By Harry McCracken | Thursday, February 11, 2010 at 5:56 pm
Norwegian browser company Opera has released a Windows beta of version 10.50–a follow up to 10.0, which shipped back in September. It’s definitely a beta–it’s not available at all for the Mac or Linux yet, and quirky enough that I couldn’t post this article using it–but it’s a promising one. And all the changes make Opera feel more like its much younger rival Google Chrome.
I’ve only used Opera 10.5 a little bit so far–and some of that has been via iffy EVDO (I’m at Macworld 2010 at San Francisco’s Moscone Center…which is one enormous basement.) So far, it feels snappy. WebMonkey seems to agree.
If you want still more speed, you can turn on the Turbo mode, which compresses graphics on the server side so they download more quickly. Opera recommends it only for use when you have low-quality bandwidth–such as in the basement of a big convention center, for instance–but it could come in handy in such circumstances.
Okay, it hasn’t done away entirely with menus–it’s really collapsed everything onto one button in the upper left-hand corner. It’s reminiscent of Microsoft’s Office 2010 interface, except there’s no “Ribbon” to take up space. So far, I like it. (You can opt to go back to standard menus if you choose.)
Opera 10.50 also finally introduces a private browsing mode, much like Google’s Incongnito (and the similar features in IE, Firefox, and Safari):
And like Chrome and Firefox, Opera has rolled the functionality of its search bar into the address bar itself, so you can enter either URLs or search terms–which leaves me wondering why it’s also retained the now-redundant search bar.
Opera still has a bunch of unique features, including applike widgets, a neat tab view that shows thumbnails of pages, and the controversial-but-interesting built-in Unite Web server. In terms of market share, it’s the smallest of the major browser players by far: only about 1.35 percent of Technologizer visitors run it. But 10.50 looks like a strong upgrade–there’s more that I like in it than there was in 10.0, come to think of it. If you check it out, I’d love to know your thoughts.