Opera 11 in OS X

mac-browser-comparisons

This is a post that I started a couple of months ago, but finally just got around to revising (since Opera 11 has since been released) and finishing. Hopefully its all in tact. ;)

Being fairly new to Mac OS X, I was excited to install Opera and see how it compares to the default browser Safari as well as others such as Firefox and Google Chrome in terms usability and appearance.

While I hadn’t used Mac OS much since version 9 and then briefly OS X (with my old iBook before it died), I did remember that Opera didn’t exactly have the most elegant user interface. Nor did most other third party web browsers that I tested at the time. Then again, OS X wasn’t as refined then as it is now either. Keep in mind, these are my opinions and you are free to have your own. ;)

I was happy to find that Opera seems to have the most natural feeling user interface when compared to Firefox and Google Chrome, using Safari as the standard since most die-hard Mac users are likely familiar with it the most.

While I didn’t capture Safari in a view where the tabs are visible, the image above is a decent comparison of the browsers’ default address bars and navigation buttons.

As you can see, the buttons, address box and search box in Opera mimic those found in Safari quite well and are not much of a change at all for any ex-Safari user. The tabs used in Opera are also very similar to those found in Safari (pictured below), with the most significant exception being that they are flipped vertically and placed above the address bar (in Opera) rather than below (like in Safari).

While some people may prefer Firefox or Google Chrome over both Opera and Safari, the point remains that their designs are inconsistent with the overall look and feel of the OS in general. That’s not to say that Opera doesn’t have some inconsistencies of its own. There are a few of them, but most of what I’ve found are minor detail tweaks that are needed to perfect the skin.

Just to mention a few things that are stand out to me, the “New tab” icon size should be decreased slightly, retaining the Opera style while removing the unnecessary bold touch. If you compare this button to the same button found in Safari you’ll notice that Opera’s approach is a bit too bold and that changing this makes it more elegant looking (in my opinion of course).

The borders for the navigation buttons, address box and search box should all be slightly adjusted to match the colors used for these in Safari. There are slight inconsistencies among these, with disabled button borders being darker than enabled button borders.

Another inconsistency with Opera is that text boxes in the address bar are not highlighted with a blue glowing border when they are focused…as they are in Safari, Firefox and Google Chrome. Its difficult for me to see if this is advantageous or simply an oversight, however, the “pro-integration” side of me certainly thinks this should be fixed to match the behavior of other browsers in OS X.

Various icons throughout the user interface need to be desaturated to remove color for consistency. An example of this can be found in the address box with the drop down icon. If you look close, the drop down icon is actually blue whereas other similar icons, like the drop down icon in the search box, are gray scaled. This is also a bug I’ve seen in the Windows and Linux skins, but the OS that demands attention to detail is likely the one that this is most noticeable on.

The Speed Dial page, though it was “invented” before the other spin-offs, now uses a darker background that makes it feel a bit more familiar to Safari’s implementation. I find this to add to the integration effect, whereas previous Speed Dial background images felt out of place. On the other hand, Opera doesn’t boast comparatively appealing 3D thumbnails or features to those found in Safari. Instead, the Opera Speed Dial packs in a redundant search box and no immediate method of searching through your history (visually at that!) or displaying your top visited sites automatically.

With a default Speed Dial tab open, knowingly or not, you’re looking at three different ways of searching the Internet…all with the same available list of search engines. You can search from the address bar by simply prepending your search terms with a specific search engine “keyword”, from the dedicated search box in the address box or from the additional search box in the Speed Dial. If I had any influence on this design, I would remove both dedicated search boxes and make the address box smarter and more visually suggestive of performing a search when it is in use.

While I’m suggesting changes to the Speed Dial tab, why not take advantage of Opera’s ability to generate thumbnails of pages to give the user a visual of the pages they are searching through just like Safari is capable of? With the ability to generate these thumbnails already, there is no reason why Opera shouldn’t implement a similarly more appealing visual search of previously visited sites.

As I said before, all browsers have their problems with UI design and integration, especially in Mac OS X. Of the available browsers for this platform, the one with the most features and the best OS X integration is far and away Opera 11. The performance improvement isn’t bad either, with my test results showing Opera 11 beating out Safari 5.0.3 easily in the SunSpider benchmark. You can take my opinions with a grain of salt if you wish, but you should undoubtedly give Opera 11 a spin if you haven’t already!

Windicators

Screen shot 2010-12-29 at 9.51.33 PM

Just a quick thought about windicators that were proposed by Mark Shuttleworth back in May 2010 and similarities to Mac OS X.

It seems that nearly everyone agrees that Windicators in Ubuntu is a bad idea. Not only will they add a little confusion to the Ubuntu learning curve, but they will also just add clutter to the title bar. That being said, I for one would like to see them implemented as long as there is an option to enable/disable them freely.

