Opera brings Linux up to scratch

A new release of Opera's Linux browser marks the company's effort to keep Windows and Linux software versions synchronised. But the Mac has been left out in the cold

Opera has finalised its latest Web browser for the Linux platform, bringing the software up to speed with Opera's Windows version, and adding such features as fast-forward, rewind, image slideshows and an email client.

The Norway-based company released a beta version of Opera 7.10 for Linux last month, but the last full version of Opera for the open-source platform was 6.12, which lacked recent additions such as the M2 email client. Version 7.11, announced on Monday, is a slight update from 7.10, adding a wide range of bug and usability fixes.

The release includes several features new to Linux, including Rewind and Fast Forward buttons, a slide-show feature for displaying images, and a tool for adding notes to Web pages. With the release, Opera continues with its strategy of competing against Microsoft's dominant Internet Explorer by adding to the browser's range of sometimes quirky capabilities.

By contrast, some other browser makers, including Apple and some spin-offs of the Mozilla open-source browser project, are focusing on making stripped-down browsers with the minimum of features.

Opera revealed in August that it was in the process of rewriting its browser from the ground up. The goal was to provide a browser that was smaller and faster. Opera 7, the result of that rewriting, was only marginally smaller than its predecessor, but Opera said that in addition to faster page rendering, the new browser is loaded with new features.

A version of Fast Forward was part of Opera 7 as part of the ordinary forward button, but the current release breaks the feature out into its own button and refines the way it works. The button predicts where it thinks the user will want to go next and loads the pages automatically. The browser also displays photos from the Web in a slide-show format. Alternatively it can display photos in full-screen mode on a black background, a feature called OperaShow.

The Notes feature lets users jot down notes related to the page they are viewing and store them for future reference or drop them into an email. Other companies have released similar software in the past, but it has not been integrated into any of the most widely used browsers.

Opera is also seeking to put its browser into non-PC devices, including smartphones, such as Sony Ericsson's P800 and Nokia's Series 60 devices, and a recently announced IP-television set-top box in Japan. Microsoft's Internet Explorer thoroughly dominates the PC desktop, but so-called embedded devices are seen as more open to competition.

Opera may be keeping its Linux and Windows updates synchronised, but it has deliberately let its Mac OS X development efforts lag. In January, Apple launched its own Safari browser on the platform, and as a result Opera said it was questioning whether it would continue issuing Mac updates. The latest Mac version is 6.0.

The new browser can be downloaded from Opera's Web site.


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