Opera browser in Arch Linux: A very mature and professional browser

I was surprised, quite pleasantly, to read that Opera browser is a pioneer in browser technology as per Wikipedia

Opera has been noted for originating many features later adopted by other web browsers. A prominent example is Speed Dial.

I use Fastmail (in addition to Zoho Mail) which was acquired by Opera some years ago. I like it a lot. It is a very polished service. I, thus, decided to take Opera browser for a spin. I was expecting the same maturity and quality I was accustomed to in Fastmail.

GETTING OPERA AND FLASH PLUG-IN

I have been running Arch Linux as my main workstation OS for the past three months. I decided to move to Arch from openSUSE Tumbleweed due to back-to-back breakages I faced. I had a very positive experience with it for around ten months before I started spending more time fixing issues than getting work done. I wanted to stick with a rolling-release distro and  got Arch installed with UEFI enabled.

Now, I had to find Opera in Arch repos. The mandatory Arch Wiki reading was performed, the terminal was invoked and the command was issued

sudo pacman -S opera

This got me the Opera browser version 34

Opera 34 (based on Chromium 47) for Mac, Windows, and Linux and Android is out! To find out what’s new for users, see our Desktop and Mobile blogs. Here’s what it means for web developers.

Yes, Opera is based on Chromium. Great! they did not re-invent the wheel 🙂

I could browse, but flash content was not available. The following point from the Arch Wiki is to be kept in mind

Opera no longer supports the Netscape plugin API (NPAPI), so chromium-pepper-flashAUR should be used instead of flashplugin. Make sure the plugin is enabled in opera://plugins.

The chromium-pepper-flash is an AUR entity. Thus, some extra magic is required. The old school manual way of getting AUR packages:

  1. Get the required tar.gz package manually or use wget, curl etc.
  2. Extract the tar.gz package in some directory owned by the current user. In the current case, I used a sub-directory in my home directory
    $ tar xvzf chromium-pepper-flash.tar.gz
  3. Use makepkg to build the package. In the current context
    $ cd chromium-pepper-flash
    $ makepkg
  4. If build fails due to missing dependencies do this
    $ makepkg -s
  5. If the build is successful, a pkg.tar.xz will be generated. This is the package that can be installed using pacman. In the present case
    sudo pacman -S chromium-pepper-flash-1:20.0.0.228-1-x86_64.pkg.tar.xz

This makepkg build process does not require administrator\root privileges. Also, it is important to remember the packages installed via AUR are not officially supported by Arch

DISCLAIMER: AUR packages are user produced content. Any use of the provided files is at your own risk.

There are a few helper utilities that can automate the process. However, they do not appeal to me.

THE OPERA EXPERIENCE

I have been using Opera for a week and can say that it is a very polished, mature browser that oozes quality. Everything about it is professional. It launches quickly, renders pages fast, has all important extensions or plug-ins that I need and can be configured.

DuckDuckGo search-engine was already installed, but Google Search was marked as default. I swapped the latter with the former. I also got StartPage search-engine installed. Instructions to add StartPage to Opera can be found here. I could not find a way to get rid of certain default search-engines I do not wish to use or see in the list.

I use DuckDuckGo for almost all of my search needs. Only sometimes, I invoke StartPage.

Since we cannot delete (I have not found a way yet) default search engines, and can install more, we end up with a lot of search engines at our disposal. There is a nifty feature in Opera (inherited from Chromium) wherein every search engine has a keyword associated with it and this keyword can be used in the search text-box (the address bar in Opera) to tell the browser the search engine to invoke. All new search engines that the user adds also need user-defined keywords. The figure below shows the keywords associated with search enignes in the black rectangle. The figure also shows the details one need to fill in order to add a new search engine.

OperaBrowser_SearchEngines

Search Engine settings in Opera

For example,

  • g how to install arch linux will invoke Google search engine and the string “how to install arch linux” will be used to perform the search.
  • y how to install arch linux will invoke Yahoo search engine and the string “how to install arch linux” will be used to perform the search.
  • sp how to install arch linux will invoke StartPage search engine and the string “how to install arch linux” will be used to perform the search.

I also installed the Garamond Font and set it as the the default font on Opera. This font is renowned for its readability.

wget -P ~/.fonts -A ttf -r -np -nd http://garamond.org/urw/
mkfontdir ~/.fonts && xset fp rehash

Firefox has a very useful MAFF plug-in that can

  • Open web pages saved with Internet Explorer or other browsers (MHT)
  • Save many tabs, video and audio reliably, in a single ZIP file (MAFF)
  • Return to the original site you saved a page from, and more!

I have found this very useful and there was no alternative on Opera. I, then, started hunting for an extension that could save webpages as high quality PDF files. I did not find any with good ratings. Eventually, I did something I should have done in the beginning. I hit Ctrl + P. The following popped-up

OperaBrowser_SaveAsPDF

Opera’s own Save as PDF (different from system’s print to PDF dialog)

When compared to the Print using system dialog… (Shift + Ctrl + P),  marked in the image, there is one advantage in the Opera’s way of saving PDFs – the background graphics of the webpage can be added to the PDF (via Background graphics option). This creates very beautiful and close to the original PDFs. This is not possible in via the system dialog. The system dialog, however, has more number of PDF layouts available when compared to Opera.

CONCLUSION

I am going to stick with Opera. It has all features I want, is fast, clean and mature. I was looking for a Firefox replacement and I seem have found it.