All posts tagged ‘Opera’

File Under: Browsers

Reborn Opera Mobile Sings on Android

Opera old and new on a Galaxy Nexus. Image: Screenshot/Webmonkey.

Opera software has unveiled the first version of its new WebKit-based browser for Android.

The new WebKit-based Opera is not just different under the hood, for all intents and purposes this is a totally new web browser and, surprise!, it’s better than its predecessor.

If you’d like to take this beta for a spin, head over to the Google Play Store. The Opera Mobile beta requires Android 2 or better and, fear not, it’s a separate app so you can keep the old version around if you’d like.

Last month Opera announced it would be abandoning the Presto rendering engine that has been the basis of the browser since its inception. Instead the company will use the WebKit rendering engine for all its future releases, starting with this Opera Mobile for Android beta.

The revamped Opera for Android isn’t just different under the hood, Opera has redesigned the entire browser from the ground up opting for a more Android-native look. The new user interface is cleaner and reminiscent of Chrome for Android with a single menu button at the top of the screen rather than the space-eating toolbar found in the old Opera Mobile. While I prefer the new UI, it’s worth noting that the new design is decidedly less thumb-friendly.

Other cosmetic changes include combining the URL bar and search bar, and a new tab switching interface also similar to what you’ll find in Safari on iOS.

However, while the first WebKit-based Opera Mobile is clearly different it manages to retain, and even improve on, much of what made (makes) Opera unique.

For example, Opera Mobile’s trademark “Speed Dial” page has been revamped and is much easier to customize with your favorite sites. Speed Dial now looks and behaves much like the home screen on iOS. You can even drag your bookmarks and favorites on top of each other to create folders. The changes make it possible to fit more links in less space.

Opera Mobile’s new iOS-ified Speed Dial screen. Image: Screenshot/Webmonkey.

Also new in this release is what Opera is calling “Off-Road” mode — the data compressing power of Opera Mini is now available (when you want it) in Opera Mobile. Off-Road mode uses Opera’s servers to compress webpages before they’re sent on to your device. That means faster browsing on slower networks. Off-Road can even save you money if you’re caught roaming or running out of data on a limited data plan. Unlike Opera Mini, which always compresses pages, Opera Mobile allows you to toggle the Off-Road settings.

Opera’s simplified menu with “Off-Road” toggle. Image: Screenshot/Webmonkey.

Opera Mobile’s Save for Later feature can also save on bandwidth if you download pages for offline reading while you’re connected to Wi-Fi.

While there is much to love about the new Opera for Android beta, be forewarned that it is very much a beta. In my testing it was stable enough, but Off-Road mode frequently failed to render pages and there’s currently no way to sync your Opera Link data. Provided Opera works out the bugs though Opera Mobile is shaping up to be one of the best browsers on Android.

File Under: Browsers

Presto Is Dead; Long Live Opera!

Opera software announced this morning that it is dumping its homegrown Presto rendering engine in favor of the increasingly ubiquitous WebKit rendering engine.

For all new products Opera will use WebKit as its rendering engine and V8 as its JavaScript engine, mirroring what you’ll find in Google’s Chrome browser. Apple’s Safari also uses WebKit, though it has its own JavaScript engine.

Writing on the Opera Developer Blog, Opera’s Bruce Lawson says the first WebKit-based Opera browser “will be for smartphones, which we’ll demonstrate at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona at the end of the month.”

While Opera’s desktop market share hovers around 2 to 4 percent, the company’s two mobile browsers have, until very recently, been the most used mobile browsers on the web.

Indeed, while Opera’s official announcement is vague about the reasons for the switch, it doesn’t take a soothsayer to know that the reason is mobile. One influencing factor is no doubt the fact that Apple’s iOS only allows third-party web browsers if they use the built-in WebKit rendering engine.

Then there’s the -webkit CSS vendor prefix problem. At least some of the blame for Presto’s demise falls on web developers for developing against WebKit, rather than using web standards.

CSS vendor prefixes were designed to help web developers by giving them a way to target CSS to specific browsers and use proposed standards before they were finalized. The idea was to move the web forward without rushing the CSS standards process. Unfortunately, it hasn’t always worked out that way. In fact, web developers fell in love with the -webkit prefix and often forget that there are other prefixes as well: -o for Opera, -moz for Firefox and -ms for Internet Explorer.

