Opera Software has launched a public beta of the next edition of its popular browser for mobile 'phones, Opera Mini 5 - and it's looking a lot more stylish.
As reported over on CNet
, the latest mini edition of the browser - available free of charge for both Java-enabled handsets and all Blackberry models - introduces quite a few features that you may more associate with the desktop edition of the browser.
Perhaps most obviously striking - once you've got past the user interface redesign that makes the app look a lot more stylish - is the introduction of a 'speed dial' page: when the browser is first launched, a customisable menu featuring small thumbnails of your most visited sites is shown. While this results in fewer bookmarks being immediately accessible compared to previous versions of Opera Mini - which used a text-based list instead - it's certainly visually striking, and can make it easier to find the site you're after on a small screen device.
The next desktop feature to make it over to Mini is support for tabbed browsing: scrolling up past the split address and search bar brings up the option to open multiple tabs, making it much easier to have several pages open at once than previous editions. A password manager has also been include for those who have a tendency to forget their login details, although this can be disabled via the software's Privacy options.
The UI has had several usability improvements as well as a thorough modernisation, with the requirement to launch an editing page to type into a text box finally being removed in favour of an in-place editor - although this can be disabled if you prefer the older method of doing things.
Sadly, several features you may have become used to in prior versions are absent from the beta: support for skins is currently missing along with the ability to turn any site into a search engine, but it's the loss of the recently introduced Opera Link functionality that's likely to be the deal-breaker for most wanting to try out the beta. Opera Link offered users the ability to synchronise bookmarks between the desktop version of Opera and Opera Mini on their handsets. However, it must be remembered that Opera Mini 5 is still a beta, and it's more than likely that the company will put the functionality back in place before the final release.
The latest beta is downloadable from Opera's mobile site
, and will co-exist quite happily with previous versions of Opera Mini if you're not ready to commit quite yet.
Is Opera Mini still the king of the mobile browser hill, or is this the company's last gasp before Mozilla Fennec kicks it into touch? Share your thoughts over in the forums