After dozens of snapshots and months of testing, Opera Software is finally ready with Opera 12 or Wahoo. Opera 12 is a bittersweet release that adds several new features, but also ruthlessly chops several old ones.
As you might expect, not a whole lot has changed since the beta release, so my hands-on of the beta is still a good place for an in-depth look at the new features in Opera 12. The bits that Opera seems to be particularly excited about are:
New light-weight themes that are both easy to create and use: The new themes differ from the previous full-fledged skins in that they don’t alter appearance of browser elements like buttons and tabs. Much like Personas for Firefox, they simply change the browser background.
Improved security badge: Opera’s address bar security badges have been updated to make them easier to parse for novice users.
Improved Standards Support: Opera 12 adds support for a whole host of new web technologies including WebRTC (native camera access), HTML5 drag and drop, CSS3 animations and transitions, and CSS generated paged media (new proposed standard from Opera for paginated content suitable for consumption in devices of multiple form factors).
Better Plug-in Handling: Opera now runs plug-ins as separate process. This change should significantly boost Opera’s stability as plug-ins like Flash are responsible for a large chunk of browser crashes. Now, even if the plug-in crashes, Opera will continue to function smoothly since it runs as a separate process.
Hardware Acceleration: Hardware accelerated graphics and WebGL compatibility were supposed to be the major draws of Opera 12. Unfortunately, in spite of pushing back the release of Wahoo, Opera Software hasn’t yet managed to get hardware acceleration working smoothly enough on a wide range of hardware. As a result, this feature is disabled by default, but you can enable it by setting opera:config#UserPrefs|EnableHardwareAcceleration and opera:config#UserPrefs|EnableWebGL to 1.
As mentioned earlier, Opera 12 is not all about new features. It also bids adieu to a host of old features including Opera Unite, Opera Widgets, Speech Recognition, Text to Speech, and Torrent downloader. This kind of chopping of features is unprecedented, and is perhaps an admission that several of the decisions made during the days of Opera 8 to Opera 10 weren’t in its best interests. While I am a bit sad to see some of these features go, most users probably won’t even notice that they are gone.