I haven't experienced that problem and I have three installations of 8.5. You don't need the main bar visible, as long as the necessary buttons have been placed on the page bar (next to the address box). Also, check you settings for handling new pages opened from links; might be something wrong there maybe.
In a way, you're right. In so far as when there is no webpage loaded, you won't see the page par, and the main bar isn't activated by default. You need to adjust your preferences to see it, and then you'll see that it contains all the icons to which Octal refers. Opera takes a little bit of work to get it to your liking.
Have you had the chance to look at your new page settings yet?
ade.h - I have everything to my liking except that the back button won't work as it did in the previous version (as explained previously). I don't know where to look for my new page settings - perhaps you could help me with this please?