Using only -webkit means sites break in Opera even though Opera could have rendered the site just fine if the developer had bothered to include the -o prefix.

Of course, as Mozilla’s Christian Heilmann points out, “content not showing up or showing up broken in your product is terrible for a commercial company — the web is never wrong, if your browser shows it wrongly it is your fault, right?”

It would always be Opera’s fault in the eyes of most users and that’s why the company decided to support the -webkit prefix last year. In many ways today’s announcement is just one step further — if you’re going to support the prefix, why not just use the rendering engine? That seems to be exactly what Opera has decided to do.

So what becomes of the Opera features you know and love? The DragonFly developer tools are most likely done for, WebKit already has its own developer tools. It’s less clear what might happen to Opera’s other unique features like the built-in e-mail client or Opera Turbo, which compresses webpages to give broadband-like speeds on almost any internet connection.

An Opera spokesperson declined to comment on the future of any Opera features, telling Webmonkey only that “compression is in Opera’s DNA, but other than that we don’t talk about features of unreleased products.”

While I’m optimistic about Opera’s WebKit future, it’s hard to see the loss of a rendering engine as anything but bad news for the web. One less rendering engine means one less way to discover and fix bugs in web standards, one less place to see what you’ve done wrong. And Opera, while sometimes difficult to test in, was almost always right when it came to implementing web standards. In 13 years of building websites I’ve found no other testing environment in which I knew that if something didn’t work, it was almost certainly my code that was wrong. And I’m not alone; apparently even some Chromium developers feel the same way.

But that won’t stop developers who’d like to see a monoculture of WebKit from shortsightedly cheering this news.

Mozilla developer Robert O’Callahan summarizes why a WebKit-centric web is not a good thing:

some people are wondering whether engine diversity really matters. ‘Webkit is open source so if everyone worked together on it and shipped it, would that be so bad?’ Yes. Web standards would lose all significance and standards processes would be superseded by Webkit project decisions and politics. Webkit bugs would become the standard: there would be no way for developers to test on multiple engines to determine whether an unexpected behavior is a bug or intended.

WebKit makes a fine rendering engine and it does a good job of keeping up with web standards, but don’t assume that just because a web browser uses WebKit under the hood that it will render your pages the same as every other WebKit browser. Just look at the rendering and feature differences between Chrome, Safari, Mobile Safari and Mobile Chrome to get a sense of the pain that awaits developers yearning for a WebKit monoculture.

The other possible downside to a WebKit Opera is that the company’s once mighty voice for standards may not be heard as clearly amid the Google- and Apple-dominated WebKit developer culture.

Hopefully the WebKit community will find a place for the developers who brought us tabbed browsing, mouse gestures, “Speed Dial”, Turbo, and an uncompromising support for web standards that made Opera one of the first browsers to pass both the ACID 2 and ACID 3 page-rendering tests. For its part Opera is starting off on the right foot, offering up code that brings Presto-quality support for the CSS Multi-column Layout Module to WebKit.

Hopefully Opera engineers will continue to bring the same kind of innovation to WebKit and Chromium as they did to Presto and with any luck WebKit will listen and the web will end up a better, if less diverse, place.

File Under: Browsers

‘SPDY,’ High-Res Opera 12.10 Arrives

Opera 12.10 on a Samsung Windows 8 tablet. Image: Scott Gilbertson

Opera has updated its flagship desktop web browser to version 12.10, which offers several speed improvements, new goodies for web developers and better integration with Apple’s latest Retina screen laptops.

To grab a copy of Opera 12.10 beta for Windows, Mac or Linux, head on over to the Opera download page.

Among Opera 12.10′s standout features is baked-in support for the new SPDY network standard, which offers faster, more secure connections to websites that support it, including big names like Gmail and Twitter.

Opera 12.10 now supports the latest Web Sockets implementation, which fixes the security flaws that previously forced Opera to remove Web Sockets support. Web Sockets are back on by default. Another web standards improvement in Opera 12.10 is support for more “unprefixed” CSS rules, including transitions, transforms, gradients, and animations, all of which will now work without the -o- prefix.

Web developers starting to play with the new CSS Flexible Box Layout Module syntax can now test layouts in Opera 12.10. Check out CSS guru Chris Coyer’s earlier rundown of what’s changed recently with Flexbox.

There’s good news for Mac users in this release — Opera 12.10 is the first to support Apple’s high-res display, making it well worth the update if you’ve got one of the new Retina MacBook Pros. Other Mac improvements include support for new features in OS X Mountain Lion, like the new Notification Center and the built-in content sharing through any social network accounts you’ve set up.

Windows 8 users will be happy to know that basic touch support now works in Windows 8. It’s nowhere near as nice as what you’ll find in IE 10 or Firefox, but it’s a start.

File Under: Browsers, Mobile

Opera Mobile for Android Gets ‘SPDY’

Opera Mobile 12.1. Image: Scott Gilbertson.

Opera Software has released a new version of Opera Mobile for Android phones. This update doesn’t offer many visible new features, but under the hood there are quite a few improvements that make Opera Mobile 12.1 well worth the upgrade.

You can grab the new Opera Mobile 12.1 for Android from the Google Play Store. Unlike some Android browsers, which only support the latest Android release, Opera Mobile has you covered all the way from Android 1.6 Donut to the latest and greatest, Android 4.1 Jelly Bean.

Like Opera 12.10 for the desktop the new Mobile 12.1 adds support for the SPDY protocol, WebSockets and a host of new HTML APIs. Opera Mobile’s support for the SPDY network standard, which promises to be even faster than the HTTP protocol, is especially welcome since it means speedier page loads on SPDY-enabled sites like Twitter and Gmail.

Opera Mobile 12.1 also introduces support for more “unprefixed” CSS rules, including transitions, transforms, gradients, animations and flexbox, all of which will now work without the -o- prefix. For now any code you have with an -o- prefix will still work as well, but make sure you’re including the unprefixed rule too since eventually Opera (and every other browser vendor) will drop support for the prefixed versions.

This is the first mobile release to introduce support for some -webkit- prefixes on poorly coded sites that don’t use unprefixed versions of stable CSS properties. Opera’s decision to support another browser’s CSS prefix has caused considerable outcry among web developers and members of the CSS Working Group, which created vendor prefixes. While the controversial -webkit- prefix support has been around in preview versions of both desktop and mobile builds, this the first official mobile release to support it.

For complete details on how Opera’s -webkit- prefix support works, as well as the details on everything that’s new in Opera Mobile 12.1 — like support for Drag and Drop, the Clipboard API and the Page Visibility API — be sure to read Opera’s blog post.

File Under: Browsers

Opera 12.10 Readies for the High-Resolution Future

Opera 12.10 supports Mac OS X’s built-in social networking tools. Image: Screenshot/Webmonkey

Opera has released a new beta version of its flagship desktop web browser with quite a few goodies for both web developers and anyone using Apple’s latest Retina Macbook Pros.

To grab a copy of Opera 12.10 beta for Windows, Mac or Linux, head on over to the Opera Next download page.

This is the first Opera release to support Apple’s high-res display and Opera 12.10 is well worth the update — even as a beta release — if you’ve got one of the new Retina MacBook Pros. The beta also taps into some of the new features in OS X Mountain Lion, including support for the new Notification Center and the built-in content sharing through any social network accounts you’ve set up.

Among the other standout features in this release are the new web standards APIs Opera now supports, including the Context Menu API, the Fullscreen API and the Page Visibility API. All three APIs give web developers more control over how things look, but the Page Visibility API might be the most useful since it allows you to reduce the amount of resources your page uses when it’s in the background.

With Opera on board, the Page Visibility API now works in all desktop browsers (though not in most mobile browsers). If you’d like to learn more the Mozilla developer network has a good tutorial on Page Visibility.

Opera 12.10 now supports the latest Web Sockets implementation, which fixes the security flaws that previously forced Opera to remove Web Sockets support. The 12.10 beta turns Web Sockets back on by default. Another web standards improvement in Opera 12.10 is support for more “unprefixed” CSS rules, including transitions, transforms, gradients, and animations, all of which will now work without the -o- prefix.

As we noted back when it was was part of an Opera Labs release, the new 12.10 beta supports the SPDY network standard, which promises to be even faster than the HTTP protocol, though thus far few websites are using it. With this release SPDY is on by default and will work anywhere SPDY is used, notably at the two biggest SPDY-using websites — Gmail and Twitter.