Norway's Opera released the first beta-test version of its Opera 6 browser for Linux on Tuesday, its latest effort to spur competition in a market dominated by Microsoft's Internet Explorer.
Opera 6 Beta 1 for Linux is speedier than old Linux versions, and adds new features, some of which are also available in Opera on other platforms. Opera supports a wide range of operating systems, including Windows and Macintosh (both OS 9 and the newer OS X), and embedded platforms such as Symbian OS and QNX.
Among the new features are a contact database, a cookie manager, mouse gestures -- which allow a mouse click to carry out most browser functions -- improved plug-in support for Netscape plug-ins, and a function called Hotclick which gives quick access to search, translation, encyclopaedia look-up and other functions.
The browser also supports the Unicode Worldwide Character Set, which is designed to better support characters from Eastern Europe, Asia and other regions.
GNU/Linux, an open-source operating system that competes with Microsoft products in server, desktop and workstation markets, doesn't have a single dominant browser, partly because Microsoft does not release its software for the platform. Some Linux browsers, like Mozilla and Galeon, are based on technology from Netscape, a division of AOL Time Warner, while others, like KDE's Kommander, use their own code base.
Opera says Opera 5 for Linux has an installed base of more than one million. However, Opera is not open source, unlike most other Linux software, meaning developers can't access the application's source code to repair it or make improvements.
Opera is one of the few browsers that competes with Internet Explorer on several operating systems; Netscape's Gecko rendering engine -- upon which Mozilla and Galeon are based -- also powers Netscape browsers on Macintosh, Windows and other platforms, but these have received a tepid response and been criticised for serious shortcomings.
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