Opera Software has just released the first preview of Opera 9.5, code-named Kestrel.* It’s still a long way off from a beta, but the weekly previews should satisfy both web developers and fans of the Opera web browser.

In addition to Opera’s own page, Cybernet News has posted a run-down of new features. Improved compatibility with existing websites is, as always, at the top of the list. There are reportedly improvements in support for rich-text forms. Coupled with Opera’s outreach to libraries like FCKEditor, we should see more of these forms working in Opera soon.

Synchronizing bookmarks and cookies is nice, but what I really want is something that will not only keep multiple installations of Opera in sync, but will also keep that list in sync with Firefox and Safari.

The full-history search is going to be really nice once I’ve done some new surfing. I can’t count the number of times I’ve wanted to bring up a page but couldn’t remember the name of the site, or needed to find a particular page on a site that gives every single page the same title. It doesn’t seem to be able to find anything from before I upgraded (yeah, I’m living dangerously, upgrading to an alpha), so it must index sites as you visit them, rather than converting the existing cache.

As a web developer, I’m most interested in the improvements to the rendering engine. David Storey posted a summary of new CSS features a few days back, and the changelog has a detailed—and fascinatingly long!—list of all the new and updated capabilities. I’m thrilled to finally have text-shadow in more than just WebKit, but was really hoping for border-radius and box-shadow support. (I’ve been having fun with the Safari 3 betas.) I should be more excited by the improved CSS selectors** support, but until Firefox or Safari implements the rest of them, we’ll still be stuck with the more broadly-supported subset. (Fortunately it looks like, as Konqueror switches from KHTML to WebKit, they’ll be merging KHTML’s capabilities into WebKit. That will give us full support in 2 of 4 major browser engines.)

Opera Mini - The free Web browser for nearly any phoneOpera is also gearing up a new version of Opera Mini, the free browser for cell phones, having just released a beta of version 4. I keep meaning to check and see what data plan I need to be able to use it, because the built-in browser on my RAZR V3T is…extremely limited. There was a brief period last year in which T-Mobile let everyone use networked applications, and even Opera Mini 2 was leaps and bounds ahead of the Motorola browser.

Between Opera Mini and Safari on the iPhone, the mobile web seems to be really opening up in a way that people were scoffing at just a year ago.

*The name Kestrel always makes me think of Queen of Wands these days, which is better than always making me think of the Hawk & Dove villain.

**Current CSS Selectors support out of 43 selectors:
IE6: 10 + 1 partial
IE7: 13 + 4
Opera 9.23: 25 + 3
Safari 3 beta: 25 + 9
Firefox 2: 26 + 10
Firefox 3 alpha: 32 + 4
Konqueror 3.57: 43
Opera 9.5 alpha: 43

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