Web browser fans and anyone jonesing for a faster Internet experience have a big reason to get out their downloading mice today, for Opera 10 is out of beta and ready for the masses. This major upgrade brings a range of new and updated features, from a flexible, enhanced tab bar to a more powerful compression feature for users on the go.
As with many significant upgrades, the most obvious new aspect of Opera 10 is a major visual refresh, thanks in large part to the hiring of legendary designer Jon Hicks of Hicksdesign. Beneath this pretty face are new features like "Better Tabs," which allow you to resize the tab bar simply by pulling down on it to reveal visual thumbnails of each site. This bar can also be shifted to the side or bottom of Opera's window, capitalizing on that "choice" thing that seems to be such a hit with discerning UI modifiers.
Opera 10 also bring a significant upgrade to the browser's compression engine, now dubbed Opera Turbo. This feature is off by default, but business travelers, on-the-go freelancers sporting 3G cards, or those who are simply leeching the neighbor's wonky Wi-Fi (you know who you are) can apparently experience "up to eight times faster Web surfing over slow connections" by turning on Opera Turbo.
Many other existing Opera features received the spit-and-polish treatment in version 10. Notable mentions include a new "super-sized Speed Dial" (a predecessor to Safari 4's "Top Sites" feature) that allows for an up to five-by-five grid of site thumbnails with a customizable background image, threaded messages in Opera's mail client, built-in spell-checking, and automatic updates for future versions.
Unfortunately for Mac users, Opera 10 still does not play very well with the rest of Mac OS X. While it gained spell-checking, it doesn't use OS X's system-wide services for spelling and grammar, so you'll have to, for example, mark your last name as spelled correctly for Opera separately from the rest of your Mac. What's worse, even in version 10, Opera still does not support a decent plug-in architecture to allow popular Mac apps—Evernote, for example—to interact with websites.
The new Opera is a free download, and certainly worth a gander if you're looking for a browser that offers an e-mail client, a powerful download manager (including Bit Torrent files), built-in compression for throttled Internet connections, and other perks not found in most browsers by default. Below you can view a video produced by Opera that highlights the new features and improvements.