Opera 10.50 beta brings faster JavaScript, more

The folks at Opera might have had to spend some time working around restrictions to port their browser to the iPhone, but when it comes to the desktop there are no such issues to contend with. Hence the release of Opera 10.50 beta, a sneak peek at the latest version of the company's venerable browser.

Opera 10 hit primetime back in September of last year after a similar beta process, so it seems reasonable that we’ll see a release version of 10.50 in the next few months. But what you’ll really be wondering is what exactly this new revision has to offer over its rather impressive predecessor?

Tops among the list are a brand new JavaScript engine dubbed “Carakan” that Opera claims runs eight times faster than Opera 10’s. Also under the hood is better compliance for Web standards like HTML5 and CSS 3 and a new “Vega” high-performance graphics library.

There are also a handful of Mac-specific tweaks, thanks to Opera’s underlying Cocoa framework, including a unfied toolbar, native UI widgets, Growl support, and multi-touch gestures on compatible MacBooks and MacBook Pros. And the new Opera Widgets platform seems like an answer to Firefox and Chrome’s extensions frameworks, allowing developers to create widgets that run as separate processes and can even exist outside the Web browser.

Up front, Opera 10.50 sports a number of new end-user features such as easily customizable search engines, a more intelligent address field that has search capability and the ability to delete pages from your history, private browsing by window or tab, improved find-on-page capability, and dialog boxes that are displayed as page overlays, allowing you to switch between pages or windows without having to disturb your browsing.

Opera 10.50 beta 1 is a free download; it requires Mac OS X 10.4 or later running on an Intel-based Mac. The company promises more improvements to the beta are forthcoming.

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