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.

Blogging Nostalgia

I started blogging on WordPress back in the summer of 2008. I managed to keep it going through until January 2011, which is quite an achievement in itself. Then, for whatever reason (laziness) it just kind of fizzled out. This was all on my previous site, chris-smith-web.com. I was struggling for a domain name. Can you tell? Don’t bother visiting – it just redirects back here these days.

I started up again on this site, chrissmith.xyz, in late 2014 and am still going in January 2017. Go me!

When 2 Become 1

You’ve guessed where this is going. I recently had the idea of closing down the old site and importing all the blog posts into this site. Everything in the one place, less maintenance. Easy win. And surprisingly easy to do. Good job, WordPress! When I publish this post it will be my 89th in all. Zoiks! Let’s try to hit the ton.

When I Were a Lad

I’ve found it fascinating looking back at some of the things I wrote about in the early days. Cue harp music and wobbly faces. It goes to show how fast things move. Here are some of the topics I covered:

Web 2.0 – what version are we on now? (Aug 2008)

In the past websites were a one-way read only process, an online brochure which people visited to get information. Now, with the whole concept of Web 2.0, it’s all a two-way interactive process with customers or fans playing an active part in a website.

Gold.


Chrome, when it was Google Chrome and still in BETA (Sep 2008)

Having another browser on the scene, and with a big name like Google behind it you know it’s going to have a lot of users, means more testing and increases my chances of having to recode.

Hmm. Didn’t imagine it would be quite so good.


Link exchanges, when that was a thing (Sep 2008)

Don’t listen to anyone, not even me.

Excellent advice.


Responsive design, kind of, whatever, I’m claiming it (Sep 2008)

The majority of users in the UK use a Windows PC with Internet Explorer 7 and a screen resolution of 1024×768 pixels.

Ouch.


Although a lot has changed there’s actually a lot of good stuff in there that still holds true. I’m quite impressed. Now I just need to get some other people to read it.

Google Chrome – first impressions

I thought I’d just give my tuppence worth on Google‘s new BETA browser, Chrome.

When I first heard about Google’s new browser it was with dread. As a web developer an important part of developing any web page or application is testing that it works in the major browsers. Having another browser on the scene, and with a big name like Google behind it you know it’s going to have a lot of users, means more testing and increases my chances of having to recode.

Before downloading it I read Google‘s page on Why We Built A Browser. The page itself is titled “A fresh take on the browser”. On it Google openly admits “We’ve used components from Apple‘s WebKit and Mozilla‘s Firefox“. So, maybe not an entirely fresh take then?

So, on going in, what are my first impressions? Well, first thought, it looks pretty much the same as IE and Firefox. The browsing tabs have been shifted above the address bar, which, as far as I can see, is just a change for change’s sake rather than serving any useful purpose – why make people have to get used to something new when the browers they are used to work just fine? Other than that, without delving too deep, I’m struggling to find anything radically different.

On the plus side, it doesn’t have loads of toolbars, keeping a nice clean, simple appearance – one of the great strengths of Google’s search engine. After using it for a while, I noticed that it remembers the sites you visit and uses this data intelligently to make it quicker to revisit them. It’s fast too, noticeably quicker than IE.

On the negative side, it doesn’t seem to handle RSS feeds and feed reading as well as IE or Firefox (with RSS add-ons) but I’m sure this will come.

Firefox has been the web professional‘s choice for years now and with good reason. So, will Chrome offer us anything new that Firefox can’t? As I see it, the reason for Firefox‘s success hasn’t been about speed or security but freedom. It’s great strength is that it’s so easy to customise and ease of using add-ons make it much more than a tool for reading web content. I’m assuming that, being an open source project, Chrome will follow suit.

It seems a shame to me that all of the excellent developers out there who have been building add-ons for Firefox will now be split between Firefox and Chrome.

I don’t think that Google will better Firefox but they will be able to match it and with their finances and history of buying up big web companies (YouTube, FeedBurner) I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if we saw Google Firefox before too long.

See what you think – Google Chrome