While searching for ways to make Opera work with GMail, I stumbled across Opera 7.60 Preview 1 for Windows. (Current stable Windows release is 7.54.) I downloaded it, started it up, and I’m quite happy to say that many of my complaints have been fully addressed in this version.
First off, I admit I was talking through my hat when I said Opera should go back to “just being a browser”; it was always a suite of additional applications, but I wanted just the browser, since the M2 mail client wasn’t doing it for me, and I had no need of IRC, feedreading, or “Notes.” In prior versions, the bells and whistles stayed out of the way, but Opera 7.5x would not let you ignore them, with multiple, hard-to-hide, too-easy-to-toggle nested toolbars. 7.60 rectifies that right from the start by asking you whether you want the full suite or just the browser, and if you want to hide the Personal Bar and Panel Selector; selecting just the browser without the panels gives you a clean, toolbar-free GUI. Some of the extras are still lurking around the corner, mostly in the menus, and the Panel Selector can still be toggled with a click in the left window border, but Right Click > uncheck Show Panel Toggle, and it’s like they were never there.
I still don’t like the default browser view, but that’s easily fixed with steps 3, 5, 6, and 7 from Make Opera Look Like a Browser Again. (I also found that the Main Bar / Google Ads annoyance in step 5 can be circumvented simply by selecting “graphical advertisements” from the advertising options. The interface adjusts itself accordingly.)
Oh, and the greatest improvement: Opera 7.60 supports XMLHttpRequest, which means it runs GMail! You need to bypass the initial browser warning (“sign in anyway”), but once you’ve logged in, it works fine.
It gives me a smile to know that I’m on the web with a client application that listens to feedback and stays true to its roots as the web’s simplest, zippiest browser for power-users. Great work, Opera!