Opera software has released the first beta of the upcoming Opera 11 browser.
New in Tuesday’s release is an innovative feature called “Tab Stacking,” which gives you the ability to stack and group your tabs together to better organize the pages you’re viewing.
An alpha release of Opera arrived earlier this autumn, and it gave us a taste of some other new features, like lightweight browser add-ons and some hardware acceleration features new to version 11. Those features have been refined and are included here along with the new tab tricks.
If you’d like the take the beta release for a spin head over to Opera download page.
Tab Stacking is the standout feature in this release. It is ingeniously simple and works a little bit like the way you create folders of apps on the iPhone’s home screen. You group related tabs by dragging them on top of each other. Your “stack” then collapses down into a single tab. To access the tabs in a stack, you simply mouse over the group and it expands, or you can click the arrow to the right of the grouped tab, which has the same effect.
The idea of grouping tabs is nothing new. Firefox 4 will also introduce a new interface for grouping tabs when it is finalized in a few months.
Only a slim one or two percent of the desktop browser market uses Opera daily. Still, the company is known for building innovative user interfaces into its browsers ahead of its larger, more widely-used competitors. Things like mouse gestures, or the page that shows thumbnails of your favorite sites when opening a new tab were first introduced in Opera. So it’s a change of script to see the company in the position of playing catch-up to the big names when it comes to grouping tabs and supporting lightweight add-ons.
However, Firefox 4′s current implementation (also still in beta) suddenly looks awkward and primitive next to Opera’s take on the same idea. It more elegant, and it plays on a behavior many users — those with iPhones or iPads — are already familiar with.
The best way to understand Tab Stacking is to see it in action: