wiki/WebDevToolbar) giving me hotlinks to validate the HTML, view all linked stylesheets, and even to zoom to any spec sheet at the w3c. Describing the toolbar as a Swiss-Army knife is actually demeaning!

There is so much on Opera's toolbars you can get rid of with mouse-gestures and keyboard shortcuts that if you use the browser for any length of time, you'll be able to get less and less UI in the way of your webpages :)

Posted by: GreyWyvern on May 14, 2004 04:01 PM

J. King, have you used Mozilla? (That was meant sincerely.) I'm not talking about Firefox; I'm talking about the Mozilla Application Suite -- sometimes called SeaMonkey.

You said, basically, that it was unfair to compare Opera to other applications that don't include as much functionality:
"Opera is an Internet application which includes a Web browser, e-mail client, IRC client, Usenet client, integrated address book, newsfeed reader, and a notes feature; Mozilla Firefox is a Web browser."

Well, Mozilla is an Internet application which includes a Web brower, e-mail client, IRC client, usenet client, integrated address book, a DOM Inspector, a JavaScript Debugger (which does performance profiling!,) and a reasonably solid HTML authoring and publishing tool.

Mozilla manages to present entry points for all for these applications _in the primary menubar_ (and elsewhere in the main browser front-end) with roughly half of the total menu items as Opera. If you're concerned about users finding these features (let's just call them applications, that's what they are) I'd argue that the applications in Mozilla are even more discoverable to unfamiliar users simply because they're not burried in the clutter of an additional 120 menu items.

I still think that even Mozilla is a bit overloaded in the menu bar. It, at least, understands the perils of integrating so many applciations and tries to do as much context sensitive UI presentation as possible . You don't need a "next unread message" menu item, for example, if you're not actually looking at messages, so the browser doesn't present a next unread menu item in its menubar. You don't need a "show whitespace nodes" menu item if you're not actually using the DOM inspector to inspect a document -- as another example.

Opera tries to manage every one if it's component applications from the same menubar without adjusting the menubar on the fly so it probably has to include more items than SeaMonkey. I understand that constraint. It's, in my opinion, a serious and probably insurmountable flaw in that approach.

Mozilla manages to integrate a half dozen internet applications about as well as I think can be done, but even that makes each of those applications a bit less usable than they'e be on their own.

When designing GUI interface, it's important that you take into consideration the ease of use of different interface widgets and try to maximize usage of the most usable and minimize usage of the least usable. It turns out that menus are one of the most difficult widgets in all of contemporary GUIs and Opera has chosen an approach that maximizes the number of menus a user has to deal with. Even advanced users have difficulty with menus. They're just a difficult widget to use efficiently. The more of them and the more crowded each one is, the more difficult they become. That's just the way it is.

Opera made the choice to go with this multiple applications within the same window approach. As long as they stick with that, they're somewhat constrained in how they can work around the menus usability problems. This choice doesn't preclude Opera from making improvements, though, but it will always probably have less usable GUI than other apps which attempt to do the same thing through multiple window approaches (Mozilla, for example).

Given the MDI-like interface constraints, what could Opera do to improve things? Well, they could trim down lots of the items which don't _have to be_ in the menus. I realize that certain things probably can't come out and I amend my earlier suggestion that chat and mail move under tools. But things which could move to other windows, like preferences, should get out of the way of the application features that must be in the menus. Another good candidate for cutting out of the menus would be something like the mail -> new account item. Are you really creating new accounts so often that you can't get at it from the account manager (I'd argue that even the account manager item on the mail menu could be pulled from the menu. Users could survive accessing it from preferences).

I'm not going to make a lot of suggestions about which items could be moved or rearranged, I just don't have the time to think about it that much but from a quick look, I'm still convinced that a lot of that menu clutter could be better consolidated and doing so would make Opera a fair bit easier to use _out of the box_.

