Opera vs Firefox vs IE7

Is Opera better than Firefox? Update: And is IE7 better than either of them?

Background information:

Having used Mozilla for a long time, and Firefox since its release, I'd always been an advocate of the browser as the best alternative to IE. I also needed a browser that (ex-)IE users could run without too much trouble, and I like open source software. I believe this is an advantage (certainly when comparing free products) since popular open source projects tend to get quickly, and (hopefully!) intelligently updated. Firefox fitted the bill.

I'd had Opera installed and used it for testing, but I found its interface time-consuming and difficult to put the effort into adapting to. I also found that even a simple thing like updating the default search engines involved messing around with configuration files which I found annoying. And the final straw was displaying ads unless I paid for it.

In September 2005 [when this article was first written], Opera announced that it would no longer require registration to be free of ads, which removed one of the main reasons not to use it. I've used Opera much more since then, although I bailed out and went back to Firefox when I came across a bug/broke Opera by playing around with it and frankly, couldn't be bothered to fix it.

This article outlines some personal experiences from using both browsers fairly extensively.


Official Firefox website



  • Easy to use and configure, especially for ex-internet explorer users
  • Features can be extended with a minimum of hassle
  • Fast page rendering and general browsing, with a more than adequate start up speed
  • Open source
  • Some great extensions (e.g. adblock and web developer)
  • Standards compliance
  • Less susceptible to security hazards than IE


  • High memory usage with lots of tabs open
  • Many of the best features require extensions to be installed

General comments

Firefox is a very good tool for browsing the web. I like the fact I can add anything from a built-in mp3 player to a tool that will show me live server headers in a few clicks. I've found Firefox to be (more than adequately) fast, secure and stable.

Reasons To Choose Firefox

  1. You need a stable, secure browser
  2. You want to be able to add features easily
  3. You're a web developer, and need an advanced browser
  4. You are an impatient ex-IE user ;)


Firefox is a very capable, secure browser with a variety of excellent and easy to install extensions to enhance its functionality.


Official Opera website



  • Has more features immediately available post-installation
  • Fast page rendering, general browsing and start up speed
  • 'The Wand' is an excellent password manager tool (better than the ones in Firefox or IE)
  • Very nice web developer extension
  • Standards compliance
  • Less susceptible to security hazards than IE


  • Bigger learning curve for users of other browsers
  • Sometimes high memory usage when lots of pages are open
  • More frequent compatibility problems with websites
  • Overly difficult to adjust anything outside of the scope of the options dialogue
  • Closed source

General Comments

Opera appears to have something of a marmite effect. I don't have it installed as my default browser, and I only use it about 10% of the time. Perhaps it's because certain aspects of the Opera 'browsing experience' irritated or underwhelmed me, and I found it difficult to adjust them. With Firefox it never took me long to find an extension or a workaround to most issues.

Reasons To Choose Opera

  1. You need a stable, secure browser
  2. You don't mind a small learning curve
  3. You also want a new email client ;)
  4. You're a web developer, and need an advanced browser


Opera is also very capable, secure browser with a handy Multiple Document Interface (this means that any new page that is opened remains within the same window, even popups or the built-in email client).

Internet Explorer 7 (IE7)

Official IE7 website



  • A vast improvement on previous IE versions
  • Improved speed, features and security


  • It still needs to catch up to the other two contenders in terms of features
  • Still has standards-compliance problems
  • Closed source

General comments

I liked IE7 in a strange kind of way. But it still feels like a downgrade compared to both Firefox and Opera. Sure, I like the idea of a phishing filter, and any extra security for people's PCs can't be a bad thing. And RSS support (finally!). But I never get the urge to fire up IE7 for anything other than testing.

Reasons To Choose IE7

  1. You're too lazy to use another browser ;)
  2. You are an IE diehard, and are due some new features


Microsoft has clearly put a reasonable effort into make a genuine improvement to their browser, and to include features that are becoming essential for every day web browsing (such as tabs).

Conclusions and Closing Comments

If you need a general-purpose, high quality and reliable default browser, either Firefox or Opera make good choices. It's really a case of what works best for you, and which interface you prefer. Both browsers are free and easy to install and uninstall, so there is little reason not to experiment a little. Whilst Internet Explorer 7 is a great improvement on previous versions, for someone that has used 'alternative' browsers for some considerable time, it feels like a browser playing catch-up and I can think of no compelling reason to recommend it.


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