Review: Opera Mini 5 beta: New UI, tabs, copy and paste, better font rending

Opera Mini is a free internet browser written in J2ME. It will run on practically any mobile device on the market, and where it really shines is on mid to low end devices. What makes Opera Mini special is the server side compression technology that takes a website and adds some special Norwegian sauce to make it up to 90% smaller. I can’t imagine surfing the web without Opera Mini and that alone is one of the main reasons I stick to Symbian devices. There is no Opera Mini for the iPhone, and while there is a dedicated client for Android, I have not heard too many good things.

Before I talk about Opera Mini 5, let me go back to the first version of the software. On October 20, 2005 the first public beta of Opera Mini was launched in the Nordic countries (Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Finland) and the press release said it would allow full access to the internet on “700+ million Java-enabled mobile phones around the world.” Less than a month later the final version of Opera Mini launched in Germany, but anyone with a mobile phone that had a WAP browser was able to grab the application. On January 24, 2006 the application was formally launched, and by this point I’ve already fallen in love with it and discovered that my phone was able to do things other than call people or send text messages.

On May 03, 2006 version 2.0 launched, and with it came the ability to download files from the internet, customize the browser’s appearance with skins, use multiple search engines, and enable some pretty swish transitions. I was starting to use the mobile internet more and more and became increasingly frustrated with my mobile phone’s small and low resolution screen. This started making me research my options and it would eventually lead to the purchase of my first smartphone, the Nokia E61. That device, plus the incredible lack of Nokia coverage back in those days, made me start Ring Nokia in November 2006. A year later I got a job at IntoMobile and moved to Finland; personal history lesson aside, Opera Mini 3 beta also came out during the beginning of November 2006, and the final version hit the net on November 28, 2006.

Opera Mini 3 was fantastic, but it really didn’t offer anything new compared to the previous version. It was a bit snappier, and yes it had RSS, but how many people used RSS back in those days? It would take version 4.0 of Opera Mini, launched almost a full year later on on November 7, 2007, to get people’s attention. Opera Mini 4 was a complete rewrite of Opera Mini according to Johan Schön, Technology Leader, Developer and Architect working on the Opera Mini Project. With 4.0 came the ability to see websites like you would on your desktop. No longer would websites be reformatted into a single long column, the full web was now finally able to be access by almost anyone with a J2ME enabled mobile phone. This was powerful, and it is why I called it the application of the year.

I’ve been using a beta of version 5.0 of Opera Mini for a little over 24 hours now, and I’ve got to say that this is the best version of Opera Mini yet. Check out my review after the jump to see if it’s the right browser for you.

The first thing you’ll notice about Opera Mini 5.0, before even installing it, is the size of the application. While Opera Mini 4.2 is a 127 KB download, 5.0 is over twice that at 231 KB. Previous versions of Opera Mini were under 100 KB, so some long time users may think 5.0 suffers from the Vista syndrome, otherwise known as software that gets bloated with many unnecessary features over a period of time. This was not apparent during my brief usage period, but Opera Mini is starting to feel like it is growing up into something more mature and feature rich.

Once you’ve download and installed Opera Mini 5.0, and finally launch it, this is what you’re going to see:

Notice the new black background? Anyway, time to accept the EULA:

And here it is, the new home screen:

The speed dial is no longer a list, but instead 9 thumbnails of websites that you can assign. The search bar is now to the right of the address bar, instead of underneath. Both of these UI tweaks make Opera Mini 5.0 look like Opera 10 on the desktop, and that is obviously intentional.

Clicking “Menu” will change the UI even more:

You can now see the ability to add a new tab, go to the speed dial start page, go back, forward, reload, and exit the application. Click the down button on your directional pad twice and you’re presented with a nested menu:

Here you have access to bookmarks, history, saved pages, settings, the ability to search for a word on the website you’re currently on and finally help. Let us go to IntoMobile.com and see what happens:

The default font is a bit too big for my taste. Time to open up the settings and see what is possible:

By default images are enabled, yet set to low quality. I’m going to change that to high. Mobile view, which squeezes everything into one column so you don’t have to side scroll ever again is turned off by default, and I’m going to keep it that way. Full screen mode will let me see more content on the screen at once, and is off by default; that is being turned on immediately. Landscape mode is off because … well my E71 is already in landscape mode so I’m not going to worry. The font size is already set to small, but there is also a new option called “very small” that I’m going to select since I’m young and have perfect vision. There is also a new privacy menu:

It allows me to enable/disable the new built in password manager, the ability to accept cookies, and allow me to delete my history, cookies and passwords individually. I’m going to leave all of those to their default options. There is also an advanced menu:

I’m given control over popups, I can decide where on my device saved webpages will be stored, and I can enable/disable the built in text editor, and I can perform a network test. I’m going to leave all of these on their default settings. Now that I’ve changed the settings, Opera Mini is asking me if I want to reload all the open websites:

Obviously I’m going to hit yes, and here is what IntoMobile looks like now:

Notice how the font is now smaller, but still legible. For comparison sake, here is what IntoMobile looks like with Opera Mini 4.2:

Now yes, I know what you’re going to say, the “small” font option on Opera Mini 4.2 fits more text on to the screen than the “very small” option of Opera Mini 5.0, and while this may seem like a down grade, the smoother font rendering offered in 5.0 is enough of a benefit that I’m willing to ignore the fact that I’m going to be clicking the down arrow a bit more than usual. Back to the new features in Opera Mini 5.0, here is what happens when I press and hold the center button of my directional pad:

I’m given an option to select text. This works much like the iPhone:

After moving my cursor to where I want to begin selecting text, I hit start:

Then once I get exactly what I want I hit “Use” and am presented with this option:

I can copy the text, search for the selection with my default search engine, or select a search engine to perform the search with. Now this feature is a bit buggy at the moment. When it works, it works beautifully, but when it doesn’t you’ll often find yourself in a fit of rage trying to select that one word or phrase you actually want. The copy and paste is also a bit misleading since the text you select to be copied is not copied into the operating system clipboard, meaning I can’t copy text from a webpage, switch to the Notes application on my Nokia E71, and then paste the test. No, in Opera Mini 5.0 the text that is copied can only be pasted in to another field within Opera Mini 5.0. That’s a bit disappointing, but I can see a use case where I’m looking at a restaurant, copy the address, open a new tab, and then paste it into the Helsinki Journey Planner so I can get instructions on how to take the most efficient route using public transportation.

Back to the new features, how do you access a new tab? When in a page you can hit the menu button, then hit up and to the right, at which point you have another page:

Or you can long press a link on a web page and then select “Open in New Tab”:

How do you add a website to the new “Speed Dial” homepage? Simple, just click the empty square and either enter a URL or go to a website that is in your history:

Notice how small the thumbnail actually is:

That’s all there really is in Opera Mini 5 beta. There are a lot of features that are missing, and I don’t know if it is because of the beta status or what, but I can’t seem to find “Opera Link” which allows me to share bookmarks between Opera 10 and Opera Mini. I also can’t seem to find the ability to add a custom search engine. RSS is missing, which I know some people use. Most upsetting is the fact that I can no longer copy and paste from Opera Mini to other applications on my mobile phone. There have been multiple instances where I’ve seen a website I’ve wanted to share, added it as a bookmark, copied the URL from the bookmark menu and then pasted it into an email or tweet. Sounds like a kludge, but at least it worked. I don’t have that option any more.

This is a beta, so I’m willing to bet Opera will fix whatever bugs are left. I haven’t really discovered many in my testing, none at least that would make me second guess installing this application. Opera Mini 5.0 beta is fantastic and I can’t praise it enough. I seriously love this piece of software since it not only makes my web surfing experience better, but because it also makes the browsing experience better for millions of other people as well.

What are you waiting for? Type in m.opera.com/next into your mobile browser and rock and roll.

  • weez

    “Most upsetting is the fact that I can no longer copy and paste from Opera Mini to other applications on my mobile phone.”

    You never could, could you? It’s a Java app. Mini 5 has the same restrictions as any other Java app.

    • Stefan Constantinescu

      I used to copy and paste links from Opera Mini all the time. When opening a text field, the standard Symbian text entry field displayed. That let me copy and paste as much as I wanted :-)

  • Rwishi

    You can copy and paste links. U gotta turn off inline editing in the davanced settings for that but the address typing then becomes less eye-candy.

    • Stefan Constantinescu

      Will try that, thanks for the tip!

  • Nio

    Hi Stefan. That’s a good review of yours. After trying several minutes with this new Opera Mini, I found that seems like we never be able to re-assign the speed dial, aren’t we ? You can assign a speed dial but you just couldn’t edit or change it any longer :(

    • Stefan Constantinescu

      This took me a while to figure out as well. Click and hold the speed dial you want to change. The long press is something new compared to previous versions of Opera Mini.

      • Nio

        Dear Stefan, it works ! Thank you so much !

    • dave

      hello,

      Click the speed dial you want to change. then click 1 and choose clear or edit …
      good luck!
      dave

  • Peter Bortas

    Hi Stefan,

    Thanks for the kind words. You are quite correct in that Link, custom search and RSS are left out of this beta, but we’ll activate those before the final release.

    /Peter, Opera

    • Stefan Constantinescu

      Nice to know!

  • gzumm

    no pgup/pgdown with left/right buttons in mobile view now :(

  • shiap

    try saving a image or play around with images. will crash. and no option to terminate the same :(

  • kai en

    And I can’t seem to edit the address for the speed dial as well. I’ve entered a wrong address, now I am stuck with it

    • kai en

      I just learned the press hold function. COOL.. Now, I can edit the speed dial

  • bamboo

    Thanks a lot. I wasted a lot of time looking for than feature. I didn’t thought it can be hidden like this ;p

  • syn

    is it possible to save pics and vids from the opera mini browser to your memory card,loving the 5.0 upgrade but i cant seem to figure it out. ive been playing with this thing for about an hour now can someone please help.

    • B

      help me too, i cant save pics either, it just gives me an error.

  • Davidoff08

    Hears a ??? im new to opera 5 how do u delete the thumbnails once u have added them guys ?????????

  • rbanavara

    you can use 2 & 8 to pg up & pg down. Also 4 & 6 wil act like right left arrow keys.

    • gzumm

      oh, cool, thanks

  • jayars

    regarding the speed dial hover over them and press 1

  • kamantino

    After Trying, is it possible to custom position of speed dial ?, or we must edit from the begining ?

  • damien

    i’d say its more suited to touch screen phones, only 9 thumbnails? i want more bookmarks!! copy and paste is not so great also… and its slower to browse up and down web pages like 4.2

    • weez

      Actually, you DO have unlimited bookmarks. Speed Dial is just a visual representation of your top sites.

  • TMM

    Thanks…this was driving me nuts. Help much appreciated.

  • Ryan

    Is there any way to open links from other parts of the blackberry into Opera Mini 5 instead of the native browser? In other words, if I receive a link in my email, can I open it into Opera Mini 5? If there is a way, I have yet to be able to find it.

    Thanks.

    Great review.

  • Jeremy

    I’m new to mobile phone web browsing in general and am using a Samsung Link with a qwerty keyboard. In Opera (both 4.2 and the 5 beta release), the full keyboard does not work, but only the number keys. Is this a setting that can be changed or am I out of luck? Many thanks!

  • iamclayscholes

    i’m liking this A LOT!
    can’t wait for the full version.

  • skyelmad

    cannot download directly on opera mini 5 it opens the symbian browser. tried on N95 8GB and 5800 anyone know a way to dl directly

  • Jerrin

    Nice review!.For phones which do not have centre key can press 1 for changing speed dial,selecting text or opening a link in a new tab.A problem i encountered is that i cant read the pages i saved using operamini 4.2.A bug also exist when opening the dropdown menu in webpages.The dropdown menu doesn’t go until i exit operamini and takes all the screen realestate.A new feature i also noticed is that when reloading a page after selecting an option in a dropdown menu it downloads only the data required for the next drop down menu. WRITTEN USING OPERAMINI 5

  • sd

    the very small text size isn’t that small..

  • sd

    how do i organize my bookmarks? i can’t rearrange it, there is no move up/down,copy or move to folder option. There are no shortcuts for top/bottom page. And when you go to help then shortcuts, #9 is the shortcut for settings but when you try it, it is for save page. and there is no shortcut for #7. hope they fix these.

  • Clemo

    How can i import my opera 4.2 (or opera PC) bookmarks using synchronization via opera link ?

