The Next Wave: Opera 9.5 (Kestrel) and Opera 10 (Peregrine)
Opera Software is quite busy, actually that busy that two versions are coming. And not just on one platform, no the intention is to link many platforms together, meaning the desktop release will simultaneously come with the release for devices and mobiles. Currently Opera 9.5, code named Kestrel, is planned for a golden final release this year, while the first preview of Opera 10, code named Peregrine, will appear at the end of this year.
So what is Kestrel? A falcon. And also a warming up present from Opera Software. But you shouldn't take that too negatively, Kestrel is an in-between release, while Peregrine is the next major release (Opera 10). Kestrel will introduce some of the rendering engine changes from Peregrine which don't have a too high impact yet on the entire release. Peregrine itself, also a falcon, will have major rendering engine changes (of course everything that's in Kestrel), improvements to the user interface, performance enhancements and stunning new features. What we can expect remains to be seen, but I'm betting on an entirely new skin, one that fits Windows Vista and Mac OS X 10.5 (Leopard), as well as features that, just like Speed Dial, will make the news headlines.
In this article we mainly discuss the upcoming Kestrel release as news on Peregrine is still very limited due to it's early stage.
Rendering engine improvements
Support for CSS3, where especially selectors will get a major addition. One of the most noticable is text-shadow support (multiple shadows, maximum blur limitation) to have, well, text with shadows behind them. In Opera Software's continued effort to be one of the best native SVG web browsers out there, Kestrel will have support for several functions found in SVG Tiny 1.2. Equally important are of course bug fixes for the current implementation as well as speed optimizations. Amongst other fixes include correct (not IE compatible) support of document.getElementById(), which should return the id, not the name. Additionally changes are in the house for the rendering of tables and fixes for rounding problems (using ems). With the upcoming release of ECMAScript 4, Kestrel will have a brand new JS engine as well as support for 'getters' and 'setters' for ECMAScript 4. In addition the rendering core will get some significant performance boosts, to beat all the other browsers out there.
Opera Mail improvements
Kestrel will include at least the first run of changes for Opera's mail client (aka M2), consisting of a new back-end, which should end any freezes when checking mail as well as fixes for corrupted search and indexes. Uncertain is yet if the second run of changes will make it, where a long awaited newsgroup feature is coming (what could it be?). Mail client operability is also important, and Kestrel will have full support (part of it is already in Opera 9.2) for exchanging mails between Apple Mail and Opera Mail. The problem was apparently caused by Apple Mail, which doesn't fully comply with the RFC standards for exchanging messages. One of the annoying Opera Mail bugs will also be fixed where attachements are renamed to .tmp files rather than their original names, due to content-type recognition problems. Another small change is the ability to refresh news feeds manually by pressing F5.
User interface fixes
Although no major user interface work is planned for Kestrel there seems to be a little hope that there will be a couple of small, yet wanted, changes. One of the possible changes could be site specific support for the content blocker. The code is already there, but it's keeping your hopes up that it's stable enough to include in Kestrel. Additionally site specific preferences for
opera:about will work correctly in Kestrel. For the Linux platform a fix is included where when the tab bar is disabled (with the window panel on), and tabs are minimized icons are displayed (a remnent from MDI). Of course looks also matter, and the Mac native skin will get a face lift, as well as the introduction of the QT4 build for Linux. On all platforms there will be little alterations to the default user interface configuration based on usage statistics. Work is also being done in keeping the user interface responsive, especially on Unix.
Support for extra security through HttpOnly cookies will be included in Kestrel (as it will be in Firefox 3), which should prevent renegade scripts on a site setting the cookie from reading the cookie. In addition for improved security Kestrel will support EV certificates, making it easier for users to judge if they trust a web site or not. UserJS for https should be working in Kestrel according to Mitchman. Peter Karlsson has been working on an updated Info panel, which contains better organized and more information on the current website your viewing. For all those people out there with Linux/BSD, 64-bit builds are expected.
Since the early days Opera has been known for having a feature set aimed towards accessibility. Kestrel improves on that on the Windows and Mac platform by good support for Microsoft's Accessibility API (voice over and screen reader) and Apple's API (voice over and screen reader).
Unconfirmed future features
Support for the <video> tag is already present in an experimental build on Opera Labs. Microsoft Silverlight support, which by the sounds of supporting competition could be included as a default plug-in, just like Flash? For Peregrine we might see HTML 5 support as well as offline web applications (beyond Widgets) following the WHATWG specifications.
As always, please remember this is a rather incomplete article on all the changes that we can expect for Kestrel (Opera 9.5), and especially Peregrine (Opera 10). With the passing of time, and when we get new builds from the Opera Desktop Team, we'll learn more and more of what Opera Software has up its sleaves. With Kestrel this year, and Peregrine probably next year there's a lot of work being done, and a lot coming for all of us to see of the famous Opera Software innovations for the web.
Last updated on 30.08.2007: Kestrel weekly builds will start appearing from 04.09.2007