I see that the adblocking addon uBlock Origin now offers reasonable Element Hiding functionality on Web pages. This may help those who feel they are stuck with Firefox 55 (because of the recent radical changes to the way FF handles addons), but who want to move to the likes of the Opera browser. GHack has a good guide on how to transfer your Adblock Plus / Element Hiding Helper addon settings: “How to migrate from Adblock Plus to uBlock Origin”.
This means that Opera now looks like the most viable alternative for those currently stuck with Firefox 55. I’ve thus been encouraged to make the switch to Opera, spurred on by one-too-many ‘Heartbeat’ nags in Firefox about the need to update (it doesn’t matter if you turn off updates, they still nag). What follows is mostly for my benefit, when I need to refer to it in the future, but it may be useful for others.
Here’s my tested step-by-step on moving from Firefox 55 to Opera 53:
1. Download and install the latest version of Opera. Familiarise yourself and discover how to get extensions (aka addons).
2. Apparently Opera has a built-in adblocker, but if you’re someone who stuck with Firefox 55 then you want one with a good Element Hiding feature. So install the addon adblocker uBlock Origin and migrate your blocklist from Adblock Plus to uBlock Origin as per Ghack’s instructions. You can also copy over your Element Hiding rules. It’s fairly straightforward, just plug in any missing list subscriptions, then copy/paste into uBlock Origin | My Filters and Whitelist.
uBlock Origin’s method of Element Hiding is fairly easy and precise, once you get used to how it works. I’m happy with it.
3. Install a good script blocker (not ScriptSafe, which seems to have an agenda about which perfectly legitimate affiliate links it will and won’t accept). NoScript Suite Lite is currently the best for Opera, an Opera fork of the trusted NoScript used in TOR.
You may also want Popup Blocker Lite which offers fine-grained control over what pops and how. Although it’s going to very annoying for the first few weeks, as it works on a make-a-whitelist principle rather than a blacklist. Be aware that Opera has its own built-in pop-up blocker, which does work on a blacklist principle…
4. The Install Chrome Extensions addon also needs to be one of the first installs. Once this is in, it gives you access to Chrome store plugins such as Unseen (blocks FB’s privacy-invading “Seen by…” function) and Facebook Demetricator (removes pointless metrics micro-icons from the FB interface).
You’ll also want to be bookmarking and whitelisting the Chrome Web Store website.
5. The vital F.B. Purity for de-cluttering Facebook, of course. And Facebook Disconnect (stops FB from tracking as you travel you across the Web). Then transfer your F.B. Purity settings and block word-list from Firefox to Opera, which is easily done via the export/import of a text file.
6. Desktop search ninjas such as regular readers of this blog will want Stylus and its DuckDuckGo – Multi-Columns script, which gives DuckDuckGo search results a multicolumn layout.
I have a DuckDuckGo MultiColumns guide on how to change the colours and results-number on the DuckDuckGo – Multi-Columns addon/layout. Also links to some other useful DuckDuckGo customisation scripts, though they require a UserScript handler addon — see the next step for that.
Other useful minor search-fixes are Google Search link fix (copy the real URL from search results, not Google’s garble); and the related Google Images Fix (add back the recently removed “View Image” button).
If you want your DuckDuckGo personal settings to stick when you exit, then in Opera you need to turn on “Allow local data to be set”. DuckDuckGo’s settings (accessed from the top-right of the home page) allow you to turn off nags, ads, autocomplete, favicons and other search annoyances.
7. Add the Tampermonkey UserScript handler addon (then un-check ‘send anonymous usage data’). This enables you to install UserScripts. Desktop search ninjas will then want the latest working GoogleMonkeyR which gives Google Search results a three-column multicolumn layout suitable for a widescreen desktop monitor. Do a test search on Google, and its Settings will appear via the Tampermonkey icon, where you will be able to set the columns and colours you want.
Note that, currently, you also need to explicitly turn off GoogleMonkeyR on Google Images search, or it will break Google Images search. To do this, add the following line to the header of your GoogleMonkeyR script, below the // @include lines…
// @exclude http*://www.google.*/search?*isch*
Then, also in Tampermonkey, Google Hit Hider by Domain.
8. The Browsec extension, a free VPN for pretending to be in the USA and thus getting past region-locking of Hathi Trust books etc. Yes, there’s a free VPN in Opera desktop, but it’s just been discontinued in the mobile versions of Opera and who knows how long it will last in Opera Desktop? Browsec is free, offers a backup to Opera’s VPN, plus the chance to pretend to be in Singapore (which has been useful more than once to get academic content).
9. A selected-phrase translator that will do (for now) is Google Translator Tooltip Expanded Fork, the most recently updated of the forks. It’s not inline but it’s fast and reliable, minimal, and easily configured.
