In Pictures: First look, Opera 12 ups the ante

The latest release of Opera has some obvious cosmetic and UI changes, as well as several new under-the-hood functions. Overall, here are 12 changes worth noting.

  • The latest release of Opera has some obvious cosmetic and UI changes, as well as several new under-the-hood functions. Overall, here are 12 changes worth noting.

  • Plug-ins run as separate processes Plug-ins in Opera 12 now function as processes separate from the browser’s main operation. This is meant to provide better overall stability against plug-ins that are badly written or happen to crash, and to thwart any malicious ones devised to compromise security. Under this new architecture, if a plug-in misbehaves, Opera 12 will shut it down and continue running.

  • Do not track Opera 12 can be set to prevent all websites from tracking your browsing activity, or only ones you specify. To turn this feature on to stop all websites from tracking, you go to Settings > Preferences > Advanced > Security and check “Ask websites not to track me.” Blocking a specific site from tracking you requires that you first visit it, right-click over a blank spot of the page, select “Edit site preferences” from the pop-up menu, Network, and then put in a check by “Ask websites not to track me.”

  • 64-bit processor support To further increase its speed, Opera 12 now takes advantage of computers running 64-bit processors with 64-bit versions of Windows or Mac OS X. This makes Opera the first of the major web browsers to have a simultaneous 64-bit release alongside its 32-bit version for both platforms.

  • Hardware acceleration Opera 12 supports WebGL and can use the graphics processor in your computer to further give a performance boost. However, these are currently tagged as experimental features, so both are turned off by default. To activate WebGL, you enter opera:config in the browser’s address bar, select User Prefs and enter “1” in the “Enable WebGL” box. For hardware acceleration, set “Enable Hardware Acceleration” to “1.”

  • Easier and faster theme changing Changing the look (theme) of Opera 12 is a quick one-click process, and it doesn’t require a restart of the browser. Right-click on a blank area on the new tab/speed dial page, select Appearance, and choose a new theme in the pop-up window.

  • Easier to see security badges In the address bar, the security badges to the left of a URL have been redesigned, which includes color coding, to make them easier to see and interpret the privacy setting for the website you’re browsing.

  • Address field improvements and enhancements Additions and fixes implemented into Opera 12’s address field include: Improved search term and URL suggestions are listed as you type, and also appear in the address bar drop-down window; smart URL shortening is now listed in the address field drop-down; URL and page content columns shown in this drop-down are now combined; and a URL’s page title and an excerpt from it are used for displaying full-page search results.

  • Webcam support through HTML5 Opera 12 now supports the WebRTC architecture for webcams, which allows real-time communication (RTC) between two users with webcams. WebRTC is an open project that uses HTML5 and JavaScript code to accomplish this, and is also officially supported by Google for its Chrome browser and Mozilla for Firefox.

  • Drag-and-drop through HTML5 Another HTML5 component bringing new robustness to Opera is the capability for a web page to include elements (such as text or files) that the user can drag and drop onto another page, or from the desktop onto the page.

  • Extensions can control tabs and windows Extensions in Opera 12 are now permitted to interact with browser windows and tabs (or groups of tabs). For example, an extension can be written to open or close a browser window or tab. Obviously, this raises the spectre of malicious or untrusted sites cluttering up your browser with windows and tabs you don’t want opening, but is necessary to allow legitimate sites to have, such as web apps.

  • Right-to-left language support Opera 12’s UI automatically mirrors itself when displaying right-to-left languages Arabic, Farsi, Hebrew and Urdu, if your Windows or Linux computer is set to one of these language. The direction of the UI is determined by the direction of the language. Under one of these four languages, the sidebar, for example, which is normally set on the left side of the browser will be placed along the right.

  • Opera Unite and widgets phased out The little-used features Opera Unite and widgets have been deactivated by default in Opera 12. Unite actually was innovative: It let you set up your computer to function as a server through Opera. Unite was promoted prominently as a main attraction for using Opera when it was first introduced, but for some reason it never caught on with users. Widgets are being phased out in part to remove users’ confusion with extensions, and developers of Opera widgets are being encouraged to write extensions instead. The code for these two lays dormant in Opera 12, but will be removed from upcoming versions of the browser.

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