What’s New in Opera 10 (Part 1)

By Craig Buckler
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Opera 10It’s been a busy year for browser vendors. Microsoft released IE8, Google Chrome is at version 2, and both Firefox 3.5 and Safari 4 are imminent. However, the latest new browser is Opera 10, which is now available as a beta download.

Opera has a reputation for leading innovation and web standards whilst remaining lightweight, fast, and feature-packed. The installer is a fraction of the size of most, but the browser includes tabs, speed dial, an email client, RSS reader, newsgroup support, IRC, a bit torrent client, notes, mouse gestures, desktop widgets, developer tools, small-screen rendering, and more. Yet, although it is popular in Northern Europe and Russia, it languishes behind IE, Firefox, Safari and Chrome in most of the world.

Like many developers, I have a lot of respect for Opera. I use it for testing but it has never superseded Firefox as my default browser. Can Opera 10 persuade me to switch and grab a larger share of the PC browser market?

New interface

At first glance, Opera 10 bears more than a passing resemblance to Safari. The interface is cleaner, sleeker, and less cluttered. All the features and interface options are still available, but they do not feel as daunting as previous versions.

Click to enlarge…Opera interface

New features

Several features may be new to Opera although many have been available in Firefox and some of the other browsers for a while:

  • tab previews
  • speed dial customization
  • auto-update
  • in-line spell checking
  • webmail integration
  • crash recovery and reporting
  • resizable search field (do many people really care about that?)

The tab bar can also be expanded to show “visual tabs” with a page thumbnail. Whilst it uses a fair amount of screen estate, it’s a great feature for tab-novices or those with larger monitors.

Opera visual tabs

The email client now supports HTML and rich text messages, although that has led to some complaints on the SitePoint forum. I’m not a big fan of graphical email either, but we appear to be in the minority. HTML support is a sound business decision and should lead to more Opera email users. I’d certainly recommend it for netbooks or older devices with limited memory.

Standards and developer support

Standards support is as strong as ever in Presto 2.2, Opera’s rendering engine. Unlike the majority of it’s competitors, Opera passes the Acid3 test with a 100/100 score.

Other new features include:

  • web fonts with support for the CSS @font-face declaration.
  • CSS colors can be defined using HSL (Hue, Saturation and Luminosity) as well as RGB. Some JavaScript effects will be significantly easier to code, e.g. increasing the brightness of an element.
  • support for opacity within RGB and HSL declarations, e.g. background-color: rgba(255, 0, 0, 0.5) will create a 50% transparent red background. However, unlike the single opacity property, it will only change the transparency of the element’s background – not the content or child elements.
  • CSS-like DOM element selection with document.querySelectorAll() and document.querySelector().
  • improved SVG support with web fonts and frames per second settings for animations.
  • rudimentary HTML5 support.

Opera’s development and debugging console, DragonFly, has been updated and includes more Firebug-inspired features such as DOM editing and HTTP profiling.

Summary … so far

Opera 10 is a beta product and I have noticed a few quirks, however, it’s stable and a definite improvement on version 9. I’m amazed how they fit so much functionality in a 6.5MB download (yes, Microsoft and Apple, you should hang your heads in shame!)

See also:

Have you tried Opera 10? Would you consider switching from your current default browser?

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  • Guy Fraser

    Are they going to support CSS border radius any year soon?

  • vadi2

    Still very poor integration in Ubuntu, unfortunately: http://www.ubuntu-pics.de/bild/15852/firefox_vs_opera_9RG4rR.png

  • Actually, Opera has had “tab previews” for a while. The new feature is the visual tab display. For quite a while there has been tab preview when one hovers over a tab. Also, Opera has been able to receive rich HTML email for as long as I can remember. Now Opera M2 users can send them though.

  • rayvolvez

    I have been an opera user since 9.26 and I only use Opera for daily surfing. The convenience of having an rss reader in built and speediness of the browser (it starts up way faster than FF2 back then) is a charm.

