Home > Editorial > Where is Opera's Update Manager?

Where is Opera's Update Manager?

November 16, 2005

Earlier today I fired up my Firefox browser for some web development testing that I was doing. While using it, Firefox’s new Update Manger alerted me about an available update. This got me thinking about how the Opera browser handles its updates.

Currently, each time an update is made available, the entire browser including the updates must be downloaded and installed manually.

The process of installing updates can be confusing to the average user. There are no instructions that come with the download file. Installing the browser in the same folder of the current installation is not the most obvious step.

I think, with all due respect, Firefox got it right with the way it handles its updates. Opera should take a serious look at Firefox’s update process.

In short, instead of downloading the entire browser with each update, only the updated parts of the browser are downloaded. The browser has some kind of Update Manager that takes care of the downloading and installation of the updates — without much user intervention.

There should be no need to download the entire browser again, save it, and then manually install it with each update. Just imagine if Microsoft Windows would require you to reinstall the entire OS with each windows update.

I spoke with an Opera developer about this a few months ago, at the time when Firefox first released their update manager. He told me that it was once discussed at one of his meetings, but that they had no immediate plans to implement it.

In a time where browsers are greatly scrutinized and updates come frequently, it’s important to have a simple and easy update process. By making the update process more transparent to the user, more people would keep their browsers updated with the latest security patches. Just by looking at the log of visitors to this site, you will see that many still haven’t upgraded their browsers to the latest version, Opera 8.5.

Categories: Editorial
  1. Anonymous
    November 17, 2005 at 2:15 am

    Similar thoughts by an Opera employee (from a few days back):


  2. Anonymous
    November 17, 2005 at 2:30 am

    Come on, its only 3 megz, and you have to say next 3 times. And you can install it on the prev. version.

  3. November 17, 2005 at 2:36 am

    I don’t think a seemless patch system is completely required, but at the very least a smooth notification > download > install/upgrade.

    The Opera installer is only a few mb, so there’s real reason not to download the whole thing. The main issue as pointed out by Eivind is the upgrade process. It’s too confusing and dangerous…

  4. Anonymous
    November 17, 2005 at 2:55 am

    Firefox needs an updater because its recent security flaws and bugfixes were measured in dozens. However, their updater is still mostly broken in 1.5 RC2, and the former one “download everything, install everything, potentially break everything” left much to be desired. If we add the extension updates in the mix, things can easily get out of hand.

    Does Opera *really* need an updater? That’s the most important question.

    Do the users *really* need an updater? Do they want to be annoyed by some dialogs popping out and saying “hey, download this!”?

    I don’t think so, but that’s just my opinion.

    On the other hand, I’m getting increasingly irritated by Opera’s file naming scheme. Why the hell is there an “opera6.ini” file when we’re running version *8.5*?! What’s wrong with “opera.ini”? Why does Opera want to install to “Opera7” or “Opera8” or whatever by default?

    And where’s the backup utility, in case we want to do a clean install and then migrate our bookmarks, newsfeeds, history, etc?

  5. November 17, 2005 at 2:58 am

    But Firefox’s incremental update is only several hundred KBs. πŸ˜‰

    Anyway, Opera should at least download the installer in a temporary/default directory, then open the installer once downloading is completed (like the old update manager in Firefox 1.0.x).

  6. November 17, 2005 at 3:00 am

    > Does Opera *really* need an updater?

    Of course. Acrobat Reader also has a decent updater. Updater is not just for security updates.

  7. Anonymous
    November 17, 2005 at 4:06 am

    “Why the hell is there an “opera6.ini” file when we’re running version *8.5*?!”

    The 6 is the version number of that file, not that of Opera.

    “Why does Opera want to install to “Opera7” or “Opera8″ or whatever by default?”

    That depends on which folder you’ve selected on your last installation. By default, a clean install (on a computer without Opera) will suggest C:Program filesOpera.

    “And where’s the backup utility, in case we want to do a clean install and then migrate our bookmarks, newsfeeds, history, etc?”

    Do we really need a utility to back-up two folders, namely profile and mail? … and stylesmime.css, and plug-ins… ok, we need one. πŸ˜€

  8. Anonymous
    November 17, 2005 at 4:59 am

    File version numbers have no place in their names, IMHO. So if we get opera7.ini, what happens? Does Opera rename it?

    Opera should always want to install to “Opera”, IMHO.

    And yes, we need a migration tool πŸ˜‰ Not so much for us tech geeks, but for users who don’t even know how to access the Application Data directory.

  9. Anonymous
    November 17, 2005 at 6:56 am

    It is a marker for when the file was last majorly changed. Opera6.ini means that the last major revision of the file was V6

    All the cache files are marked V4, as they were introduced in V4. On the unlikely chance they majorly change their pref file with 9, it would then be called opera9.ini.

