Opera's SloganI forgot just how bad pop-up ads can be. For the past 3 years I’ve been using Opera as my primary browser, which features a built-in pop-up ad blocker. Pop-up ads were not what drove me from Internet Explorer though, what sent me looking for alternatives was speed, features and peace of mind For those of you still using Internet Explorer, there are alternative browsers out there that offer more and better features and are worth taking a test drive.

Why I Left
I never liked the fact that Microsoft tied Internet Explorer so tightly into the operating system. Neither did the Justice Department, but that’s another story. What I didn’t like about it was the fact that there were big security holes in it and if IE crashed, your whole system could be affected. To me this was ludicrous. The idea that your entire computer could be compromised by browsing a malicious web site is pure insanity, but that’s the penalty for having applications integrated into the OS.

I used to be a Netscape user, but after 4.0 I found that app to be too buggy and bloated to use anymore. Anyone who had to design web sites for IE and NS 4 will know what I’m talking about. Anyway, one day I read an article in Wired magazine about a company that was re-inventing the browser by building it from the ground up and not using the mosaic core, like all the other browsers. Mosaic was the first web browser and all browsers since then have used it’s core to build their web browsers upon. This company called their browser Opera and thought it could do a better and faster job if they built their own browser from scratch. I liked that.

I also like the idea that they were going to make it 100% compliant with the W3C rules. Anyone reading this weblog knows that I like complying with the W3C HTML standards, I won’t go into that today, but as you might imagine this peaked my interest so I took a test drive and I never looked back.

Tabs Or Windows – One of the first things I liked about Opera was the fact that you had alternatives to how you managed multiple web pages. You could have each page in it’s own window, or you could contain them all into one window and use tabs to navigate. Some people don’t like using tabs, but I loved it. Most of the complaints I hear against tabs is that you can’t used “Alt-Tab” to switch between pages, however you can use “Ctrl-Tab” and get the same effect. The bonus is that your desktop is much cleaner and easier to navigate.

Popup Killer – the next thing that I quickly fell in love with was the fact that you can turn off Popup ads. Horray! You have the option of turning them off completely, or only have the ones you select popup. This is good because some sites use popup windows, instead of full pages. If you’ve turned off ALL pop ups then you won’t see that content.

Cross Platform – I’m now using Macintosh, Windows and Linux on a fairly frequent basis. I liked the fact that Opera supported all three major platforms and that all versions were near identical in terms of their feature set. So it’s been easy to use Opera on any OS I happen to be using.

Fast and Small – When I first started using Opera, both Internet Explorer and Netscape were becoming massive downloads. Since Opera only did web browsing, it was much smaller in size to download and install. The other thing I noticed was that Opera was indeed faster than IE. Loading a page in Opera was much faster and still is today.

Some web sites still insist on users use Internet Explorer to browse their web site. My bank is one of them and when I visit them, I have to use IE. That’s when I’m reminded how it’s slower and just a bit more “klunky” than Opera.

Things Change
On my main Windows machine, I still use Opera, but the software has grown from when I first began using it. They’ve now added Opera Mail and there’s been a little bit of feature bloat along the way. I began with Opera 5 and I’m now on Opera 7. Each version change has had a small upgrade fee and I’ve happily paid it to remove the banner advertising. However, my key doesn’t work on my Mac, or my Linux machines. I was happy with Opera for the most part, but I felt that I didn’t have any other options.

I wasn’t going back to IE, and Mozilla and Netscape both felt way to bloated for me to use. I wanted a simple, easy to use web browser. I don’t want e-mail, news readers, instant messaging, or web design tools in my browser. I just want to browse and it seemed that my only option was Opera.

Rise Of The Firebird
This year another browser has appeared on the landscape that peaked my attention. As I stated earlier, I found Mozilla to be too bloated for me to use. I guess I wasn’t alone, because the Mozilla group released a browser only product called Firebird. I downloaded it and gave it a test drive and boy was I surprised.

All the features that drew me to Opera are contained in Firebird. Popup protection, tabbed navigation and cross compatibility. The bonus was that the browser is 100% free. 😀 I downloaded it for the Mac and for my Linux box and it’s become a staple of Internet software. I still use Opera on my main workstation, mostly because it’s still paid for and I’m used to it, but on every other machine, I use Firebird.

Give IE The Boot
If you’re still using Internet Explorer as your browser, I would encourage you to give Opera, or Firebird a try. Both browsers are more stable, secure and offer a wealth of features that don’t require additional software to protect you from pop ups and other junk. You can easily import your bookmarks into the other programs and I think you’re bound to like either one of these new browsers. Besides, you can always go back, or use both if you’re so inclined. I have all three of them installed on my main machine. So give IE the boot and try out a new browser today. 🙂