Launched earlier this month, Opera Coast is essentially your tablet browser re-imagined. No more flitting between the conventional URL bar and search bar, tapping back and forward buttons or seeking the tab bar and settings by touching small icons at the top of the screen.
Instead, the WebKit-based Opera Coast offers a very visual experience and one which is truly geared up for touchscreen gesture control. Opera itself says that "every design element in Coast has been carefully crafted for iPad".
On launching the app (free, iTunes), you’re greeted by an introductory tutorial video and then a home page with a unified search and address bar at the top followed by quick ‘go-to’ icons for Google+, Gmail, YouTube and other websites. There’s ample selection here – you can swipe to the left to find other icons for The Guardian, BBC Sport, Pinterest and SoundCloud among others (note: it would seem that this selection was tailored to UK users such as myself, so the selection might be different in the U.S).
Touching on any one of these will take you directly to your chosen page but if these websites don’t fit your fancy, don’t worry; the search bar is easy to use and very intuitive.
When you type on the unified search bar, a pop-out box appears showing your entry in the search bar, a preview image of the search on Google and icons for websites which may fit your search criteria. For example, when I searched for ‘TabTimes’, I saw icons for TabTimes, IBTimes and LA Times, while the search bar also offered up Twitter as a prediction based on my text input.
[As an aside, one neat feature of the search bar is that you can slide up on the search bar to look later. You can then slide the search bar down from the home screen to re-open your search result].
Once you’re happy you’ve found the right website, you tap on the icon to get going, after which you’ll see the website full-screen and white icons at the bottom center and bottom right of the display.
Tapping the central button adds the website as a quick link on your Opera Coast home page (note: you can swipe on these quick links to stack them on top of each other or place side-by-side), while pressing the other button on the right lets you slide through your other open tabs.
The tab bar is also quite innovative, with each website offering quick and convenient buttons to share the page via Facebook, Twitter or email. Furthermore, a handy information button details the website and the level of its security.
There's good news too for those bemoaning the lack of a conventional bookmarks bar. Instead, you can add websites to the quick link bar at the bottom of the page and then hold and swipe up on the icon to drop it on your home page. Should you wish to delete these 'bookmarked' icons at any time, you can do so by holding down on the icon and swiping up.
So, where does Opera Coast score heavily over the likes of Chrome, Safari and Opera's own Opera Mini? Simply put, the app is better suited for touch control (no more tapping on small icons), only offers up buttons that you'll actually use, and is designed to make tablet browsing faster, more productive and generally more enjoyable.
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