  10. Anonymous
    November 17, 2005 at 6:56 am

    It is a marker for when the file was last majorly changed. Opera6.ini means that the last major revision of the file was V6

    All the cache files are marked V4, as they were introduced in V4. On the unlikely chance they majorly change their pref file with 9, it would then be called opera9.ini.

  11. Moonlight Gambler
    November 17, 2005 at 9:54 am

    One of the things I love about Opera is that when I install it on a friends machine, or re-install on one of my machines, I don’t have to spend hours downloading patches. Opera comes complete in one, relatively small, package
    Anyway, new versions of Opera are often quicker to download and install than other browsers.
    Please don’t change this.

  12. Anonymous
    November 17, 2005 at 10:06 am

    I’d love an updater too, but a properly implemented incremental updater is very difficult to get right, as Firefox has shown. They seem to have managed it now though – the latest update from 1.5RC1 to RC2 went smoothly. A better system for managing new installers (like minghong said above) would be more practical, and after all it is only 3.7MB πŸ™‚

    moonlight gambler: incremental updates are different from patches, since they increase the version number. You’d be downloading new versions anyway to install for your friends. This would only simplify the process of updating for existing users.

  13. November 17, 2005 at 10:08 am

    It’s not just about the size of the download file, but also about the simplicity of getting browser updates.

  14. November 17, 2005 at 12:33 pm

    Wow — I can’t believe there are people dismissing this idea.

    I wonder how many people in the “Opera doesn’t need an updater” camp were in the “Firefox sucks because you have to download the whole thing every time you update it” camp earlier this year. I never could figure out why an Opera user would use that argument.

    Come on guys, it’s a good idea! Just because Firefox did it first (by which I mean before Opera, not the first app to ever do that — which should be obvious, but flame wars have been launched on even lesser misunderstandings) doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter.

  15. November 17, 2005 at 6:27 pm

    The most important feature of a good, streamlined app is ease-of-use. The idea is, the work should be on the developer’s end, not the user’s. By such, while you may argue that “the process we have now works just fine”, it isn’t the easiest.

    For those who prefer not to get automatic updates, or even a notice that you should download an update, Opera could easily have a feature to turn it off. But for me, I would much prefer when a new version comes out for Opera to ask me “Install update?” and have it patch a few hundred kilobytes, instead of three megabytes. Yeah, “it is only three megabytes” — but it is actually more than that (I think), and even if it is it is an inconvenience. The people who design the browser should be smart enough to do this.

  16. November 17, 2005 at 6:28 pm

    So blogger says I can use italics, and it transforms them to /* and the sentences. . .but I hope you got my drift

  17. November 17, 2005 at 7:36 pm

    Most users I know simply install a new version over an existing installation. Alot of the poster’s here surley know the dangers associated with doing this, which is why I agree that Opera should do a patch system like Firefox.

    If not for the users safety, then at least for the benefit of themselves, by saving bandwidth. Instead of sending out entire installs, they would only be doing incremental updates that are a fraction the size of an entire installtion.

    300kb is hella lot smaller than 3MB.

  18. Anonymous
    November 18, 2005 at 3:45 am

    Hey, were you thinkning about Linux/BSD users? The installation is treated differently there than in Windows. Users don’t have rights to install. Admin does it for them. E.g. if he installs Opera 8.5 into /usr/opera so everyone can use it, then a user runs Opera which tells him about new version, what would it do? Install the binary diff into…. where?? Into home dir? Not good, won’t work. Install complete new opera into user’s home dir? Then the other users will need to do the same. This is insane.

  19. November 19, 2005 at 5:18 am

    “Does Opera *really* need an updater? That’s the most important question.

    Do the users *really* need an updater? Do they want to be annoyed by some dialogs popping out and saying “hey, download this!”?”

    Now there’s an Opera fanatic in denial… πŸ™‚

  20. Anonymous
    November 19, 2005 at 6:36 am

    A signifant no. of users will appreciate the patch system. This could be made an option, so that if a user doesn’t like it then he can still update Opera by downloading the whole installer from the webpage.

  21. Anonymous
    November 19, 2005 at 7:29 am

    “Now there’s an Opera fanatic in denial… :-)”

    David Naylor, a FF Troll, in action.

    Did Asa told you post this or did you do it all by yourself?, that would be a great improvement…

  22. Anonymous
    November 19, 2005 at 9:55 am

    I’m the anonymous from above πŸ˜‰

    I don’t honestly know what computer world you people are living in, but the first and most important thing of having a well-cultured relationship with the user is acknowledging his intelligence (which might be severely lacking, but you still have to pretend it’s there).

