Opera raises curtain further on version 9

The second technical preview of the Opera 9 browser, which is now available for download, features support for widgets, thumbnail previews, site-specific preferences and improved pop-up blocking.

By the term ‘widgets’ Opera means small Web apps that run directly on the desktop. These can interact with online services – such as news feeds, dictionaries or search engines – and Opera’s hope is that users develop their own .wdgt files (a regular zip file, in reality) using JavaScript, HTML and CSS (cascading style sheets).

Of course this concept is already familiar to OS X users with their Dashboard widgets.

Essentially, for Opera, they are an attempt to build on the functionality of browsers, making them more than a static view of HTML content. At the least they can provide a ‘portalised’ browser interface – weather charts and share prices are the usual suspects mentioned – but potentially they could enable useful customised information sources.

The new must-have feature for browsers seems to be a thumbnail view – see the pre-Beta release of Internet Explorer 7 – and Opera 9 includes this, providing a pictorial view of all the browser’s tabs.

The first technical preview, released in July 2005 – Opera pours itself into BitTorrent – featured support for BitTorrent file sharing, and this has been continued in the second technical preview.

According to Opera, with existing support for other file transfer protocols, such as FTP and HTTP, BitTorrent is the next logical step: ‘Implementing BitTorrent is a natural choice, considering its efficient use of bandwidth and worldwide popularity. For users this means that they can browse and download content in an application they’re familiar with,’ said Opera Sofware’s VP of Engineering, Christen Krogh.

The feature set of the latest version is described at http://labs.opera.com/news/2006/02/07/2/

You can download the latest preview, which runs on Windows, Macs and Unix, from http://labs.opera.com/downloads/. Note that the technical preview is not meant to be a user’s primary browser, it is to be used for preview purposes only. The full release of Opera 9 is expected before the summer.

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