Opera have released the first public download of the latest version of their ever popular browser. Codenamed ‘Kestrel’, Opera 9.5 alpha is a fairly major update and adds various new features as well as improving the already impressive tool set of the program.
The first thing I noticed on testing Kestrel was a definite improvement in speed. Opera’s always been fairly good in this respect but the developers have clearly pulled out all the stops to tweak yet more power from it. It also uses slightly less memory than before – which makes the performance improvements all the more impressive.
In terms of new features, Opera has introduced a more complete caching system which allows for the introduction of Full History Search. FHS lets you search within every page you’ve visited – for example when you’ve seen something interesting but forgot to bookmark it. Assuming you don’t delete your cache, Opera will search through every page you’ve visited, and not just the URIs of pages in your history. You can access this new interface directly from the address bar, so it’s pretty seamlessly implemented.
The new ‘Synchronize With My Opera’ feature is less exciting. It doesn’t really seem to do much but share your bookmarks and Speed Dial settings automatically onto a my.opera.com profile page. The aim seems to be to link the browser directly to a sort of del.icio.us and ‘blog this’ functionality. But the synchronization feature is poorly documented and so doesn’t really seem to be of much use. Those who accuse Firefox of feature-bloat would do well to take a closer look at the behemoth that Opera has become.
In summary: Opera 9.5 is faster and more efficient than previous versions. It still passes the Acid Test and has made improvements to text and bitmap rendering. The Full History Search feature is pretty cool but I’m not that keen on the Synchronize feature: not when I’ve got better solutions which I’m already using. Download from Opera.com here.