Alternative desktop browser fans(*), your attention please. Opera’s released its next thing, and it’s a feature-packed beta of Opera 12.
There’s a lot of new stuff packed into this often-overlooked and under-appreciated web browser for OS X. All your usual Opera features are there: excellent control over what you see (no other browser does image and CSS control as well as Opera), speed, reliability. They’ve also removed quite a lot of the unnecessary stuff, such as widgets and the strange hosted-services platform Opera Unite. (Developers are being encouraged to transfer stuff like that to a new extensions platform now.) Then again, plenty of non-browser stuff remains. There’s still the built-in mail client and text notepad.
The main emphasis of this release is on performance and stability. Opera says that everything’s been speeded up and optimized. There’s support for 64-bit machines, and plugins are now handled as separate system processes (a move pioneered by Google Chrome), which means even if Flash brings one tab down, it won’t force you to restart the whole application.
Note that this beta is released as “Opera Next”, which is Opera’s way of running beta products alongside any existing version of Opera you may have installed. It won’t overwrite ordinary Opera, and updates itself automatically, so you’re always running the latest version.
There was a time, many years ago, when I used Opera as my default browser. I’m a Chrome man these days, but I still have a lot of respect and deep-seated fondness for Opera. Partly because it was where so many features we all take for granted appeared first. Tabbed browsing? That was in Opera before anyone else thought of it. It’s always been an innovator.
It’s a niche product and won’t appeal to everyone, but if you have an interest in the history of the web and of web browsers, you owe it to yourself to give it a try.
* – Anyone remember when Safari was an “alternative” browser? Ahh, those were the days….