    The user needs to initiate any updates all by himself, if, and only if, he chooses to do so. You, as a developer of a generic product (such as a web browser), have no right of saying “here, this is better for you”.

    If a product auto-updates itself silently, like Fx does now, there’s a large possibility of all hell breaking loose because of some minor glitch that might go unnoticed. What if Fx 1.0.5 happens again? What if Opera has an updater, and version x.y happens?

    Where’s the possibility of rolling back to the version before the update in such a case?

    Automatic updates, especially silent ones, are to be avoided. That is, of course, if you’re not distributing your product with lots, lots and lots of QA, or in a strict environment. Both of those points don’t apply to Firefox or Opera (though Opera has better QA).

  23. November 19, 2005 at 6:17 pm

    To anonymous above,

    I wasn’t suggesting that Opera should update the browser silently, rather the user would have to autherize it before the updates would be downloaded.

    About Opera repeating a Firefox 1.0.5 move, such a think could happen even with the current update system. But the hopes is that Opera (the company) would catch this sooner rather than later. Overhere on Opera Watch, I usually post about new updates and releases before Opera makes it official, as a result, if there is a major problem with the update, Opera will know about it before releasing it. In fact, this already happened with version 8.01.

  24. Anonymous
    November 20, 2005 at 4:02 am


    I’m just saying that no product should pop up some dialogs that say “hey, there’s a new version, do you want to download it transparently?” or “I’ve downloaded and upgraded myself, all for your computing pleasure”.

    Opera has a “Check for new release” menu item. It has to be clicked on manually, and that’s fine. Honestly, I don’t know what happens now when another version is found, but the proper thing to do would be to point the user to Opera’s download page if the user chooses to upgrade, then a link to the upgrade (complete or incremental, it doesn’t matter) should be presented to the user, and the final choice left to his preference.

    That’s why I’m asking if Opera *really* needs an update manager.

    However, the upgrade process MUST let the user roll-back in case something goes wrong. And that should be accomplished via the “Add & Remove Programs” in Windows, or whatever else in other operating systems, respecting the general OS guidelines.

    In case of a clean install, the user should be presented with an easy and understandable option of importing his bookmarks, mail & newsfeeds, browsing history, etc. The old version shouldn’t be uninstalled automatically.

  25. AG
    November 20, 2005 at 7:38 am

    About installing new Opera version – I do it this way:

    1. UNINSTALL OPERA. Yes. Dont worry – all your profile, settings, mail, cache, bookmarks, skins etc are NOT DELETED.

    2. INSTALL new version into same directory.

    Ready! New version + all your settings here.

  26. November 21, 2005 at 12:20 pm

    On the subject of updaters: I work at an IT company where most of the employees are programmers and are able to install more or less what they want on their computers (within reason, of course).

    You’d be amazed at the number of times I’ve walked over to someone else’s desk and they’ve had Firefox open with that little red updater icon, and done nothing about it. Keep in mind that through FF 1.0.7, the updates have all(?) been security fixes and bug fixes.

    In short, people need either automatic security updates, or an update notice that will catch their attention… or else they won’t update, and they’ll still be using a version that’s insecure and/or more buggy than the current release. The Firefox developers learned this, which is a big part of why the updater was a central part of the push for 1.5.

    As for Linux/BSD, Firefox’s updater is disabled if you don’t have write permission to the app directory. What I’ve been doing is when I hear about an update, I close Firefox, su and run it as root, then hit “Check for Updates.” Once my distro (Fedora Core) releases RPMs for Firefox 1.5, I’ll probably remove the app from /usr/local and go back to the yum-managed package.

    Personally I think it should still be possible to notify a non-admin user of an update, since the app can’t really tell whether it’s dealing with a single-user home system running as an ordinary user or a multi-user system with a full-time admin.

  27. Anonymous
    November 21, 2005 at 6:23 pm


    I have Firefox 1.0.something at work (don’t honestly know which version, nor do I care), and you know what?

    It’s bloody annoying.

    Every once in a while, it will pop up a notification dialog, saying I should upgrade to 1.0.7. Well, no, damn you, I’m in the middle of working, and I’m not going to upgrade anything right now. Go away. And it goes away. For a short period. Then it pops again. And all the time, the little red updating arrow is fixed in the upper right corner, annoying the hell out of me, and four of my co-workers who are also running 1.0.something (two are running 1.5 RC3 because they’re uber-geeks who need to have every last version of every last program installed).

    Dialogs that ask people to upgrade something are as annoying as popup ads on the web. People don’t want to see them. The users are perfectly capable (or at least they think) of upgrading software themselves (or calling the sysadmin to do that for them as an excuse to take a coffee break while the guy is working). Software having control over the user is a bad, bad thing.