  • Nielsz

    Everytime i start opera mini 5 beta on my Nokia E71, i experience extensive battery use.
    I lose 1 bar on my battery indicator on the top right corner of the screen.

    Does anyone else has this?

  • Byung Choi

    Yesterday, I have installed opera mini 5 beta on my blackberry. Then, I found an error for input Korean.
    I can read Korean on the browser but I could type in it.
    Hopefully, it will be solved very soon, then I would be happy.

  • Eyiche

    I just installed opera mini 5 beta yesterday and it shows me series of column containing things like front query,middle query e.t.c and i think all these column are for some cheats.When i move to the next page by pressing ok the page becomes blank.I’m in Nigeria and i’ve used previous versions of this software.Please help me out.

  • Lakshmana Rao

    My phone model is sony Ericcson w660i. Previously I am using opera mini 4.2 beta. Now I am using (by way of downloading jad)latest opera mini 5 beta. Now I am unable to save files rather than downloading directly. How can I save a file ?

    • Stefan Constantinescu

      It will be in the final version, the beta does not support file downloads.

  • cameron

    hey guys! i’ve been using mini 5 for like 2 weeks now it’s been working great… until now it just stopped working. everytime i try ti sign into anything, facebook, myspace, gmail, it crashes. not thhe whole phone just the program itself. what gives? i’ve tried deleting and re-installing no luck. i’m sad now…

    • Will Park

      Hey Cameron, have contacted Opera with your issue?

      • cameron

        no haha i probably should thanks lol

  • cameron

    odd it’s working now just fine

  • Suman Pal

    Great review, Stefan! Have been using it myself for a few days now and completely agree with you.

  • Anna Wareham

    Hello, ty for this review, it is most helpful:)

    I have just downloaded the beta version 5 and am generally very impressed with it. However, I the grey menu bar is not showing up on my Blackberry Curve 9200, so I can’t access the tab browsing and other functions this offers.

    Can anyone offer a solution?

    Thanks

    • Anna Wareham

      Edit to above post *Blackberry 8900

  • Jaime

    It was too slow for me. The shortcuts didn’t work on my blackberry pearl. I pressed # 1 or 2 or 3 and so on and nothing happened. I also tried * and other numbers and nothing either. It takes too long to do what you want. I can no longer do a quick google search by pressing #9. Hopefully, the full version will be better.

  • Gitansh

    This application is great. but there is one problem that is it doesn’t run on wap accesspoint. i used bolt and i loved it because it run on wap gateway. Opera should integrate with wap gateway also.

  • Razaq

    I want to edit my speedial tab from opera mini 5 beta 2

  • Varun Nagappa

    So after also meeting the guys at Web 2.0 NYC I had issue getting past the EULA page…some bugs. But I can not see any full release just yet….still in Beta.

    + something which really bugs me…is that ajax enabled sites do not work. Since the server side handles the heavy JS transaction what you see on your handset is a static page. With the increase of mobile computing power, access speeds. I say back to the drawing boards Opera. Mini 5.0 if delivered as preached then OK, otherwise back to the drawing board.

  • meister

    i tested opera mini 5 beta and opera mobile 10 beta on n97, and opera mini lacking of few option,but it has opera mobile,anyways opera mobile very slow even with turbo,dosent works search normaly as on opera mini.and mini way faster than opera mobile.tested

  • Steve G

    Pop-ups- on mini 4.3 I get a java warning but the page opens, on 5 beta 2 I get a warning telling me to enable pop-ups but page is not loaded. Need an option to display pop-ups or not.

  • kyle

    Click and hold on a textbox on a website, like dictionary.com, to get ability to add it as search engine.

  • bobet

    I found a way to copy text and paste on the clipboard of the phone OS by activating an editbox like the New Note on my Facebook or Compose Mail on my email account as temporary repository of copied text. Quite ridiculous but it serves the purpose.
    One problem I have with Opera Mini is that it can never open my Ovi Mail, the browser kept on redirecting me and it is really annoying.

  • pratz

    evrythng is awsm BUT THE KEYBOARD IS CRAP..CANT EVEN TYPE ONE SENTENCE WITHOUT MISTAKES…ALPHABETS R VERY SMALL N CLOSE TO EACH OTHER IN VIRTUAL KEYBOARD

  • Stefan Constantinescu

    thanks for the tip and guide!

Back to top ▴