Opera has released the Beta 1 version of their next major update, Opera 11. Even from this first Beta release, it looks like this is going to be an excellent update on their already wonderful current version. I have been using Opera for a very long time now (going back to when I actually had to pay for it), and I am still amazed that they keep version after version, they keep making these great improvements and keep making an already excellent browser even better.
Top billing in the next release, at least at this time, goes to "Stacked Tabs", which is a way of grouping and consolidating multiple tabs to save space and make switching easier and more convenient. The idea is fairly simple, and it has been bounced around in a few browsers for a while now. When you have multiple tabs open in the browser, you can drag and drop one tab onto another, and Opera will create a group with those two (or more) tabs together, using only slightly more tab space than a single tab, like this:
The only hint here that I have stacked tabs is the arrow at the right edge of the ZDNet tab, showing that there are others grouped with it. Click on that arrow, and they expand back to approximately the ordinary individual tab view:
So I can group things like Computer/Linux journalism, News/Weather and so on, to keep them just a bit more handy than going through Speed Dial each time or having to scan across all of the tabs to get to my most frequently used sites.
But it gets better... hover the mouse cursor on the stacked tabs, and you get a preview of everything in the group, like this:
Now you can click on any one of those previews to switch to that tab. Good stuff. Oh, and a couple of other minor details: simply clicking on the stacked tab, without waiting for the previews, will take you back to whichever one you were most recently using, and the stacked tab preview of all members works even if you are currently looking at one of the members of the stack.
I am particularly impressed by how well all of this works in a Beta 1 release. Opera has been known to have some particularly rough edges in beta releases in the past, and so far I haven't seen any problems with this one at all.
One other change that has already caught my eye is that they seem to be going to the "simplified" address bar contents, similar to what Google started doing with Chrome not long ago. Basically, they strip off the "http://" (or whatever) from the beginning, and they highlight the host site name, so it comes out looking like this:
Of course, you still want to be able to use the actual address, for things like copy and paste or whatever, so when you click within the address bar, it changes back to the "complete" address contents. As a long-time and rather technical user of browsers, I'm not sure that I am thrilled with this change, because it feels to me like they are "hiding" some information that I might want to see. But I suppose that I can see why they are doing it, and what it should accomplish, and if people who are a lot smarter and more experienced than I am about these sorts of things think it is worthwhile, so be it. I remember reading some of the controversy when this was first done in one of the Chrome pre-releases, and the amount of screaming and yelling, up to and including "I'll never use Chrome again if they do this", was pretty amazing. My advice on this one, if it really bothers you, would be to take a couple of aspirin, try to put it in perspective, and go along for the ride for a while.
I always end my posts about Opera like this: If you haven't tried it yet, you really should, because it's very good, it gets better with every release, and you might well find that you have been working a bit too hard without it. If you are already using it, you'll be pleased to hear that there are good things coming in the next release, and if you're impatient, you can get a Beta of that release now.