Opera Dials it up to 11.50: Faster, Lighter and Prettier


Opera has long been the underdog in the desktop browser wars, but it’s easy to forget that a lot of the browser design and features we take for granted today were actually pioneered by the Norwegian company. Opera 11.50, which launched for Windows, OS X, FreeBSD and Linux today, offers a few interesting new features, as well as a more streamlined design that make it worth another look. Among the new features are password synchronization with other Opera browsers and extensions for the browser’s Speed Dial feature. Opera’s new core rendering engine is now also noticeably faster and developers will find some new tools for HTML5 development in this new version.

While Opera highlights the new sleeker look of the browser, the differences between this new version and the last are actually relatively subtle. There can be no doubt, though, that Opera 11.50 looks more streamlined and actually feels significantly faster than the last version.

The most interesting new feature, though, is definitely the new extension architecture for Opera’s Speed Dial. If you’re not familiar with Speed Dial, just imagine Chrome’s new tab button on steroids. Speed Dial is now configured to automatically resize its previews to accommodate as many shortcuts as you want and developers can actually write little widgets that can live in these previews. Among today’s launch partners are Read It Later, Webdoc, music service The Hype Machine and StockTwits.

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Next: Opera Browser Gets a Dev Channel, Too


Blame Chrome. Ever since Google started releasing self-updating developer versions of its browser, other browser developers have been following suit. Mozilla now uses the same concept for releasing early (and potentially unstable) versions of Firefox. Starting today, Opera will use the same concept to give early adopters a sneak peek at upcoming versions of its browser, too. Dubbed Opera Next, users can install this self-updating version in parallel to the stable version of Opera to check out new features before they become widely available (the Next and stable versions will remain two completely separate installs).

Unlike Chrome and Firefox, though, Opera will not develop multiple versions at the same time, instead, the Next channel will keep users updated from early snapshots to alpha, beta, release candidates and stable versions as Opera releases these. Once a stable version is released, the process will start over with the snapshots of the next version.

Also New: Live Speed Dial

The latest preview version of Opera also features the company’s new “Live Speed Dial extensions.” Just like in Chrome (though it’s worth noting that Opera pioneered this), whenever you open an empty tab, a number of icons appear in the browser that represent the sites you visit most often. Now, developers and publishers who want to make use of this new feature can also show small live previews of a site or other interactive experiences.

By default, the speed dial only shows the top left corner of a site (where the site’s logo can typically be found), but once it’s set up correctly, publishers can use Opera’s new Speed Dial extension to easily create small interactive widgets. Opera is currently featuring a few of these on its extension page here.

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