Browsers: Beyond IE And Firefox

They may have the most eyes, but there's more to Web browsing than Internet Explorer and Firefox Firefox.

InformationWeek Staff, Contributor

January 21, 2006

3 Min Read

Opera, another free browser, has become known for its many innovations. Opera Software ASA pioneered the use of tabbed browsing and pop-up blocking, now commonplace in practically every browser. The pioneering continues with new features such as voice support. Not only can the browser understand spoken commands, but it will read Web sites to you as requested. Other software can read Web screens to you, but Opera is the first to incorporate this as a feature within the browser, simplifying the setup for users.

(click image for larger view)Small, fast, user friendly, Opera even reads Web pages aloud.

Opera's basic idea is to be small, fast, and user friendly. We didn't conduct formal performance tests, but we noted that, while all the browsers loaded Web sites and generally ran very quickly, Opera has a slight edge over the competition--for now. As for being easy to use, it allows you to customize everything down to the layout of the buttons.

The most impressive feature: conformance with Web standards. The latest release from Opera includes full support for XHTML 1.1, CSS 2.1, and even SVG 1.1 Tiny (Scalable Vector Graphics). Opera has a history of implementing Web standards before other browsers, which makes it an ideal platform for Web development. It's free, downloadable at

Apple Computer, which ships and seamlessly integrates its Safari browser into Mac OS X, takes the best features from other brows- ers, such as pop-up blocking and tabbed browsing, and combines them with its desktop interface to create an amazingly simple browsing experience.

In the latest release, Apple has integrated a terrific RSS reader into Safari, which, like the vendor's other applications, has a clean look and feel and is intuitive to use. Other browsers allow you to treat an RSS feed as a bookmark but don't present the feed as more than a series of titles. With Safari, you can see the article title, the date it was posted, as well as a description or summary of the article. Safari also lets you hide the summary, in case you just want to check out headlines.

Another feature that Safari provides that's a keeper is called Private Browsing; enabling it means the browser won't record any history or cache any data about where you were browsing. If you want to check your bank account on a computer other than your own, this makes sure that the next surfer won't be able to take a peek at your account balance, or even find out what bank you use. Only the Web sites that are bookmarked are visible to users, unless an administrator disables the controls.

In addition to Private Browsing, Safari has built-in parental controls. As with other Mac products, these features are easy to use and very powerful. Safari is only available with Mac OS X.

No one will ever deny that Internet Explorer and Firefox are great browsers, but since they aim to please everyone, they lack some of these new and interesting features, such as voice commands, text to voice, and distributed bookmarking. If you want to browse the Web your way, look into a smaller browser that provides features that fit your needs.

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