10. For daily bloggers the oh-so-vital Redirect from the new WordPress.com editor to the classic WordPress editor, for old-school ease-of-posting to WordPress.com blogs.
11. Again for bloggers, Copy Link With Title in HTML for Chrome, for copying the current URL to the clipboard ready-wrapped in HTML link code. A nice time-saver for bloggers. It was the best one of about five addons I tested. It’s not right-click, but there was no good right-click option. This one uses an icon which you click on, and the code formatting for the URL can be easily configured.
A similar tool is Paste Email. When you just want to paste in your email address or other text snippet without typing it out.
12. Bloggers and news people will also be wanting a “Force an RSS Icon to Appear on the URL Bar”. Nope, there doesn’t seem to be one for Opera, not one that can send the feed to a desktop RSS reader. Nor a UserScript or Chrome addon. A pity. The closest is RSS Finder. Click its browser-bar icon, and if a RSS feed exists, you get a link that’s easily copied to the clipboard. It’s better than nothing.
13. Transfer Google Hit Hider list. Once the addons are set up, you then need to go back to Firefox, visit Google Search, pop out the “Manage Hiding” panel. Then export your Google Hit Hider list (there’s an import-export option) of all the Web domains you never want to see in a page of Google Search or DuckDuckGo results. I see that I have over 25,000 blocked URLs on my personal block-list. Notepad++ is good for copying and saving out as a list.txt file, but you can also just copy/paste.
14. Then move the commonly used bookmarks, bookmarks bar, and plug the passwords back in for the main services. If you go to Opera’s bookmarks you can do this automatically via the Import/Export option, which can also bring over cookies and passwords from Firefox. Figure on spending an hour re-sorting bookmarks.
Once you have Bookmarks how you want them, DO NOT “sort Bookmarks Alphabetically”. There is no Undo for this!! Opera’s very primitive Bookmarks system is one of its biggest drawbacks. Amazingly, it even lacks a “Sort by Date” option. But the excellent Recent Bookmarks Chrome addon can at least add that feature.
Your Facebook bookmark bar link probably needs to be the secret Sort by date one, if you’re a blogger and timely information scooper and need your FB feed to run in date order.
15. Colour-fidelity and fonts.
If colour fidelity is important to you, then you probably need to turn off “Use hardware acceleration when available” in Opera. This is found in: Settings | Browser | System. Otherwise your colours may generally be rather washed-out. I’d rather have good colour, than a little extra speed.
Be careful in tweaking the Opera font settings. There’s no “just reset the font settings” button, and you can get into a font-settings tangle quite easily, with no way to back out of it. Be aware that DuckDuckGo has its own font settings.
16. Lastly, make Opera your PC’s default Web browser (Windows : Start | Control Panel | Default Programs | Opera). That’s it. You’ve left Firefox.
Other possibly useful Opera compatible addons:
* Reader View (similar to Firefox’s Reader View) and Instapaper, for getting a nice clean view of newspaper and magazine content. Used together they should meant that you rarely have to endure reading an article on the actual website of a newspaper or magazine, surrounded by clutter and tracking.
* Shareaholic for Pinterest. More reliable that the official one, in my experience.
* Simple Translate. Unlike other addons it doesn’t make you jump through hoops or go to Google Translate. Enable it on search-engines to get it working on Google Books.
* Turbo Button. Opera’s developers removed the Turbo on/off toggle button. This puts it back, enabling easy access to one of Opera’s most unique features.
* GIF Blocker. Block all animated GIFs. The trusty Gif Jam used to be great, but it hasn’t been updated since 2015 and appears to have stopped working. This is a good alternative. You can also stop YouTube’s new animated ‘thumbnail previews’.
* Opera has its own screenshot tool, but that only saves screenshots as a .PNG file which can be rather large in file-size. There are more capable screenshot tools out there, offering .JPG with variable compression, capture of scrolling windows etc.
* I don’t care about EU cookies. If you’re in the UK or Europe, this will help banish the EU cookies nags. You probably want to install this last, a few days after you’ve logged into Google, Facebook, PayPal etc for the first time with the new browser.
* Scholar on Google Search.
* Some scholars will prefer to open PDFs in their native desktop reader, rather than previewing the PDF inside of Opera. The setting to change for this is in: Settings | Websites | Download PDF…
When you click on the .PDF link in the built-in viewer it then downloads like any other downloaded file, but it won’t then auto-open with your reader software. Your software may have a “watch” capability to detect new PDFs appearing in the downloads folder, and it will then automatically open them up.
To auto-open a .torrent file with Opera, check the settings in your desktop torrent software. Many will offer to “watch” the default download folder for new .torrent files, and then automatically start them up.
You don’t need “Scroll back to top of page” button via an addon, in Opera you just click on the tab and you’re back at the top of the page. Click it again and you’re back where you were lower down on the page. That said, having a Scroll to Top button always be in the same place can be useful.