File Under: Browsers

Opera Looks to the Future With Latest Browser Preview

Opera has pushed out a pre-alpha build of the next version of its flagship desktop web browser. For Opera 10.5, as the next version will be known, the focus is on speed, and while this pre-alpha release is a long way from done, the speed boost is already noticeable.

This pre-alpha release is currently only available for Windows and Mac OS X users. Opera says a Linux version will be released soon. If you’d like to test out Opera 10.5, download links can be found at the bottom of the Opera Labs announcement page.

Much of Opera 10.5′s speed improvements come from the revamped JavaScript engine, known as Carakan, which Opera claims is up to seven times faster than the engine in the current shipping version, Opera 10. It’s worth noting that the Mac version is not nearly as far along as the Windows release, so Mac users may not notice a dramatic speed boost in this early release.

Also new under the hood is support for CSS3 transitions and transforms, which means that the cool CSS 3 transform tricks we told you about last week will work in this version of Opera (note that you’ll need to add the Opera flag to your CSS code, for example, -o-transition-property).

The pre-alpha release of Opera 10.5 also features a new graphics engine that can take advantage of hardware acceleration (when it’s available) to render SVG graphics. Given the possibility of very complex graphics thanks to HTML5′s canvas tag, we expect to see more emphasis on graphics engine in the coming year (think of hardware-accelerated graphics as a sequel to the JavaScript engine contests of recent months).

Opera is also one of the last browsers to jump on the private-browsing-mode bandwagon, but it is finally here in this release.

While the speed boosts in Opera 10.5 are noticeable, particularly on JavaScript-intensive sites and web apps, Opera 10.5 is very much a work in progress and lacks some very basic features — like printing in the Mac version. Also missing is support for Opera’s Unite web server tools.

As you would expect from the pre-alpha designation Opera 10.5 is also somewhat unstable, but if you’d like to test out the latest release, head over to the Opera Labs page and grab a copy.

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