Opera 7 Beta Launches

The latest version of the most popular Web browser alternative to
Microsoft’s Internet Explorer (IE) and Netscape, Opera 7 Beta 1 for
Windows, is available for download, giving users the chance to view
dynamically-created Web pages and developers an easier time creating Web
pages around the application.

For the first time, Opera supports a host of Web standards, as promised
back in September, including: Non-standard dynamic hyper-text markup language (DHTML); Document object model (DOM) level 2; 100 percent ECMAScript support; Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) 2; Website META Language (WML) 1.3; and 2.0.

The standards are used to create dynamically generated Web pages and are
widely considered by consumers and developers as one of the main reasons
Opera hasn’t claimed more market share in the Web browser community, which
is dominated by IE and Netscape. Prior to Opera 7, users would need to
open up IE or another browser to view the dynamically-generated pages.

Opera 7 developers have also achieved what so many other software
applications are incapable of doing; the new version packs in new and
enhanced features, and is actually 300 KB smaller (3.1 MB). Opera 6.05
weighs in at 3.4 MB.

Jon von Tetzchner, Opera chief executive officer, said that by writing code
that depends less on the operating system to get the job done and more on
customized scripts, they are able to get the file size down, while still
improving the software.

“Part of the reason that Opera’s (file size) has been so small is that we
follow the rules in reinventing the wheel,” he told internetnews.com. “Most programmers
don’t like doing that, so it’s quite common to use code someone else has
written and that leads to code bloat.”

The company also went one step further, creating a technology for the small
screen. Web developers can now incorporate the browser’s code into their
company’s Web site, as well as develop Web pages for Opera on PDAs and
digital wireless phones.

The browser company’s small-screen rendering (SSR) technology shows
developers how to optimize Web pages so they can be ported from regular
PC-sized screens to the smaller displays found on handheld devices, while
keeping the Web page’s full functionality. Users can see how Opera would
look on handhelds by pressing Shift+F11.

Opera 7 is free for users who opt to receive the banner advertising and get
six months free use of the OperaMail Premium. Beta 1 testers can purchase
the premium service (which includes enhanced e-mail options and support)
for $29; when the final version is released, officials plan to hike the
price to $39.

The browser’s look and feel remain the same in the new version, though the
default skins package has gotten an upgrade — buttons are three-dimensional,
with the a redesigned hotlist navigation bar that uses buttons now instead
of the tabs found in earlier versions. Managing the format of the browser
is also much easier in Opera 7 with the addition of new browser layout
tools found in the “Preferences” section.

New to Opera 7 is a download manager, which allows users to use the browser
to manage all the downloads, as opposed to relying on Windows built-in
downloader or other managers like Star or Go!zilla.

Opera developers have also significantly boosted its somewhat awkward
e-mail application, putting functionality in the new version that makes its
a legitimate threat to other e-mail programs. M2, the name of its
souped-up program, supports the POP3, ESMTP and IMAP e-mail protocols, and
has a built-in spam filtering program.

The software is available for download here. At press time, the servers
were swamped with other Opera users clamoring for the download themselves,
resulting in long waits to get a Web page to display.

Tetzchner said the delay between Opera for Windows and Opera for the other
seven operating systems will be less in this version.

“There’s been a significant delay between Windows and the other operating
systems at times,” he said. “I think there will be a shorter delay this
time; we already have Opera working with the some of the others, but it’s
not ready for prime time yet.”

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