The beta version of Opera 11 was released for download on Tuesday, with a new tab-stacking feature designed to make organising the desktop browser's windows easier.
Picking up from the visual tabs included in Opera 10 — which launched in September 2009 — the version 11 beta allows those tabs to be grouped by site or subject. Hovering over the stack shows every tab in the stack in visual drop-down preview.
Overall, the milestone update provides better performance for a smaller system footprint than its predecessors, Opera said in its announcement on Tuesday.
The beta of Opera 11 includes a new tab-stacking feature. Photo credit: Opera
"In Opera 11, pages load faster and complex applications run more smoothly... Even with its many new features, Opera 11 is 30 percent smaller than Opera 10.60. That means that Opera downloads more quickly and installs in fewer steps," the company said.
Opera has also introduced an option that allows users to specify that plug-ins such as Flash load only when clicked. This can speed up page-loading times by up to 30 percent on plug in-heavy sites, according to the browser maker. The address bar has been revamped to hide long and unwieldy URLs and to make the browser safer by adding security badges. Clicking the badge icon will reveal relevant safety information about the website being visited, Opera said.
The company has brought the browser in line with a number of competitors, such as Google Chrome, by adding Google-powered search prediction when typing directly in the address bar. In addition, Opera 11 now allows people to install extensions, using the Opera add-on lab.
The browser beta supports HTML 5, meaning that applications and games built using the new standard should run without problems.
However, Opera 11 does not incorporate social media, a feature that is starting to emerge in other browsers. In November, RockMelt launched its own social media-focused browser based on Chromium, the open-source version of Google's Chrome. RockMelt integrates shortcuts to social-networking features such as updating a Twitter or Facebook status, alongside user-definable favourite sites which visually indicate when there is new content.
Opera is the least popular of the best known browsers with just 1.9 percent of the market share according to figures for October from W3Counter.com. Internet Explorer retained the browser top spot with 41.6 percent, followed by Mozilla with 29.9 percent. Google Chrome took third spot with 11.9 percent, and Safari was in fourth place with just 5.5 percent of browser usage market share.
The Opera 11 beta is available to download for free for Mac, Windows or Linux and is currently English only.