Posted by: Asa Dotzler on May 14, 2004 05:16 PM

I think Asa has really hit the spot here with his review. I'm no computer dunce, and when I first opened Opera, the level of UI clutter was daunting.

My first gripe. When you open the browser for the first time, it asks you to configure advertisements. When you open most any other web browser, there is a default configuration that works without needing the user to choose anything.

Second. What's with all the excess toolbars? None of them are intuitive, and they all reduce screen real estate. On my Linux machine where I have 1024x768 LCD, when I first started up Opera, there were /so/ many toolbars and /so/ much wasted space that there wasn't much room for web pages to render! Firefox/Mozilla/IE all get this right. There is little/no wasted space out of the box.

Other gripes (in short):
a) GUI widgets look non-native to the OS. This is confusing (Mozilla has some issues with this too, but more minor).
b) http://portal.opera.com/ sucks. Really. Having popups on the default start page is really unacceptable, even for a free commercial browser. This is /so/ annoying that its unbelievable. It's like, fire up Opera, get 2 ads free. The ad-bar is not so annoying. This really is.

Opera pluses:
a) Small download package.
b) Standards-compliant rendering engine. This is no small deal.

Personally, I think that the Opera 7.23 UI was totally and utterly abysmal. It was cluttered to the point of insanity. Opera 7.50 has come a decent way to remedying that, but there is still a lot of UI work to be done.

In short, how do I rate Opera 7.5?
It's definitely a big improvement over Opera 7.23, usability wise and standards compliance/rendering wise. The UI is a lot smoother. But, there is still a LOT of work to be done on the UI.

Disclaimer: Yes, I'm biased. Isn't everyone?

Posted by: Ali Ebrahim on May 14, 2004 06:34 PM

Johan, OK. I take back the suggestion to move mail under tools. If you expect a significant number of your users to actually be using Mail, then it probably needs a toplevel menu (maybe several).

Some of this I said above in my comment to J. King, but I'm going to repeat here with some modification because I think what you were saying and what he was saying were somewhat different on the points I care about.

You've tried to present several applications (mostly Browser, Mail, and Chat) in the same window, with a shared menubar. In some ways this is similar to Apple's shared menubar (in more ways, however, it's different -- for one, Apple's menubar is dynamic and application sensitive). Given a shared and mostly static menubar as a starting point, I think you have to realize that you're starting off at a usability disadvantage from apps which don't share a menubar so thoroughly and you have to work very hard to eliminate any _non-essential_ items from that menubar. If you're going to present all the necessary Browser, Mail and Chat items, then I'd suggest moving many of the supporting features and settings into other windows or dialogs. Where you already have the features exposed in other windows or dialogs, cut them from the menus. A good example of this is the Mail -> New account... item. It's already available via the Mail -> Account settings... menu item (which itself is avaiable via the Tools -> Preferences... item). Having two highly visible menu items on the primary menubar for a feature which users will probably only access a few times in the lifetime of the app might be fine if you weren't starting out with 300+ other menu items.

The second point I want to make is a response to your comment that "the main menu is also the place new users can most easily explore the functionality of a new product." While that's not untrue, given the necessarily overcrowded nature of your menubar, I don't think you guys have the room to advertise things like Navigation -> Reload frame or View -> Color scheme. If it's important to advertise Mail and Chat, then you probably have to give up things like Navigation -> Set home page.

I'd actually wager that users are less likely to find the applications and special features you all have because they're so lost in the overabundance of menus and menuitems on your primary menubar.

I also suspect that some of the reson you all ship with what I consider a chaotic set of default toolbars/panels/whatever, is tied in closely with what you said above, that you want to use the application to advertise all of it's features. I think that's probably a mistake. I don't know how to go about advertising features in a cost effective way, but I suspect that making the application overall less usable for all of your users to advertise features that will only be interesting to some of your users is a poor way to do this.

