Archive | June 2008

Simplify Wine with PlayOnLinux

I’m usually quite happy with Linux software, so I don’t use Wine all that much. Normally, I only use Wine to test some web pages in IE. But now and then I have the need to edit some word file that Open Office can’t handle. For that reason I recently installed Microsoft Office on my Ubuntu at work with the help of PlayOnLinux. PlayOnLinux is a program to simplify the installation of several windows applications under wine. The result is very good and I now have microsoft office running flawlessly on Linux.
PlayOnLinux is a very interesting project. It’s essentially a framework for creating scripts that install windows applications. There’s already a good amount of scripts available, most of them for games (that was the original motivation for the project). However, don’t think you have to manually run those scripts. There’s a simple interface that lets you choose which application to install and follow a brief wizard.
If you plan on using any windows application under wine, consider PlayOnLinux that really simplifies all installation issues. Good work.

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Opera vs Firefox 3 review

Firefox is a well known success case. I’ve been using it for years and version 3 (which is almost ready) has great improvements. I’m using beta versions of Firefox 3 for some time and I’m quite happy with its new features. However, they’re beta versions and probably because of that I experienced more browser crashes in a month than in all my life. I’m sure Firefox 3 final will solve these stability problems.
As for me, I didn’t want to go back to version 2, so decided to try something different. Opera has been around for years and it’s a stable browser, known for innovations in the browsing experience. That’s right, most of the new features in recent Firefox versions have all already been implemented in Opera.
So, after seeing the cool new features of Firefox, I was curious at what Opera was offering these days.

Tabbed browsingOpera browser

This is not new, but it’s worth mentioning that has been around in Opera from the beginning (as far as I know). You can also drag around any tab freely. At the left side of the tabs, there’s a button to create a new tab and at the right side, there’s a button to restore recently closed tabs (or blocked popups). Although there’s other ways to do these operations (like CTRL+T for new tabs) I see myself using them more and more.

Browsing experience

Much has been said that Opera doesn’t render some pages well. My only issues were with some blocked images in some sites. Other than that, everything works nice. Compared to Firefox I’d say it works nicer, performance wise. That was the first thing I noticed: for me it renders pages much faster than Firefox, specially pages with lots of pictures and animations. If I scroll down a page full of pictures and animations on Firefox I see some sluggishness. In Opera I don’t. Maybe it’s because Opera doesn’t use as many resources, and my hardware is not very recent.

Address bar and bookmarks

One of the cool things in Firefox 3 is the innovation in the address bar. Now, it serves not only for typing full URLs, but also to search for bookmarked (or recently visited) pages, based on keywords. Although Opera also has some auto-completion it’s not that good and you can’t add tags as you do on Firefox (and I love the little star on Firefox address bar to add bookmarks).

Search bar

This has been around in both for a long time, and it’s a huge time saver. There are differences between Firefox and opera, though. With Firefox you can add new search engines very easily by selecting the appropriate option when navigating in a supported site. With Opera you need to right-click on the site’s search box and select the option "create search". As for removing search engines, in Opera you have to go the preferences, while in Firefox you just right click on its name and select delete. Also, in Firefox a favicon is showed for every search engine. In Opera, some favicons appear, others don’t. The good thing about Opera is that you can create a search from virtually any site and not only a list of supported ones. I think here, Firefox clearly wins on usability and Opera in flexibility.

Gestures

Firefox doesn’t have gestures out-of-the-box, but you can easily add an extension for ti. Opera does have gestures out-of-the-box. Overall they work the same.

Find in page

I just love this feature in Firefox. Instead of having a popup window, the find box integrated in the status bar it’s a great idea that has been around since version 2. So, it was with surprise that I saw a popup window in Opera when I pressed CTRL+F (I wasn’t used to it anymore). Afterwards I found there’s another toolbar I can make visible that has the same functionality as Firefox. I think it would be better to just get rid of the popup box once and for all.

Speed dial

This is something that just exists in Opera. It’s a simple idea, but very handy. When you create a new blank tab, you get a grid with nine cells. If you drag a tab to one of the cells, you create a bookmark for that page. The cool thing is that it’s stored a screenshot of the page and so it becomes very easy to spot. It’s a nice way to launch pages we regularly visit.

Sessions

Opera implements sessions long before Firefox started thinking of it. Not only you can recover the pages you were seeing in case of a sudden crash, but you can also save special sessions and open them whenever you like.

Popups and form handling

Firefox has made a smart move, it stopped showing popup windows in several situations (when a window is blocked, when it asks to save the password, etc). Opera still shows some annoying popups.  However, Opera has a nice feature that can save you time: it can save not only the login/password but also some personal information so that it’s automatically filled on forms.

Downloads

I never liked the download box in Firefox. Not even in this version 3. Opera handles download information as another tab with much more information and support for resuming downloads.


Widgets and extensions

You can’t talk about Firefox without talking about extensions. There’s so much of them that someday you may call Firefox a complete operating system  🙂  I like the simple way you can install extensions in Firefox. Firefox 3 also improved this feature by integrating a small browser to find the extension you want. Opera has something called widgets. At first I would say it’s the same thing, but looking at available widgets I can see some differences. Opera’s widgets normally work as floating windows. For example, you can add a widget that shows local weather. This widget is a small window that you can drag around inside and outside of the main Opera window. This architecture is more flexible and allows for every kind of widgets. However, the down side is that there aren’t as many widgets as there are extensions. And most of them are not as useful.

Conclusion

Opera is a stable and faster browser and has pretty much most of the features Firefox has, although in some cases with worse usability. You may have to struggle a little more with Opera, at least in the beginning, but it compensates with some added flexibility. If you’re a developer, maybe you can find widgets architecture more interesting than firefox’s extensions. As for me, I’m still using Opera, despite feeling that I lost some usability. After the final version of Firefox comes out I’ll decide if I go back to Firefox or if I stay in Opera.