Opera may have been relegated to status as the other, other browser, since the rise and rise of Google Chrome, but that hasn't deterred its development team. The latest release - version 11.5 - brings a number of updates to Opera, bringing it much more in line with its rival offerings.
The most immediately obvious upgrade is the more streamlined and lightweight interface, which ditches a lot of the clutter present in the previous version (in fact, if Chrome and Firefox were to mate, Opera 11.5 is probably what the offspring would look like). Another particularly useful ability of Opera 11.5 is password synchronisation via Opera Link, bringing the browser up to date with its alternatives. A feature called Speed Dial enables extensions to be included in the new tab page, mixed in with frequently visited websites, giving quick acces to, for examine, weather or stock updates.
A number of Opera's features are reminiscent of other browsers. Tab Stacking is ostensibly the same as Firefox's Tab Groups, Opera Link - which synchronises bookmarks, passwords and Speed Dial across different computers - is fundamentally no different to Chrome and Firefox's own syncing abilities and like its rivals, Opera can be augmented with extensions.
Where Opera does innovate ahead of its competition is Turbo mode, which delivers compressed versions of websites (routed via Opera's own servers). This browsing mode is designed for mobile users - say, laptops with 3G dongles - where download times for content-heavy sites can be a real issue, and can indeed reduce load times significantly.
We're not convinced that version 11.5 will prove the version of Opera that takes it from anything more than a niche share of the browser market. Nonetheless die-hard fans will no doubt be pleased with the improved speed and stability it purports to offer, if not its new features. And besides, the really good stuff will likely be replicated by Firefox and Chrome (and maybe even Internet Explorer) soon enough, anyway.