Over the past year or so, Ubuntu has received a great deal of criticism regarding the placement of the window controls for close, minimize and maximize. If you’ve not kept up with this, basically the controls moved from the right side of the title bar (like in Windows) to the left side of the title bar (like in Mac OS X). I still see complaints about this every other day (even though there are ways to change this already posted throughout the net).

With many people accusing Ubuntu of simply trying to look like Mac OS X, I wasn’t as quick to point fingers and agree. I like to hold judgment on products at least until they are completed or deemed “stable”. Lately, however, its beginning to be a chore to deny this “OS X”-like transition with the changes that are coming in Ubuntu 11.04.

Two major changes in Ubuntu 11.04 include:

  • a new panel that seems more like a hybrid between the new Windows 7 taskbar and the Mac OS X Dock.
  • application menus and application titles in the top panel.

These new changes, paired with the window controls on the left and indicator style menus in the top panel give Ubuntu 11.04 an eerily similar appearance to OS X. Not to mention the windicators (as this post started out talking about)..

If you visit a secure web address in Safari, a lock icon appears in the upper right corner of the title bar to indicate a secure page. I’d not noticed this before, being an Opera fanatic and all, so I’m unable to tell who was first: the idea of Windicators or this feature in Safari.

Safari seems to pull this off well and the icon isn’t in my way at all. This is one reason why I would like to see them appear in Ubuntu eventually, but only if they can easily be disabled and they are implemented correctly.

Last that I heard, Windicators were put on the back burner to let more important features reach the public first (as they should be). Lets just hope that if Ubuntu continues to follow a close path to Mac OS X that they follow a better path. :D

What do you think about the similarities? Too similar? Not similar enough? Not similar at all? Or you don’t care? :D

Let There Be Snow

I came across a script online a few days ago and thought it would be a great seasonal addition to my blog, so now it’s live. I added it via a quick and simple WordPress plugin that I made in a couple of minutes so I can easily activate it when I want it.

Enjoy the snow flakes and start getting into the Holiday mood!

Interesting Unity Mockup

icontests

As usual, when Ubuntu starts the developmental process on the next best ‘buntu I’m quick to begin testing and eagerly lurking in the forums and launchpad bugs.

The next version of Ubuntu is currently, as you may already know, undergoing some fairly drastic interface changes. Ubuntu will be abandoning the use of the traditional GNOME panels and instead use an improved version of their Unity interface.

Lurking through several bugs on launchpad, I stumbled across an interesting one with one interesting mockup in particular.

While its just a suggestion mockup, I think it actually looks rather slick. I’m not saying its the best approach, but certainly one worth noting! According to a follow-up comment, this design is similar to what Gnome Shell is doing, but I’ve not yet looked into Gnome Shell so I can’t confirm this. Either way, its a smooth approach.

Currently Unity doesn’t have a method of letting you know which application’s menu its showing in the top panel. There is an indicator icon in the side dock/panel, but as best I can tell they are planning to add the app name to the top panel similar to the way Mac OS X handles this. Maybe it will be in some Unity updates tomorrow!

UbuntuForums.org Site Makeover via UserJS

40915_before

A while back there was a neat little styling script being passed around that tuned the Ubuntu Forums to match the new official designs a little more closely. While its not official and no where near a perfect solution, it does dramatically improve the appearance of the forums overall.

Before

After

To use this, all you have to do is download and install the Stylesheet or UserJS file and configure it in your browser! I’m using the UserJS version, but you may prefer the other. Either way, enjoy!

Get Steam Specials via RSS Feed

steam-specials-via-feed43

This is just a little hack I’ve used so I can subscribe to the “Specials” that are periodically released and published on the Steam website.

If you’re interested in letting your Feed client simplify your life by bringing the Steam updates directly to you then I suggest you subscribe to the feed that I’ve setup (via a great free service call Feed For Free).

The Steam News – Specials feed:

http://feed43.com/4758788726706067.xml

The Steam News – Announcements feed:

http://feed43.com/7724635415454743.xml

When I searched for a feed for these Specials I came across one forum post after another asking the same thing. We all know how annoying that can be, so to remedy the situation I decided to post a solution myself. ;)

As you can see below, these pages don’t have feeds of their own, but the very awesome Feed For Free site will let you pull the updates straight into your feed reader with ease. See my Google Reader pictured below.

Rhythmbox 0.13.2

ubuntu-10-10-rhythmbox-0-13-2

For those of you who use Rhythmbox, you’ll be happy to hear to v0.13.2 brings some great improvements. I subscribe to the mailing list and try to help when possible, but when I saw the news of Rhythmbox 0.13.2 code being released I instantly starred it!

