Opera fast-forwards new browser

The latest versions of the Opera browser include features for faster browsing, as the company continues looking for chinks in Internet Explorer's armour

Opera Software has put its browser development into fast forward with a new release on Friday for both the Windows and Linux platforms.

The release includes several new features, 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 spinoffs of the Mozilla open-source browser project, are focusing on making stripped-down browsers with the minimum of features.

Opera 7.10 for Windows is an incremental update from version Opera 7, released in January, but the beta version of 7.10 for Linux is a more substantial change. The last Linux version was 6.12, which lacked some major recent additions such as Opera's M2 email client.

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 chief executive Jon S. von Tetzchner said the features had not caused a bloat in the size of the browser, which weighs in at less than 4MB minus Java components. "Opera 7.10... takes browsing to a completely new level with its many new features, major improvements and refinements. At the same time, we have created even faster browser in a smaller package," he said in a statement.

Opera is also seeking to put its browser into non-PC devices, including smartphones such as Sony Ericsson's P800 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.

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

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