When you click on a downloadable file, you are presented with a dialog box like this (Windows and Mac versions shown):
This dialog looks the same as previous versions, but the underlying functionality has changed completely.
Long-time users of Opera know that “Save” has meant “Save to my Downloads Folder” and “Open” has always meant “Save to my Downloads Folder and then Open”
Note: most links on this page will open in a new window. Close that window to return to this page. Also, many links refer to Opera’s own opera:config settings and do not apply to other browsers and therefore will not work in other browsers.
Why did Opera change this?
For some time there has been debate about whether “Open” should mean “Open and Save” or not. Some were for it, arguing that if I want to delete the file later, I can do that fairly easily. Some where against it, saying that if they just opened a file that didn’t necessarily mean they wanted to keep it, and they could save it manually if that is what they wanted.
Neither of these positions could be defined as “right” or “wrong” since one could reasonably hold either position. There are then two considerations: 1) What has Opera done in the past? and 2) What do other browsers do? #1 is simply as we have already discussed. I honestly don’t know what the answer to #2 is because I use Opera, and if I wanted to know what other browsers did, I’d use other browsers. Opera ASA needs to consider the expectations of “switchers” and so it is not unreasonable for them to consider changing this if, for example, Internet Explorer and Firefox do it differently. But just because users are used to the way that browsers work doesn’t mean they prefer it.
From my observation (which is by no means scientifically conclusive) it appears that there are a sizable number of users on either side of this preference. Some want to use the Downloads folder, some do not.
The proper solution, therefore, would seem to be to find a way to meet the needs of both groups, realizing that one group would not get their desired behavior as the default but at least it would be an option.
Opera has, uncharacteristically, failed to do that.
Why is this a problem?
Fundamentally, I don’t believe that Opera should ever delete a file that I download. Formerly there was a zero chance risk that I might accidentally delete a file I had downloaded by exiting Opera or emptying my cache. The worst thing that could happen was that my downloads folder might be a bit cluttered, but it would be cluttered with files I had expressed an interest in by opening them in the first place.
Secondly, the current implementation of this is inconsistent, buggy, and poorly documented.
Thirdly, and I cannot stress this enough, Opera has failed to give me a way to get back the preferred behavior which it cultivated me to expect for the past 6 years. That is perhaps the most egregious of the various problems. If you feel you have to change the way that something has always worked, if you feel you have to change the default way that something worked (even when a large group of your users preferred it) then you ought to feel obligated to give your long-time users a way to get back to their preferred way of working.
Given the advent of opera:config I find this omission particularly bothersome. They would not have even needed to add this to the general Preferences. A quick look through the listed preferences will find much more obscure settings than this one which effects daily usage of Opera.
How long will the file be saved if I choose “Open” instead of “Save”?
You will have a hard time finding an official answer.
There is no mention of this “feature” at all in the
If you look at the
If you look at
Which is true. Except when it isn’t.
Based on my research, I have to say that the only real answer is “It depends.”
To fully understand how this “feature” works, I made two clean installs of Opera, one in Windows and one in Mac. Here’s what I found:
If you are using Opera, check your Empty Cache on Exit setting.
If you tell WinOpera to Empty Cache on Exit, the Temporary Downloads folder will be deleted on exit.
If you use MacOpera to Empty Cache on Exit, the Temporary Downloads folder will not be deleted on exit.
Why the disparity?
By default, WinOpera stores the Temporary Downloads folder inside the cache folder. If you did a default installation, the path to the default cache folder probably looks like this: C:\Documents and Settings\YourLoginName\Application Data\Opera\Opera\profile\cache4\. The cache folder is cleared out when you choose the → or when you quit Opera if you have Empty Cache on Exit selected.
By contrast, MacOpera stores the Temporary Downloads folder outside the cache folder. Sort of. The default path for MacOpera’s cache is ~/Library/Caches/Opera/Cache/. (Yes, that path is sponsored by the Department of Redundancy Department.) Opened files are stored in ~/Library/Caches/Opera/Temporary Downloads/. The contents of ~/Library/Caches/Opera/Cache/ are cleared when you do “Empty Cache on Exit” but the Temporary Downloads folder is not emptied when the cache is emptied, presumably because it is not in more specific cache directory. So MacOpera users are not even getting the supposed-advantage of this new feature.
Warning: There are a large number of third-party “cache cleaner” applications out there which may delete anything found in the ~/Library/Caches/ folder, so I would highly recommend changing that location if you want to preserve your Temporary Downloads.
