Hidden Opera

Opera is installed by Adobe as part of the Creative Suite.

Turns out Adobe has been using Opera for years as a rendering engine. I’ve read that it’s used in all kinds of places: to display Adobe Help files, in Device Central (to preview how applications would look in different mobile devices), in Photoshop, in Bridge, and in Dreamweaver (which has apparently been using Opera since Macromedia days). I’m sure this is only a partial list.

With a little digging, I found the hidden Opera installation in the bundled contents of Adobe Bridge (you need to view the application’s package contents to peer inside).

I discovered Opera was on my system when opening a torrent. Expecting Transmission to open up, I was surprised to see an Opera browser window. This, it turns out, is a common occurrence. If you run in to this, the easy solution is to right click the .torrent file, choose ‘Get Info,’ and then choose Transmission. Then choose ‘Change All’ so that all future torrent files will open with Transmission.

While I was a bit annoyed to see a browser I never installed on my machine, I’m not going to do anything about it since it’s needed by my Adobe apps. But it should stay there, behind the scenes. I think I know how this happened. I recently reinstalled Mac OS X and reinstalled all of my applications. I installed the Adobe Creative Suite, and I later installed Transmission. When I opened a torrent link, the Mac OS had was still associating all .torrent files with Opera, as that was (prior to installing Transmission) the only application on my system that would accept this file type. That explains why I had to re-associate the file type. So the real problem here is that the Mac OS associated a file type with an application that is hidden inside a bundle. That seems like odd behavior to me.

And since I’m talking about Adobe applications, I can’t pass up the chance to rant about Dvorak-Qwerty. All Adobe apps that were once Macromedia apps (Dreamweaver, Flash, Fireworks) function as expected with the Dvorak-Qwerty keyboard layout. All other Adobe apps do not support the D-Q layout.

This drives me crazy. We’re now on the fourth iteration of the Creative Suites, and this inconsistency persists. Guess it’s time to send Adobe another message.


  1. I would say the real problem is Adobe installing an app on your system (an app which exposes you to security/privacy issues – no knock on Opera, the risk is inherent in any browser) without informing you and therefore making it impossible to protect yourself and your data (e.g. by applying security updates say to said browser which you don’t even know you have installed). THAT’S odd behaviour and I can’t see blaming OS X.

  2. Doug, I think Adobe doesn’t mention it because the intended use of this buried app is not to serve as a general web browser, but explicitly as a rendering engine to be used within Adobe apps.

    I was assuming that Opera was patched/upgraded quietly in the background during CS updates, and we just weren’t notified about it. But here’s something revealing: I just opened up the Opera within the package and looked at the version: Opera 9.2. The current Opera version is 9.6.3. The lesson I take from this is not to use the hidden Adobe installation as a web browser.

    The thing is, we never would use it as a web browser if it weren’t for the Mac OS choice to select Opera as a default app for torrents (even though it’s buried within the Adobe Bridge app bundle).

    If the OS didn’t associate torrents extensions with the hidden Opera, it would likely never launch as an independent web browser.

    I did some searching and could only find instances of this hidden browser opening up with torrent files in cases when the Mac OS couldn’t find any other torrent client. That makes sense given that Opera can handle torrents. But that’s a terrible choice. Doubly terrible since the Opera version Adobe is using is not regularly updated. I think we agree that Adobe’s Opera rendering engine should never, ever open up as a separate web browser.

    I think that this instance of Opera should be excluded as a choice when Mac OS goes searching for installed apps, that Adobe should keep this instance updated regardless, and that Adobe should be more transparent about the uses of Opera in its apps. Adobe should also clearly explain how this set-up is safe and secure.

  3. Adobe could have easily fixed that problem by editing the info.plist inside their copy of Opera, so that it has to be explicitly launched instead of claiming the 15 file types that it does.

    Also, I don’t think that Opera is able to be recognized as “buried”. Lots of apps have helper apps in their bundles, and one could think of the main apps themselves as “buried” at Contents/MacOS.

    I wonder if you could fix this by removing the file types from the Opera info.plist file?

  4. This is where Adobe is completely wrong. They need to inform us of all the hidden little gremlins that they install on our systems. Especially when they are constantly trying to call out and slow our systems down to a crawl from time to time.

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