Opera IconAfter a long wait, Opera 10 is out! So what’s new in this first double-digit web browser?


The biggest new feature is Opera Turbo, which can massively speed up web access on a slow network connection. Turbo takes the compression used for Opera Mini, which has to deal with slow cell phone networks, and brings it to the desktop. On fast connections you won’t need the proxy, but if you’re stuck on dial-up or sharing a busy network, it can help immensely.

I definitely could have used it on the painfully slow hotel wi-fi during Comic-Con!

Turbo can be turned on and off through the status bar, or set to auto-detect your network speed and switch on when it would help, and off when it’s not needed.


Even without Turbo, Opera 10 is a heck of a lot faster than Opera 9 was! The app itself is a lot snappier, it displays pages faster, and it responds quickly. Opera feels lighter than Firefox again, after the (comparatively) clunky 9.x series.

Web Fonts

Opera’s CEO CTO recommended embedding TrueType fonts with CSS in 2007, but Safari was the first web browser to support it in a non-beta release. Now Firefox, Safari and Opera can all download fonts as-needed. That means websites can use fonts that aren’t already installed on your computer.

Until now, if a designer wanted to use a font other than one of the standard fonts that come pre-installed with Windows or Mac OS, they had to save the text as an image. That’s fine for banners and the like, but a pain for anything that changes regularly…like headlines or content.

You can read more about web fonts at Mozilla Hacks, and see them in action at Speed Force (font write-up).

Site Compatibility & Features

Website compatibility has improved a lot, and Opera has continued to add support for newer technologies. It’s great to see Opera, Chrome, Safari and Firefox all working toward the next generation of the web. (If only Internet Explorer were along for the ride – at least IE8 has finally caught up with the last generation.)


Opera has had on-demand spell checking for a while, though on Windows you had to install a separate dictionary. Now it’s built-in, and it’ll underline misspelled words as you type. (Downside: it underlines inside HTML code. I don’t really want to add “href,” “li,” and so forth to my dictionary.)

Unite Postponed

One thing Opera 10 doesn’t have that was introduced in the betas preview snapshots is Opera Unite, which lets you set up a presence on your computer that other people can see for file sharing, social networking, etc. Apparently they decided it needed more work and didn’t want to hold up the release.

But Wait, There’s More!

Some other new features:

  • Visual tabs: Stretch out the tab bar and see a thumbnail of each page you have open.
  • New e-mail client, including the long-requested ability to compose with formatting.
  • Automatic update.
  • Customize Speed Dial.
  • Web apps integration with web-based email and feed readers.
  • Improved developer tools (Dragonfly).
  • Opera Link: synchronize bookmarks, history, notes, etc. across multiple computers and phones. (Not new, but I think it syncs more types of data than it used to)

And a lot more.

As a reminder: Opera is free (as in beer). It has been for almost 4 years now, but it’s worth repeating because every once in a while you see someone who thinks it’s still pay or ad-based software.

As the first major web browser to reach a double-digit version, Opera has been testing out alpha releases of version 10 for months now. One of the early problems they encountered was bad browser detection scripts that only looked at the first digit of a version number and decided that Opera 10 was actually Opera 1, and therefore too old to handle modern web pages.

After extensive testing, they’ve concluded that the best way to work around this is to pretend to be Version 9.80. From now on, all versions of Opera will identify themselves as “Opera/9.80” with the real version appearing later in the user-agent string.

For example:

Opera/9.80 (Macintosh; Intel Mac OS X; U; en) Presto/2.2.15 Version/10.00

This is similar to the way all Gecko-based browsers identify themselves as Mozilla/5.0, then list the real browser name and version number later on, which makes me wonder why they didn’t just stick with that increasingly irrelevant prefix — though I suppose any scripts looking specifically for Opera versions might have still picked up Opera/10 later on in the ID.

It’ll be some time before Firefox or Safari runs into this issue, but with Internet Explorer 8 in wide release, you have to wonder…what will Microsoft do when they get to IE 10?

Origin of Opera: Comic StripHard to believe Opera has been around for 15 years. It’s only 14 since its first release, but 15 years ago two programmers started the project that became the Opera web browser.

I’ve been using Opera off and on for about 10 years. I think it was 1999 when a classmate showed me Opera 3.6, and how fast and small it was. (This was back when the installer fit on a floppy disk — and back when that actually made a difference.) I’ve followed it as they expanded from Windows onto Mac and Linux, onto high-end cell phones with Opera Mobile, and finally onto every Java-capable phone with Opera Mini. I’ve watched as they went from trialware to ad-supported to freeware business models. And while the desktop browser is no longer the speed demon it used to be, it’s been a consistent innovator in terms of both browser features and web capabilities.

So I’d just like to say: Happy 15th birthday, Opera! Just think, in a year, you’ll be old enough to drive!*

Happy 15th Brithday, Opera!

*In California, anyway. I think in Norway the driving age is 18.

IE7Microsoft released Internet Explorer 8 yesterday, for Windows XP and Vista. So if you’re still running IE6, or someone you know is, it’s once again time to think about upgrading — or switching. (Assuming, of course, that you’re not locked in by corporate policy or another piece of software.)

  • IE6 is now two versions behind the current release.
  • IE6 is almost 8 years old (it was released in 2001).
  • IE6 is lacking in many capabilities that all other modern web browsers have, in web technology, in security, and in features you can use.

You can read a review at Wired, a write-up from the IE team, or a summary of technical changes from WaSP.

Of course, Internet Explorer isn’t the only option out there. There’s Opera, Firefox, Chrome and a host of other alternative browsers that are worth checking out.

If you’re still running Windows 2000 or some other old version of Windows that can’t run IE7 or IE8, I’d absolutely recommend Firefox or Opera. Either will be much better than IE6, both will run on Windows 2000, and Opera will even run on Windows Me and Windows 98 (but you really ought to move to something more current than Windows Me.)

Opera Chrome Firefox

Now there’s timing: Just two days after I bought a G1, Opera has released a beta of Opera Mini for the Android platform. You can find it in the Communications section of the Android Marketplace. Amazingly enough, on its first day out, it’s already #2 by popularity.

For the most part I’m happy with the built-in browser, except as I mentioned for sites that don’t translate well to the small screen. Sometimes panning & zooming isn’t the best solution, but that’s the only solution on the default browser as near as I can tell. Opera Mini gives you the option of choosing a “Mobile view” which will reformat the page.

It’s a bit rough around the edges (but then it is still a beta). In particular, the touch screen sometimes works for following links, and sometimes I have to use the track ball. Also text entry is a bit inconsistent: when you navigate to a URL, you can finish by hitting Enter, but when you fill in a single-line form field (say, a username), Enter takes you to a new line. You have to hit the Menu button to get an OK/Cancel dialog. And passwords remain completely visible, rather than obfuscating to dots one character at a time.

Of course it’s always good to have alternatives, plus it’s got the mobile display option and it’s blazing fast. It was designed to deliver performance over slower networks, after all (by compressing the heck out of everything at a proxy), so on the 3G network it just screams.