    BTW, wanna know how the matter was finally resolved?

    We had our network admin block our subnet from accessing whatever URI Firefox tries to query for updates.

    P.S. As for Fx developers having a clue about anything, well, it took lots of sponsored $$$ to perform a basic study about tabs that showed something that Opera has had for ages. I wouldn’t put any money on them, since the HCI concept seems to elude their grasp.

  28. November 21, 2005 at 9:32 pm

    Agree with Kelson: regular people just don’t know that they should upgrade software. Software are forced to force them to upgrade.

    If you are smart enough to know that you can upgrade later, you are not a regular user. (And if you are that smart, you should know that you can turn the automatical checking/updating off in preference/option window).

  29. November 21, 2005 at 10:47 pm

    Anonymous: You couldn’t just disable “check for updates” in Preferences?

    Talk about overkill!

  30. Anonymous
    November 22, 2005 at 1:53 am


    No, disabling that didn’t work on my PC, and two other ones. We didn’t try it on the fourth computer, I admit, because we all share the same drive image…

    I’m sure that’s not standard behaviour and something is screwed up on our PC’s, but the fact remains that the software is nagging us with something that we really can’t even do – I’m the only one with admin rights on my PC (but without the time to reinstall and possibly break stuff), so I _could_ upgrade, but the rest of the people can’t.

  31. November 22, 2005 at 6:50 pm

    Anonymous: How did you ever summon up the courage to install Firefox in the first place? Sounds like you need to relax a bit. Security updates are very unlikely to mess anything up – much less so than the clean install you must have done some time ago.

  32. Anonymous
    November 23, 2005 at 2:44 am


    I didn’t do a clean install. The sysadmin(s) (presumably) did that, as well as installed two versions of Opera and three versions of IE, plus a 0.8.something Fx. Our Linux machines have Epiphany, Konqueror, Opera and Firefox. Our Mac machines have IE, Safari, Opera, Camino and Firefox.

    Whether the security updates break something or not, I don’t know, and I don’t care. It’s not my job to upgrade software and I don’t want to be molested by things that feel the urge to update themselves at their whim.

    How many programs and applications do you have? Ten? Twenty? Fifty? A hundred? What if each and every one of them included automatic updates? Would you be able to work and/or use your PC in a normal fashion, or would you endure numerous update popups per day and a ton of bandwidth used? Where do you draw the line between “this software should update if it thinks it’s necessary” and “damn you, ugly programming garbage, I’ll update when *I* think it’s necessary”? Why should such a line be drawn in the first place? Would you say a browser SHOULD upgrade itself, but the rest of the apps, including the OS, shouldn’t? What if your hardware became sentient, wanted to upgrade itself and had access to your credit card? What if four alley cats suddenly found your home a suitable place to live, and you didn’t have enough money to feed both them and yourself because of the hardware that upgraded itself and maxed out your credit card? Etc… πŸ™‚

  33. Anonymous
    November 23, 2005 at 1:30 pm

    Minghong & D. Naylor, annoying FF cheerleaders with an ego problem, promoting their beloved toy no matter what arguments are explained…

    …and some people still wonder why FF Zombies have such a bad reputation all over the net.

  34. November 23, 2005 at 7:28 pm

    I wonder if anonymous posters ever made any constructive comments. When they don’t think what to say, they call people zombies.

    Anyway, all my thought about this post can be found in previous comments. I won’t reply to these useless comments again.

  35. Anonymous
    November 24, 2005 at 1:46 am

    No, of course I didn’t write anything constructive. All the words were written in the Ooogla-Ooogla! language, unbeknownst to the common man.

    Ooogla boink uug uug! Boink! Ooogla ooogla uug Opera uug! Firefox uug ooogla! Boink ooogla ooogla boink update manager!

  36. Anonymous
    November 24, 2005 at 1:48 am

    Oh, and I’m not the anonymous that called you a cheerleader, I’m the one with the longests and most-argumented comments.

    Still, with your attitude, I might just as well sign that person’s words.

  37. nerved
    November 6, 2006 at 1:23 am

    One year over and i’m still afraid of messing up my emails by updating Opera. Happened before, will happen again.

  38. James Brian Rector
    May 12, 2007 at 3:33 pm

    Granted, its easier to have upgrades via updating, but IMHO, its better to download the whole thing and upgrade. Why? Simple, so that Id have a copy of the whole executable than have a update go wrong automatically.

    I download Opera weekly (Yes, I get the weeklies and the betas too, but they are more stable than the Firefox and the IE ones) and reapply the upgrades manually.

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