I'm actually quite familiar with the "advertise the cool new feature by giving it lots of UI prominence" approach. We went through a lot of this with Mozilla. I'm not sure if you pay much attention to our develoment but those who do will remember when the "form fill toolbar" landed. The engineer who implemented the form auto-fill mechanism was so happy with his creation that he decided it needed to be right up there in front of the users with as much prominence as the primary navigation toolbar. Fortunately, our UI module owners pushed back and the toolbar was removed. In Mozilla, it's still represented by two toplevel menu items, but at least it's not an entire toolbar.

Posted by: Asa Dotzler on May 14, 2004 06:38 PM

Allow me, as a paying Opera customer and experienced user of both Opera and Firefox, to add some comment:

Lately I have been switching more and more to Firefox. The reason is NOT that Opera's UI is not good or too complex. After some experience I configure a "fresh install" of Opera 7.5 in 2 minutes according to my liking: i.e. removing almost all panels, toolbars etc, I do everything using keyboard shortcuts. As a "professional" web user it should not be a problem. If it is OK for inexperienced (IE) users is another question but I don't really care :)

However, there are some other things that Opera is more and more lacking compared to Firefox:

1. stability
I use my browser at work for 8 hours a day. I can run Firefox + tabbrowser extentions (and various others) with many tabs open the whole day, I cannot remember a crash in the last month; b.t.w. this is using an 0.8+ "experimental" CPU optimized build. The stability is really impressing. Opera OTOH, both 7.23 and the latest 7.5, crash at least every 2 hours of heavy use.

2. integrated ad blocking
Mozilla's adblock plugin is really a "killer app" for me. I know people keep telling that a browser should not be bloated by this and that an external app should handle this, but I do not agree. One might also say that a browser should not be bloated by an email client and that that should be handled externally. The point is, for ad blocking the integration into the browser really brings a great benefit: with adblock I can "point and click" at an irritating element right on the page and have it blocked forever. With an external solution I have to look at the page source or view the image properties (not possible with flash ads) to get the URL of the item to be blocked and then manually copy it into the filter application. Too cumbersome...

3. very good tools for developers
Such as "dom inspector", "live http headers" showing all requests and replies, "clear HTTP auth" and other plugins. No equivalents for Opera exist; Opera cannot even show SSL certificate information (it only shows that a page is safely encrypted, but you cannot see the certificate details). These lacks make Opera quite useless for serious web developers compared to Firefox.

Some areas where Opera used to have the edge, but no longer has because Firefox fully catched up (by means of extentions):
- tabbed browsing
- mouse gestures & "rocker" back/forward

As for those who critisize the fact that you need to install numerous extentions to reach the same level of functionality in Mozilla: in the (2 minutes) time to configure Opera's UI to my liking, I have also installed the 5 Mozilla extentions that are essential to me. Without any compatability problems btw.

Opera still is better w.r.t.:
- fast back/forward naviation. however you pay a price for this; opera cashes the rendered pages ISO the source, which costs lots of memory. The opera process starts somewhat smaller as firefox, but after a while it consumes much more memory. if you limit the memory cache in opera, you also loose the fast back/forward navigation

As for website compatability: I find that both opera and firefox have come a long way and now display over 99% of all websites correctly (thanks to IE's stagnation both had time to catch up). Some sites still have minor problems with Opera, others have minor problems with Firefox. Opera had some more rendering bugs until recently, but version 7.5 improved quite a lot.

To summarize: even though I paid for Opera, I am using Firefox almost exclusively now. Firefox has some decisive features that I can no longer "live without", and it hardly has any serious drawbacks compared to Opera. If Opera at least would include integrated ad blocking in a next version (8) I might consider buying an upgrade and give Opera another try.

Posted by: plm on May 15, 2004 01:13 AM

To the Opera fanboys out there: it works both ways.

In Asa's last comment here, he made the suggestion of consolidating some accounts menu items. Mozilla Thunderbird has the same problem - we've got bad UI in places as well, just as Opera does. I just filed a bug in Bugzilla for it, and hopefully I've explained the reasons for doing so as well as Asa has for Opera:


Asa, I'd appreciate any feedback you wish to make over in the bug, as the change is admittedly a rather large one (even though it only affects two menu items) in my opinion as UI changes go.

