Opera Neon – First Impressions

Opera Neon is the new concept browser from Opera. What’s a “concept browser”? I’ve no idea but I like new shiny things to play with so have been playing. The Opera Neon webpage will explain it much better than I can but here are a few first impressions.

Opera Neon screenshot

It uses your desktop background as its background. Very clever. All it’s really doing is copying an image but it changes the whole feel. Rather than looking at a start screen with a white background you’re in a familiar environment of your own choosing.

The search bar is for keywords or a URL, which is pretty standard, and the way it’s presented is nice and minimal with just an underline yet obvious.

For your favourite or most recent sites it uses circles with icons rather than screen thumbnails. This makes it feel more like an app start screen, which is quite nice, but I’d probably prefer it to be clearer that they’re shortcuts for the websites. There’s no URL displayed in a tooltip or taskbar when you hover them, which I always like to see as confirmation of where I’m navigating. Maybe I’ve just got that switched off somewhere?

The layout is very interesting. Open tabs are shown down the right hand side as icons. Key actions and areas like open a new tab or show downloads are shown down the left hand side. It’s almost like a typical mobile or tablet view but rotated 90 degrees. This is refreshing and makes a lot of sense. Most websites viewed on a large desktop screen have content within a central column and there’s a load of margin on either side, wasted space. By using these areas for the browser it retains the full height meaning we get to see more content on screen. Big thumbs up from me.

Opera Neon has a built-in snap tool for taking and storing screenshots. It’s a camera icon and a gallery icon. Very easy.

There’s a media player built-in too, so you can listen to music as you browse, which is a neat feature.

The page title seems to be repeated. There’s one at the very top of the chrome but another internal one at the top of the open tab. As these always seem to be the same it feels a bit redundant.

It has dev tools. As it’s blink under the hood these are the same as in Chrome though possibly not quite as fully featured to begin with.

All in all, I’m very impressed. It’ll be interesting to see if it gains market share.

Just for future reference, I’ve been looking at version 1.0.2459.0.