    I have been testing Opera 10 since alpha and I’m totally glad that most of the bugs are cleared: like the typing of chinese characters in gmail which resulted in the cursor jumping everywhere and typing impossible; deviantart crashing opera upon every load…

    Beta is really a big improvement and step ahead of alpha. I like how speeddials can be customised. I can’t live without speeddial :( The turbo feature is cool as well, loads sites faster.

    Go opera!

  • Lindsay

    Of the “new” features you mentioned, the following are already present in Opera 9.x:

    tab previews
    speed dial customization
    in-line spell checking
    crash recovery

  • I have been using Opera since reading Can Opera Ever Become Popular?

    My main reason for switching was because anything running on the Mozilla framework appeared to have memory leaks (I used firefox and komodo edit). Firefox was exceeding 1 gig of ram usage with only a few tabs opened half the time. I assumed that something was out of date on my computer but never bothered checking since changing to Opera was much easier and met all my browsing needs out of the box. It has everything I need built in a now with some of these extra features I definately won’t be changing for a long time.

    I even stopped using Thunderbird because using the Opera mail client is so much faster since I usually alread have the application open.

    I still use Firebug for developement as DragonFly lacks some features I can’t go without (like inspect element). Hopefully Opera 10 will add the features I want in DragonFly so I can just use Firefox for testing.

    Downloading 10 now :)

  • Just tried out DragonFly and it looks like it might be taking over Firebug for me.

  • audiopleb

    I love Opera, i switched from firefox for the same reason as Robbo89. Firefox, when i have 10 tabs open, is using about 2gb of ram and 90% cpu (okay, a slight exageration..) which is rediculous.

    Opera literally saved my browsing life, i also love how configurable it all is. Superb, and i can’t wait for Opera 10.

    However, the best tool for web development is Safari’s (4 Beta on OSX), it knocks all the other browsers ones out the water and is better than then web dev toolbar for firefox too in my opinion. So i have Opera open for browsing and Safari open for development. Now if only they all rendered my css exactly the same….

  • I completely agree with you, audiopleb. I’m a long time Opera user and even I prefer Sarafi’s dev tools. Its de-bugger UI is so user friendly I don’t have to think!

    Anyway, I’ve been using 10 beta since it came out and I just love how stable it is, and it is noticeably faster.

    Let me guess what you’re going to cover tomorrow: Opera Turbo?

  • I’ve been using Opera 10 for a few days now and the experience is mostly positive except that I find it won’t open some links from email and RSS properly. The page just hangs and you have to refresh to get it to display properly.

  • I’ve been using Opera for years. I love its small footprint and speed. It is not bloated with “features” that I will never use.

    It is made with functionality in mind. I love simple things like “paste and go” when you right-click to paste a URL into the address bar, and you go straight to the URL without having to hit enter or search for the “Go” button!

    I’m still using version 9.21 and I am perfectly happy with it!

  • Does anyone know if Opera 10 includes the Voice feature? If so, has anyone tried it?

    I’ve read that the Voice feature works in Opera 9 but not Opera 10, and that it may be discontinued.

    I went to opera.com, and I didn’t see a single mention of the Voice feature in the list of Opera 10 features.

  • apos

    Hi Craig
    Pardon me, but some things about the “new” features you wrote are just wrong, and I’m wondering if you had ever spent more than a few minutes with the previous versions of Opera!

    I’m talking about tab preview, speed dial and web mail integration. Specially about the last two: Excuse me, but how do you expect me to believe that you actually have used Opera seriously before when you cannot recall that webmail is integrated in Opera for ages and that speed dial is the feature that everybody copied from Opera 9.5?

    Seems that Opera covered much more needs than some users could think of!

  • Hi apos,

    The ‘new’ features are primarily those highlighted by Opera on the v10 download page. Some of the updates are subtle, i.e. the tab bar can be expanded to show previews (v9.x shows on hover), speed dial can be customized, and webmail support means that Opera can open GMail, Hotmail, etc. when a mailto link is clicked (v9.x only supports email client applications).