Posted by: Jeff Walden on May 15, 2004 01:22 AM
Asa: Keep in mind that menus are the most difficult GUI widgets for users

Right. You have to click (or start dragging), pause while you find the item you want, then move/drag to it. With every other control that requires multiple clicks or dragging, you can see where you want to end up before you start.

if you have to go to a third level menu, it's probably not something you want on the main menubar anyway (with the exception of character encoding).

Encoding is not an exception. :-) Epiphany avoids multi-level submenus for encoding selection, because they use the encoding dialog that I designed for Mozilla three years ago. The Firefox hackers are quite welcome to follow suit.

Kevin: But Opera shows that it's possible to have all your internet programs in one package, without compromising anything.

If that were really true, no-one would be complaining about the interface.

Posted by: mpt on May 15, 2004 12:42 PM

I'm quite surprised lots of people haven't known or learn of this but...
Tech savvy people need to understand that what YOU may not like as a taste, the general mainstream culture does. And that is exactly what the default UI(which we people consider cluttered) is, it is liked by the rest of the people who are new to computers.

Opera designs the UI that way because,I presume, they know the pop culture. Those people just don't have the same taste as we people. What we may call "cluttered" would look highly dynamic, featureful and easily accessible to them, basically, they like it. They like cluttered interfaces. It's a general practice by many companies...they usually don't market the item to us tech-literate people, we are not the majority, the rest are. And they the corporate companies are JUST not looking for what you or the rest of the people debating in Internet tech forums are looking for.

So, to Asa, what you may approve of as being clean may not be liked as much by the general population, than an interface you may consider "cluttered". However, what I would consider nice is a different "clean" version of Opera obtainiable with a clean surface right out of the box.(Still, I'm quite surprised, Asa, a person like you asks for a "hack" to remove the ad from a shareware program. Very Unethical/Illegal.)

Okay, that put aside, lets come to Opera's usage itself. Like I said in my post in the earlier page, I do agree to an extent that Opera's menu items and categorization of options may not be as well done, but I don't mind that with the amount of customizability I get with the browser. Besides, I really don't they the menu Items are all that complicated either.

And this to mpt: I'd still rather see Encoding in a multi-level menu than an encoding dialog. It'd be annoying in a dialog box. And also, what does complaints about the interface have anything to do with a program that represents the ability o have all your internet programs in one package, without compromising anything.?? Makes no sense to me.

Posted by: Toxicfume on May 18, 2004 10:38 AM

I've been using Opera since iirc v6.5. I pretty much agree with what you've said - the default interface is horrible.
Here's how I have it set up. (skin is Emil, in case anyone wants know)
Unfortunately, I don't really see any conventional way of fixing it. Different people want different things. If someone wants to just browse the web with the usual IE-esque setup, they'll be turned off (and then some) by the initial interface. OTOH if they're used to having, for example, a personal bar, then they'll annoyed that it doesn't have one and perchance it isn't immediately obvious how to turn it on (though I think having it under Toolbars in the View menu is perfectly adequate, any more obvious than that would just add clutter, this was just an example). Oh, and having popup blocking off by default, when it's one of the main sellings points in the first place, /is/ one of the more moronic decisions I've encountered.
The only real solution I see is to have several premade configurations available to choose from at either download or install - a minimalistic browser setup, a full integrated webapp setup similar to the current default UI (though even then it needs to be improved), and perhaps a few intuitive configs in between. Either that, or pop up a customization dialog at first startup that lets you quickly turn on or off and/or rearrange the various toolbars and panels, chat/mail functionality, and the various other more prominent things to be configured. (Again, attention would have to be paid not to make it intimidating.) This wouldn't be a bad solution, especially since UI changes take effect automatically, so users can easily find out what the various settings toggle, and it would be a nice way to explore the application's capabilities.