However if you choose→ then the Temporary Downloads file is emptied. Usually. It appears that folders inside the Temporary Downloads folder of MacOpera are not deleted even if → is chosen. So if you (for example) chose to “Open” a .zip file which contained a .pkg, the .zip would be opened, the .pkg would be left in the Temporary Downloads folder and you would have to manually delete it.
Likewise, in WinOpera, if you move the Temporary Downloads folder out of the cache folder (i.e. C:\Documents and Settings\YourLoginName\Desktop\Temporary Downloads) and then exit, the cache will be emptied (if you have selected “Empty on Exit”) but the Temporary Downloads will not be. In fact, it will not be emptied even if you choose → .
Let me say that again: If you change the location of the Temporary Downloads folder in WinOpera, it will apparently never be emptied.
If you change the MacOpera Temporary Downloads folder to somewhere other than the default, and then choose→ that folder is emptied.
To sum up for Mac: “Empty Cache on Exit” never seems to work, but “Delete Private Data” does.
What’s the problem?
You mean besides the buggy, inconsistent, and undocumented behavior?
The problem is that Opera has traded one problem for another, and the new “feature” seems poorly, or at least inconsistenly, implemented. So the problem is not so much fixed as it is changed.
Let’s re-examine the stated problem that this was originally supposed to fix: “Opened files should not be saved to the downloads directory.” Has that been fixed? Sort of. Sometimes. It depends.
What happened as a result of this change? Users who “Open” files will probably still have the files on their hard drive somewhere, just not where they might expect to find them. And those who thought that they were deleting those files may be surprised to find out they really didn’t.
What could have been done differently? Let users “Open” files directly into the Cache folder. And let users decide if they want to use that functionality or not. A whole layer of complexity could have been avoided — and if it doesn’t seem complex, please re-read the above. I can nearly guarantee that Opera ASA will have to spend more time cleaning this up than if they had made the simple and seemingly obvious change in the beginning: Let users use their cache if they want to, or let them use their regular downloads folder if they want to.
But isn’t this a change for the better?
It depends. If you didn’t like your Downloads folder getting cluttered up but don’t mind the files still being somewhere on your hard drive, then I guess this is better.
If you want your opened files saved, this is worse.
If you thought that having the opened files automatically deleted would increase security, so far it hasn’t.
Which is more intuitive:
- I save or open a file and it goes to my download folder, and is opened if requested.
- I save a file and it goes to my download folder. I open a file and it goes to a different folder where it will stay until I manually delete my cache or turn on “Exit Cache on Exit” unless I specify a different folder, sometimes, depending on which platform I am using.
A much better solution would have been a single checkbox preference (or in opera:config) which said something to the effect of:
[ ] Use cache folder for files I open via download dialog
[X] Save opened files in Download directory
Opera would have avoided the whole mess of having a separate folder for Temporary Downloads which may or may not be emptied when the cache is. And it would have kept itself in the Opera tradition of giving the user control of his/her own browser. Opera 9 fails to do that with this change. It switched from failing to meet the needs of one group of users to failing to meet the needs of another group of users. And introduced new bugs with the new feature.
Why does this irritate you so much?
What is much worse than everything I’ve mentioned so far is that I now have to think more. Yes, I realize people will laugh and point and get all sarcastic about that. “Oh boo hoo, you have to think.” But the point is this: What I want from a browser (or any piece of software), and what I have loved about Opera more than any other browser on Mac or Windows, is that it gets out of the way and lets me work. The less it gets in the way, the better it works for me.
Now when I see that dialog I have to think “Do I need to save this file or do I want to open it?” Most of the time I want to save and open it. If I want to open it, I need to remember to save it manually. I don’t want to have to think about that. If I decide to save it because I don’t want to forget to manually save it later, then I have to remember to go back and open it when it finishes downloading. Remember I spend a good portion of my time on a very slow dialup connection, so it can take awhile for even small files to download, and I certainly don’t want to have to re-download something because Opera threw it away!
Windows users: if you want to preserve your opened files, I would recommend that you move the Temporary Downloads folder out of the cache. However please realize that this behavior (not emptying the Temporary Downloads folder if it is not in the cache) is most likely going to be considered a bug by Opera ASA and may change in the future. The only true “safe” course of action is to disable Empty Cache on Exit and only manually delete the cache after verifying that there are no files you want to keep in the Temporary Downloads folder.
Mac users: You can safely use Empty Cache on Exit (for now) but realize that your Temporary Downloads will be deleted whenever you choose Delete Private Data from the menu. Also, if you use any of the cache cleaner utilities, make sure to relocate the Temporary Downloads folder first.
Mac users: you may be interested in a