The Opera Revolution

Relates to Browsers

I only stumbled on the latest pre-production Opera release yesterday by chance. While testing a site, an overflow controlled floated DIV container was failing to scroll in Opera 7. Since I knew my version (7.11) was out of date, and working on the assumption that most dedicated Opera users update on a regular basis, I thought it would be better to test the page in a newer version, than rework my CSS file to resolve this error. On loading the Opera download page I discovered that version 7.5 Beta has just been released on Thursday (22nd April).

This new version has received a considerable overhaul, with a completely innovative look to the user interface and several new features. All the familiar accessibility and testing tools, which had originally lured me to Opera prior to the Firebird (and now FireFox) Renaissance, are still there. But this new version is a long way removed from the early 7 releases. The remodelled interface offers:

…a fresh, light appearance, smaller buttons, and quicker access to key browsing features in the panel selector.Opera press releases, April 22, 2004

  1. The Main tool bar is disabled by default, with the key navigation controls (including Opera's Fast Forward, Rewind and Magic Wand) relocated to the address bar. At lower screen resolutions, this does reduce the width of the address bar considerably, but then most users do not look at addresses while surfing.
  2. Considerable screen real estate has been reclaimed with advertising banners reduced to the equivalent of a full window width tool bar, sitting below the menu bar. This serves up several adverts at once in the form of condensed Google Adwords. An option is given on the initial boot of the browser (and through the preferences) to receive relevant text ads and related searches offered through Google. This is an intuitive business strategy to perhaps counter the lack of incentive to purchase the browser and get banner adverts removed. It benefits Opera with more adverts served and a higher potential click through rate. It benefits the user with less obtrusive adverts, adverts that may be of interest and more screen space to work with.
  3. Much of the browser functionality is found in the already commonplace Panels (or Hotlist). These have taken on a more permanent residence on the left hand side of the screen in a dedicated tool bar.
  4. Earlier releases of version 7 had already taken a big step forward with the integration of the comprehensive M2 EMail Client. This software is further extended with syndication of RSS Newsfeeds and Weblogs. In contrast to most aggregators which syndicate content into a dedicated interface, here each RSS feed equates to a mail folder with all entries viewable in the mail pane. The aggregation can be customised to pull content on a regular temporal basis from hours to minutes (more beneficial to the broadband market than dial-up connections). While first time I have experienced this approach to syndication, a not dissimilar aggregation interface is also in the very early stages of development for Thunderbird.
  5. The other major addition is an IRC compatible chat interface. Personally, I had never really used IRC before, but I was impressed with the ease of set up to the wealth of development chat rooms on irc.freenode.net.

All in, I found it a very pleasurable experience test driving this beta release of a radically improved browser. The release is complemented by improvements in OperaMail, the web based mail client, which now allows collection of a number of POP3 mail accounts within the webmail interface.

Even so, I can't see my allegiance to Firefox altering. The vast collection of Firefox extensions now available offer all the features present in Opera and more besides. Not forgetting the ability to customise the browser with multiple identities and the ability to further extend the functionality with my own XUL. However, the off-the-shelf and fully loaded Opera could be much more appealing to the home user who does not want to get embroiled in the intricacies of installing XPI's and modifying chrome files.

The Opera forums show there is a little way to go before this becomes a production release, but the browser market is certainly hotting up! AOL is marketing version 10 to the home user here in the UK and developers eyes are turned towards the Mozilla 1.7 RC 1 and its improved functionality (including support for SVG). The Opera team have certainly laid down a credible contender.

Oh, and as for the non-scrolling DIV - it works fine!

Posted on Saturday, Apr 24, 2004 at 15:08:20.

Comments on The Opera Revolution (1)

α comment

Opera ever was a great browser. Since 6.x versions, it displayed more and more pages up to the current version that just displays all pages i browsed so far. The latest email client is quite a revolution in managing your emails. I wonder why nobody else had this idea before. And again, it's another very intuitive feature in Opera to just have one database with all mails and various/custom views how you manage/ read/ search/ look at it. No time hasle to organise your emails - they organise themselves! Internet Explorer looks like 10 years behind …

Posted by Martin
Thursday, Jun 10, 2004 at 22:44:36

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