Posted by: Illissius on May 18, 2004 10:43 AM

Asa, your "uncluttered" screenshot threw away the 3 single things that made me a perennial user of Opera (*despite* the UI) since 6.0:

The google search box
The Zoom box
The Image Status control (don't/load images, cached only)

Yes, it's uncluttered. But you've made it useless; I don't think Opera is the right browser for you.

You are, of course, terribly right. The 7.50 Opera UI is horrible out of the box. The panels are not a very good idea (I liked the hotlist better: a word is worth a thousand pictures); the toggle triangle for the panels is not very obvious; the customization dialogue for the toolbars is arcane; the Preferences are on another menu, after YEARS in the File menu.

But, with a bit of head scratching and elbow grease, I've given up on Safari AND Firefox again. Opera is a swiss-army knife; just don't cut yourself.

Posted by: Tiago Silva on May 19, 2004 11:58 AM

Toxicfume: First, the reason "lots of people haven't known or learn[t] of" what you claim is that it's the opposite of the truth. A tragedy of the commons may lead to a complex interface (for example, it was easier for Microsoft Word's designers to satisfy multiple "please add a toolbar button for X" requests than "please make the toolbars simpler" requests), but in general, people prefer simpler interfaces.

Secondly, your use of "annoying" to describe the encoding dialog is uselessly vague. I guarantee you it's faster than the multi-level menus. What other measures of annoyance are you using?

Thirdly, the logic of the all-in-one approach is quite simple. Opera's all-in-one approach requires the interface to be complicated. Most people don't like complicated interfaces. Therefore, the all-in-one approach is wrong.

Posted by: mpt on May 19, 2004 07:48 PM

Dont really disagre with anything from *this* post (have not read further down).

I LOVE (repeat LOVE) Opera. I wish Mozilla had more keyboard shortcuts and as good mouse gestures.

I wish it was as small and fast as Opera ... but FireFox is getting close.

I also dislike the sidebar (in both browsers!). Why should I burn realestate on such actions? Give me a mouse gesture, keyboard shortcut, or menu option *any day!*

I am a equal opportunity surfer too, I have both and will continue to use/upgrade both.

IMHO, battle it out. The only winner will be us. GO GO GO. Also, DEATH to the proprietary browsers wars (read DEATH to IE).

Did I say GO GO GO?

Posted by: iwanttokeepanon@front.ru on May 20, 2004 08:49 PM


Here is a more positive review (not by me ;) though the only thing it says about the UI is that it has better default icons than 7.0, which is very true.


Posted by: Douglas on May 21, 2004 12:49 PM

This is a reply to one of the comments in the previous post...

"I agree that FF isn't as customizable as Opera - sure, you can make the entire UI blink by editing a CSS file, but you can't, for example, change the position of the tab bar, or do this sort of stuff to it. Truthfully now, which is more useful?"

You can mess with the .xul files, which should do the trick. If worse comes to worse the source code is right there for me to hack. The point is FF is infinatly more customizable than Opera, period. Its just a matter of what a user knows how to do. Its open source and I could take the browser and really do anything I can dream of, at a extension level or at a core level. Opera is only as custimizable as the development team feels it should be. Granted there may be alot of options/features, but what happens if it doesnt have the one I want? Request it and pray the devs show me mercy. But not everyone knows how to code, so for low-average-slightly_above_average users opera works just fine! And even for some coders opera works fine. Not every browser works for every user. But for users who are control freaks AND power users, opera might not be the right one.

Mozilla is the browser for the kids who bought the lego sets for the parts :)

Posted by: eSavior on May 22, 2004 01:40 PM

"give users a free browser without the in-chrome banner"

Helloooo. Opera is a COMMERCIAL product. Opera Software earns money with it. And it's nothing bad. If you don't like these few simple facts, dont use Opera.

I used IE fo 3 years, Mozilla for 5 months. Now I am Opera user and I'm going to register it.

Posted by: J81 on June 13, 2004 03:34 PM

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