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Opera 7 Released

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Kevin W

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User since: 16 Dec 2002

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The seventh Windows version of the Opera web browser has been released after an almost-quarter-year public beta testing period. Opera is the third most widely used browser in the world, and that's saying something if you consider that it costs an ad banner or USD39. It is a relief from the world of bloatedness and meaningless version numbers (ahem, Netscape 7), and there are plenty of new features to explore.

The company has been marketing this release fairly heavily, which has had the critics crying all over the 'net. Over a month before the beta was released, Opera Software was hyping up the long awaited version at various online news services. Features such as DOM2 support and the complete code rewrite were publicised, attracting plenty of speculation and excitement. Small Screen Rendering was also fussed over as a "new technology", displaying Opera's ideas of mobile phone Internet browsing. After looking under the bonnet of the actual product, it is a relief to find that they have lived up to the promises, while presenting a few surprises.

What for the Workers of the Web


For us coders, Opera 7 boasts a new rendering engine ("Presto") with almost complete XHTML 1.0, CSS 2.1 and DOM2 support. All of the legacy bugs have been removed, dynamic page reflow is now possible, and a DOCTYPE switch has been introduced to make bad pages look better. Thankfully, Opera 7 renders most pages at about the same speed as Opera 6.

Nevertheless, Presto represents a pretty big leap in standards support—maybe enough to drag in some Mozilla fans who hug to the open-source browser for the rendering engine. Yes, Presto is about just good as the Gecko for standards support now; and in a lot of cases, far better. Opera does everything that Mozilla can, just so much faster.

User style sheets

There is also the inclusion of 12 packaged user style sheets and an easy menu application interface (View > Style). These sheets can be cascaded together, with or without the page's styles. They are mostly for accessibility, accessible web design and plain coolness: Emulate text browser, Nostalgia, Accessibility Layout, Show images and links only, High contrast, Hide non-linking images, Disable tables and Use default forms design.

There are also three style sheets that are worth mentioning specially: Hide certain-sized elements, Debug with outline, and Show structural elements. Hide certain-sized elements is basically that CSS-powered inline ad-killer that Eric A. Meyer came up with a few years ago. Debug with outline uses the newly added support for the "outline" property to display key elements. Finally, Show structural elements, which with the acrobatic use of generated content, attribute selectors and counters, shows the HTML tags inline, as well as the meta and link data, and a report on the number of font tags and nested tables. Now this is cool!

Small Screen Rendering

Related to this is Small Screen Rendering: a technology that was hyped up in the press a few months ago. Basically, it squeezes normal web pages into a mobile phone/PDA screen by resizing images and linearizing tables. At the moment, it's mostly a preview of Opera's coming mobile phone versions. If you look close enough, it's probably just a clever style sheet with td{display: block;} and *{max-width: 210px;} at the core. Still, it's quite impressive.

And more...

As I said before, the standards support is a pretty big leap up. There's the new navigation bar for the link element, which can be rearranged with drag & drop. Form elements are built from Opera's own code (like Mozilla), so that means more fast, more stable, and more standards compliant. Links and images are now drag & droppable (while still allowing selection of link text). Overall, there are lots of small (and big) steps forward and no steps back.

Features, features and more features

There are plenty more features where those came from—you'd need them in order to justify the version number.


Rewritten mail/news client. Here's another one to steal the Mozilla fans back. It's now full-featured (not the Opera 4 crud) with POP3, IMAP and ESMTP support, a revolutionary concept of Access Points, and an effective spam filter.

User interface

Draggable toolbar items and a new single-zip skinning format. Looks great.


A Mozilla-inspired username/password rememberer. OK, so it's not an original idea, but it works well.


Now houses Transfers manager, Links list, Windows list and History list, as well as Bookmarks, Mail and Contacts, and the user-added Panels.


The confusing MDI and SDI modes have been merged into a Mozilla-like (but better) mix.

Spatial Navigation

Opera continues to innovate in keyboard navigation, this time in two dimensions.

More configurability

Keyboard shortcuts, menus, dialogs and toolbars are editable from input.ini, menu.ini, dialog.ini and toolbar.ini respectively. Plus, loads of more options.


Opera 7 looks much more stable than its predecessors, with the reliance on the OS's resources greatly minimised.

Of course, none of the significant features from previous versions have been dropped. The user style sheet mode, page zooming, image toggling, keyboard shortcuts, mouse gestures, MDI, popup killer, download manager, skins and search engine integration are all still there and improved.

This new version is definitely a huge improvement over the last. If you didn't like the previous versions, then I suggest you try this one out. As always, installation and uninstallation is clean and it can be installed alongside any other versions. You can download an ad-sponsored version for Windows from


Kevin W is not actually a professional web designer. He is just another geek with an interest in CSS, but also some knowledge of Java, Perl, C++, VB, etc.

You can find him around forums, newsgroups and mailing lists under the guise of Kevin W. He also maintains a personal web log.

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