Home Opera’s Newest Browser is Amazingly Fast, Offers New Take on Speed Dial

Opera’s Newest Browser is Amazingly Fast, Offers New Take on Speed Dial

Norway-based Opera has released the newest version of its Web browser today, promising faster speeds, a streamlined and lightweight user interface and several new extensions.

Opera has reconfigured its “Speed Dial” extension. Instead of static thumbnails of frequently-visited sites, now, when you open a new tab, you can embed websites that will update automatically, such as for weather or stock quotes. Opera has also partnered with several startup applications that give the browser a unique flavor in comparison to the competition.

Opera’s extension partners for version 11.5 include Read It Later, Webdoc, The Hype Machine and StockTwits. Each embeds into the Speed Dial and updates automatically to provide functionality within the browser. Opera has a new password synchronization system through Opera Link that will allow users to port passwords for sites between Opera desktop and mobile browsers.

“We’re excited about the work that has gone into Opera 11.50,” said Jan Standal, VP of desktop products, in a press release. “Before we challenge Lady Gaga though, we’ve got to surpass the Tom Selleck moustache fan page on Facebook and the number of forum posts Opera fan Tamil has written. We think Speed Dial extensions are amazing enough to do the trick, but we didn’t stop there.”

Opera claims to have 185 million users. In terms of browser market share, the company is a distant fifth to Internet Explorer, Firefox, Google Chrome and Safari (in that order). Hence, the company likes to have a little fun. The Opera company homepage has a live counter of how many times version 11.5 has been downloaded with interesting milestones revealed when it reaches a new point. The first was 1,908 downloads, correlated to the most people on stilts at one time. It took Opera almost five hours to pass the working population of the Death Star at 1.2 million and is closing in on its next milestone.

Opera says that it has fixed “”thousands of bugs and upgraded to our newest core rendering engine.” It also tweaked the “software graphics engine with faster CSS and SCG rendering” which the company promises makes this version of Opera as stable as it has ever been.

For developers, Opera has new core HTML5 support including Session History and Navigation and the W3C File API.

In a strictly empirical observation, Opera 11.5 is the fastest browser currently running on my computer. Opening new tabs and windows does not have a lag, Speed Dial loads and updates almost automatically and Gmail is seamless (which I could not say was the case with Firefox 4 or 5). Scrolling with my MacBook trackpad is almost too fast, I have found myself zooming past things I want to read and having to track back. It will take a couple weeks of use, but Opera might have finally pushed its way into my cycle of browsers.

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