Web Browser Wednesday

While I have a tendency to use the Firefox browser most of the time, I do use Opera quite a bit as well. Opera is kind of my casual browser because it is slim, efficient, and yet powerful while Firefox offers the extensibility that I need when plowing my way through hundreds of different sites I visit everyday. I don’t really get around to playing with all the different tweaks that lie under-the-hood of Opera, but I think I have some that you may not yet know about.

I’ve already covered some speed enhancements for Opera in a previous article, so the focus here is is going to be a little bit different. I’m going to dive into the opera:config which is similar to Firefox’s about:config screen. In both browsers that is where all of the hidden gems lie that most people are afraid to tinker with, and as a result you could really miss out on some great tweaks.

In my opinion Opera’s opera:config screen is a little more formal than what Firefox has to offer. To get to the configuration screen you simply have to type opera:config in the address bar and there you’ll see a bunch of categories that can be expanded to reveal corresponding settings:

Opera Config

It’s easy to get the hang of, and if you ever mess something up you can always press the “Default” button next to an option to return that setting back to its original value.

A short description for all of the settings listed on the opera:config screen can be found here, and you’ll notice on that page that all of the settings are hyperlinked. Those links will only work in Opera because they will take you directly to the that option on the configuration page. The few tweaks that I mention below also use hyperlinks to help you find the setting quickly.

—Add Thumbnail Previews to Ctrl+Tab Window Cycle—

Opera ThumbnailsThis is probably one of the cooler features for switching tabs, and for some reason it isn’t enabled by default in Opera. If you want to switch tabs in Opera you can use the Ctrl+Tab key combination to do so. It will pop open with a tab switcher that is purely text-based. The screenshot to the right was taken after I enabled a setting in opera:config to show thumbnails along with their corresponding titles.

The thing I like about this is that it only shows three thumbnails on the right-side of the list so that it doesn’t get too cluttered. The thumbnail in the middle is the one that you currently have selected, and the one above and below it are the tabs before and after it, respectively.

The thing that I don’t like about it is that there is no border at all around the tab switcher. It only has a white background that can make it a little more difficult for your eyes to visualize the boundaries.

To turn the thumbnail preview on for the tab switcher all you need to do is enter opera:config#UserPrefs|UseThumbnailsinWindowCycle into the address bar, and then check the corresponding box.


—Disable Opera’s BitTorrent Client—

I recently saw this configuration option over at Opera Watch, and many Opera users that I talk to say that it is nice having a BitTorrent client built-into the browser but it doesn’t work nearly as well as a standalone program. For that reason there is an opera:config setting to prevent Opera from handling BitTorrent downloads itself:

To disable the BitTorrent client in Opera:

  1. Copy and paste the following into the address bar (the URL bar): opera:config#BitTorrent|Enable
  2. Unselect “Enable”
  3. Click “Save”

To use another BitTorrent client with Opera:

  1. Go to Tools > Preferences > Advanced > Downloads
  2. Unselect “Hide file types opened with Opera”
  3. Type “torrent” in the Quick find box
  4. Double-click the line that looks like this: application/x-bittorrent torrent
  5. Select “Open with default application”
  6. Click “OK”


—Opera’s Keyboard and Mouse Shortcuts—

  • Ctrl+H sends Opera to the System Tray.
  • Holding down the right mouse button and using the scroll wheel will bring up the tab switcher that is mentioned above. This makes is really easy to switch between tabs!
  • Going back and forward in Opera is really easy. To go back just hold down the right mouse button and then press the left one, or to go forward just hold down the left mouse button and press the right one.
  • Pressing the period (.) key will initiate a Find As You Type search feature just like in Firefox.
    Opera Search
  • Shift+Left Click on a tab to close it.
  • Ctrl+B will paste a URL an already copied URL onto the clipboard and press enter for you. Thanks for the tip ResearchWizard!
  • Ctrl+Z will undo the last closed tab.


—Cascading/Tiling Windows—

This is one thing that Firefox will never be able to do because Opera is built using a Multiple Document Interface (MDI) that lets you cascade, tile, and minimize windows all from within the window. There is an extension for Firefox that tries to replicate this feature, but it doesn’t quite cut it for me.

Actually, this is one of the biggest reasons that I use Opera in my casual browsing. If I come across two items that I want to compare I can put them side-by-side very easily with tiling. To use this feature just right-click on any tab, go to the Arrange menu, and choose the option that you want to do:

Opera Cascade

Here is what it looks like when I tile a few different windows:

Opera Tile



Opera is full of all kinds of tweaking goodness that is just waiting to be exposed. I’m sure some of you have used Opera more than me so if you know of any great tweaks please make sure to mention them in the comments so that we can all benefit from them! I’ll go ahead and leave you now with a few sites that may help you on your journey for finding more tips and tricks: