All posts tagged ‘Opera’

File Under: Browsers

New Opera 11.60 Is Faster, Uses Less Memory

Opera software has released Opera 11.60, the latest update for the company’s flagship desktop web browser.

If you’d like to take Opera 11.60 for a spin, head on over to the Opera downloads page and grab a copy.

Originally Opera had planned to make Opera 12 its next release (see our review of the Opera 12 alpha), but the company decided to add the interim 11.60 to get some of the already completed new features out to users while work continues on the hardware acceleration in Opera 12.

The full speed boost of hardware acceleration isn’t here yet, but Opera 11.60 is still no slouch when it comes to speed. Opera says 11.60 is faster on secure pages and uses less memory on what Opera calls “advanced web applications.” Presumably that’s another way of saying JavaScript-intensive pages like Gmail or Facebook. While I didn’t notice a dramatic memory-use reduction in my testing, opening the same 15 tabs in both Opera 11.52 and 11.60 required about 30MB less memory in the latter. Not earth shattering, but a reduction nonetheless.

Even better, Opera 11.60 is considerably faster in starting up and shutting down than its predecessor.

This release features a new HTML5 parsing engine under the hood. In addition to all the new elements for developers, HTML5 specifies new rules for how browsers should handle incorrect code. Previously browsers decided for themselves what to do when something was wrong in a page (and most still do, but eventually that will change).

Among the slight visual tweaks in Opera 11.60 is a new star icon in the address field that can be used to bookmark sites or add sites to add them to your speed dial page. It looks and behaves much like what you’ll find in both Firefox and Chrome.

Opera’s often overlooked built-in e-mail client gets a makeover in 11.60. The new layout looks cleaner, is a bit easier to navigate and will feel more familiar to anyone coming from mail apps like Outlook, Mail or Thunderbird.

The revamped mail interface in Opera 11.60 (image by Opera)

One thing to note with the new mail client is that once you upgrade to 11.60 you won’t be able to downgrade if you don’t like the changes. I suggest making a backup of your Opera data folder before you upgrade.

Opera 11.60 is worth the upgrade for the speed boost and slightly reduced memory footprint. It’s also worthwhile if you use the built-in mail client. That said, it’s clearly a minor update. The next big changes for Opera won’t be along until Opera 12 which will bring full hardware acceleration and (possibly) support for the new Paged Media standard.

File Under: Browsers

Opera 11.60 Beta Offers ‘Double Rainbows’

Get your double rainbow on with Opera 11.60

Opera software has rolled out the first beta release of Opera 11.60, a coming update for the company’s flagship desktop web browser.

If you’d like to test the new beta, head on over to the Opera beta downloads page and grab a copy. Note that, unlike some early Opera releases, this beta will overwrite your existing copy so be sure to make a backup of your user data before testing.

The last time we checked in with Opera was to look at the Opera 12 alpha. It would seem logical to assume the next release would be Opera 12 beta, but it isn’t. Opera is reportedly still working on version 12, but in the mean time the company wanted to go head and release the features that were ready today. As such much of the focus in this release is on new HTML and CSS support.

For example, Opera now supports the new HTML5 parsing algorithm. In addition to all the new elements for developers, HTML5 specifies new rules for how browsers should handle incorrect code. Previously browsers decided for themselves what to do when something was wrong in a page (and most still do, but eventually that will change).

There’s also support for the HTML5 custom protocol handlers in this release, which means you can tell Opera to open email compose windows in Gmail or other webmail clients. Opera is also now the first browser to officially support HTML5 microdata. Developers can now query microdata attributes like itemprop or itemscope via the JavaScript interface.

Opera 11.60 expands Opera’s already strong CSS support by adding CSS 3 radial gradients. Bruce Lawson, Web Evangelist at Opera Software, put together a whimsical little double rainbow demo page to show off the new CSS radial gradient support in 11.60. Just view source to see how the code works (note that Opera is the only browser that supports radial gradients, so you won’t see anything if you’re using something else). Also new on the CSS front is support for the CSS 4 image-rendering property, which allows you to tell the browser what scaling algorithm to use for background images, canvas elements, or border images.

Under the hood Opera claims that 11.60 will bring a slight speed boost, particularly on JavaScript heavy sites like Gmail. I didn’t notice anything too significant in my brief testing this morning, but then Opera was already the fastest browser around by most measures.

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File Under: Browsers, CSS

Opera 12 Swaps Scrolls for Swipes With New ‘Opera Reader’

Opera software has released an experimental labs build of Opera 12 with support for what the company is calling Opera Reader.

Håkon Wium Lie, Opera Software’s CTO and creator of cascading stylesheets, previously proposed a new set of CSS tools that transform longer web pages into a more book-like experience, where the reader flips from page to page instead of scrolling down one long screen.

The new Opera Reader feature in Opera 12 is the first implementation of Lie’s proposed Generated Content for Paged Media standard. To try out the new Opera Reader and its book-like browsing experience, head on over to the Opera Labs site and download the latest build of Opera 12.

At its core, the Paged Media standard would offer web developers a way to paginate content — that is, take a single webpage and break it into multiple “pages,” with each page automatically fitted to the screen size of the device you’re using. For example, this article might be two “pages” when viewed on an iPad. However, because the pagination is done with CSS and the HTML remains as it is, there’s no added load time when you flip to the next page. So it’s not a tool that can easily be abused by publishers to mine extra pageviews. It adds all the good things about multi-page layouts and none of the bad.

If you’ve got Opera 12 installed, visit the new Opera Reader demo site where you can see some early experiments including the Alice in Wonderland demo shown above (note that the previous link only works in the latest build of Opera 12).

Keep in mind that this is an early version and so far the demos (and the browser support) are still very limited. Still, if you’d like to dive right in and learn how you can create book-like websites using the new Paged Media layout tools, check out the Opera Labs blog, which walks you through all the new CSS rules and how to use them.

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File Under: Browsers

Opera 12 Alpha Adds Hardware Acceleration

Opera software recently cranked out a new alpha version of its upcoming Opera 12 web browser. Opera 12 has been in development for a little while now and recently added full hardware acceleration for WebGL graphics.

If you’d like to take Opera 12 for a spin, head on over to the Opera Next downloads page.

Before you consider taking it for a spin though be aware that the new hardware accelerated WebGL features work best with “modern graphics cards and up to date drivers.” The Opera blog also notes that “testing Opera 12 alpha can trigger bugs in your graphics card and in worst case blue screen your computer.”

The new hardware acceleration features mean that every element on screen in Opera 12 — not just, say, the canvas element — is now handled by your graphics card (provided it’s up to the task). Right now the acceleration only works with an OpenGL backend though Opera plans to add support for DirectX (and more graphics cards) as Opera 12 progresses.

While the hardware acceleration is definitely the big news in this release there are a few other new features as well, including a new HTML5 engine, some improvements for Opera themes and a revamped address bar.

Also due to eventually make its way into Opera 12 is experimental support for the new CSS Paged Media proposal, but regrettably that’s not part of the alpha release.

I played with the Opera 12 alpha over the weekend and found that it was indeed a bit snappier, but unfortunately it also seemed to add almost a 100MB of RAM when loading the same dozen tabs that I had open in the current release, Opera 11.51.

Of course it’s still early in the development cycle, and, assuming Opera can bring the memory overhead back down to match that of Opera 11.51, and improve the range of graphics cards supported, Opera 12 looks to offer quite a speed bump over previous versions.

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File Under: Browsers, Web Basics

Bad Browser, No Donut

The Monkey is back from an extended vacation spent surveying the state of the internet around the world. I’m happy to report that things are, well, things are good, but far from perfect. Having spent the last eight weeks with unreliable, often very slow, internet connections we’d like to tell you about something we now consider evil — rapid release cycles for web browsers.

Why? What’s wrong with getting the latest and greatest out to users as fast as possible? When it comes to security, nothing. When it comes to so-called features there are two annoying things about the release cycle that both Google and Mozilla have adopted for the Chrome and Firefox web browsers.

First and foremost the web browser has turned into a version of Windows XP — constant updates continually sap your bandwidth. In Chrome’s case that means surreptitiously downloading new versions in the background. For most that’s no big deal, but when you’re on a tiny island in Indonesia, and have waited hours for the clouds to clear so the line of sight wifi link to the larger island works, it’s annoying to have your limited bandwidth choked further by an updating browser. You might even curse the local internet some more before you realize, oh, it’s just my browser choking my internet connection so it can update itself. Isn’t that helpful. I mean why would I want to access the web when I have this awesome web browser to play with?

So I ditched Chrome and moved on to Firefox. Firefox is slightly better behaved, at least asking if I wanted to download the latest update. But Mozilla plans to do away with that in future updates. And frankly they might as well, it gets annoying to have dialog boxes flying open every time you start up your web browser.

For most people the bandwidth concerns might not be a big deal, but I can assure you that outside the bandwidth-rich countries most of us call home, bandwidth constraints remain a very real problem. There’s nothing quite so annoying as waiting for your web browser to update so you can load a website, which is really the only reason you have a web browser.

The second major annoyance about the constant update model is that — particularly in the case of Firefox — it means constantly breaking add-ons. What’s doubly galling about this problem is that often the add-ons work just fine, they just haven’t updated the version string to match the latest Firefox release. The user is left with a choice — don’t update, don’t get whatever security fixes might accompany the flavor of the month UI redesign; or, update, but be left with a browser that can no longer do the things it did moments before (thanks to now disabled add-ons).

Imagine trying to build a house and your hammer decided to re-invent itself every couple of weeks, sometimes disabling your screw driver in the process and other times adding a pair of pliers you don’t need. That’s pretty much where web browsers are at today.

I was somewhat heartened to find, on my return to the States, that I’m not the only one to have grown thoroughly disenchanted with the new “let’s update every day” approach of browser makers.

Software development veteran Dave Winer calls Firefox’s new approach a form of corporate suicide, and neatly sums up what a web browser used to be, should be:

Browsers should be like the lens in my glasses. If you’re thinking about it, your attention is in the wrong place. You use a browser to look through, at other things.

Can I get an amen? Web browsers have, as Winer points out elsewhere in his post, approached where text editors were 10 years ago, namely, feature complete. Done. Nothing more to add.

What’s interesting on the web these days is not the browser, but the web. The browser is just a window into the web. It’s already feature complete — you can see the web. The browser doesn’t need new features, it needs to be faster and support new standards. What most of us want to do is look through the window at the web and interact with people inside the web. Unless you’re really into productivity porn you probably don’t care about yet another way to order and sort your tabs.

With decent HTML5 and CSS 3 support available in all the latest releases from the major browser makers, the browser is, at least for now, done. Will browser makers one day create some feature that blows us all away? Perhaps, but in the mean time could you please stop screwing with our window, we just want to see the web.

For the curious, I must report that somewhere in my travels I became a huge fan of Opera. Opera doesn’t want to update every time I open it, it has all the features I use regularly and, perhaps more importantly, Opera Turbo really does vastly improve browsing on a slow connection.

[No donut image by kabelphoto/Flickr/CC]

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