It’s been just about six weeks since Opera Software unleashed Barracuda (Opera 11.10) on us, but they are already ready with the beta build of the next major release – Opera 11.50. Swordfish, the codename for the latest offering from Opera, upgrades a couple of existing features besides introducing plenty of under the hood changes.
The highlight of Opera 11.50 Beta is the addition of extension support to speed dials. Speed dial is easily one of the best known features of Opera. Barracuda spruced up speed dial by tweaking its visual aspects. Now, with Swordfish, Opera Software is adding another dimension to them by transforming them from being static thumbnails of websites to dynamic web-applications. To show off what you can do with speed dial extensions, Opera Software has developed a few neat extensions including a weather extension and a feed reader extension. Several more have already been developed by the community, and Opera is holding a competition to encourage the development of creative speed dial extensions.
The other improvement is something that users had been requesting for a long time; the ability to sync passwords using Opera Link. This feature has been in the works for a while. Opera avoided rushing this feature through as it wanted to get the security measures absolutely right before unveiling it.
There are numerous minor usability improvements including a new interface for adding speed dials and support for Ctrl+Click to open links in new tab. The rendering engine has been bumped up to Presto 2.8, which features improved standards support.
Earlier this month, Opera changed the way it delivers releases. Previously, all releases, including snapshots, alphas, betas, release candidates, and final builds, had a similar installer. Now, Opera has decided to differentiate between final builds and test builds. All non-final builds will now be delivered as Opera Next. The advantage of Opera Next is that it is completely insulated from the final stable builds, and thus can be used safely without breaking the existing installation of Opera. This is similar to the way Mozilla and Google deals with Firefox and Chrome releases. For example, Aurora, Minefield and final builds for Firefox are insulated from each other. However, unlike Google and Mozilla, Opera Software will not be following a time based release cycle. Instead it will be sticking to the well-established tradition of releasing new versions only when there is actually some significant improvement to deliver. We don’t make releases for the sake of releases, nor do we make innovations for the sake of innovation, teased Jan Standal, VP of desktop products, Opera. We create browsers that make the Web faster and easier to use, and the newest features in Swordfish support that goal.