Well, it took me over a month to get around to looking into the update, but ironically there is a backport posted at WebUpd8 that makes installing this in Ubuntu 10.10 as easy as copy-n-pasting three commands into the terminal!

The Last.fm updates (thanks to Jamie Nicol’s GSoC project) have finally been added and I was obsessively tracking the code commits each day to watch the progress while it was going on. Now that I get to test out the changes, I’ve glad to say that the Last.fm improvements are grand!

The new support for DACP, which allows you to use your iPhone/iPod touch/iPad as a remote for iTunes,  now allows you to remotely change the tunes playing in Rhythmbox!

Unfortunately, this feature doesn’t seem to currently support sending cover art embedded in the media files’ metadata to the remote. I’ve seen discussions about this recently in the mailing list, so this will likely change before too long!

One last improvement that I have to mention is the “Various fixes for iPod support” as this is one area that I’ve felt is constantly in need of improvement with each new release of iOS and each new model. There are also a great deal of other improvements which I’ll list below directly from the mailing list (via Jonathan Matthew)!

Rhythmbox 0.13.2 (“Dagger”) is now available from
http://download.gnome.org/sources/rhythmbox/0.13/

f422e47d7e238ebe862650efbcb83672bca704df0a37c3391ad0e386c20b19e3
rhythmbox-0.13.2.tar.bz2
4ad881cfbe19abcbe21abcfb37f753476b928141cea662c732867c9f4363aacb
rhythmbox-0.13.2.tar.gz

Highlights:
* Much improved Last.fm (and Libre.fm) plugin (Jamie Nicol’s GSoC project)
* Support for DACP (iTunes remote) (Alexandre Rosenfeld’s GSoC project)
* Zeitgeist plugin (developed by Markus Korn, Laszlo Pandy and Michal Hruby)
* New podcast sub-sources showing newly posted and recently downloaded episodes
* Slightly improved integration with the GNOME Shell message tray
* Various fixes for iPod support (Christophe Fergeau, Ben Walsh)

Bugs fixed:
341462 – Make current podcast downloads more visible
345957 – View last.fm profile
381679 – Add “record to profile” toggle to the last.fm plugin
589886 – Crash when selecting multiple podcast feeds
591841 – Crash processing playlist files from command line
592428 – Allow the user to select Libre.fm as their audioscrobbler service
601152 – can’t really create playlists on iPod
604170 – Unable to change the order of files in an iPOD playlist
612156 – crash when stopping radio stream before playlist parsing has finished
618619 – Crash while getting properties from ipod shuffle
623200 – Add previous and play actions to notifications, and use id’s
that correspond to named icons
625030 – Use XSPF format for the default iRadio playlist
625054 – Rhythmbox transfers music to my generic MP3 player without
file extensions
625214 – DACP Support in Rhythmbox
628254 – metadata helper crashes when tagging MP3 files that don’t
already have tags
628791 – crash showing ipod properties if the ipod database can’t be read
628794 – Rhythmbox can not share to iTunes 10 using DAAP
629038 – coherence plugin breakage
630689 – drop GtkObject use
631008 – Zeitgeist plugin
631191 – GStreamer MTP source element stopped working
631218 – don’t open (some) iframes in podcast descriptions in new
browser windows
631355 – Typo in string: “Listended”
631698 – Rhythmbox stars (ratings) not updated properly when scrolling
up in the playlist
631817 – rhythmbox hangs when starting playing next audio cd track
632119 – Add WSUM 91.7FM (University of Wisconsin) to iRadio-Initial.pls
632475 – ipod “Remove from playlist” was completely removing from iPod
632655 – URL updates for Internet Radio stations
633531 – Rhythmbox can’t load Cover-Art from musicbrainz

Translation updates:
– bg, courtesy of Krasimir Chonov
– ca@valencia, courtesy of Joan Duran
– cs, courtesy of Marek Černocký
– da, courtesy of Ask Hjorth Larsen
– de, courtesy of Christian Kirbach
– el, courtesy of Michael Kotsarinis
– es, courtesy of Jorge González
– et, courtesy of Mattias Põldaru
– gl, courtesy of Fran Diéguez
– hu, courtesy of Gabor Kelemen
– it, courtesy of Luca Ferretti
– ja, courtesy of Hiroyuki Sekihara
– ja, courtesy of Takayuki KUSANO
– lt, courtesy of Žygimantas Beručka
– nb, courtesy of Kjartan Maraas
– nl, courtesy of Redmar
– pa, courtesy of A S Alam
– pl, courtesy of Piotr Drąg
– pt_BR, courtesy of Djavan Fagundes
– ru, courtesy of Yuri Myasoedov
– sl, courtesy of Andrej Žnidaršič
– sv, courtesy of Daniel Nylander