Chicago (IL) – Opera today released an alpha version of its Kestrel browser, officially named Opera 9.5. Besides a few new features, the new browser renders webpages substantially faster than the preceding version.
Calling Kestrel a version 9.5, up from the currently final 9.23, could be a bit modest, given the improvements Opera promises. The company said that it has started to rewrite the rendering engine following the release of Opera 9 in 2006 and has integrated a few other improvements into Kestrel as well.
We gave Kestrel a quick run this morning and noticed a speed-up in displaying webpages immediately. While actual load times depend on many factors, this alpha version outran both the current version of Internet Explorer as well as Firefox on three test systems in our office. According to Opera, the acceleration of the browser is due to a faster and less-memory intensive ECMAscript engine, an improved layout algorithm as well as an increased font-rendering bitmap tiling speed. Opera claims that version 9.5 is about 50% faster than version 8.
Among the new features of the browser is a history search, which allows users to search test that was published in previously visited webpages. This feature works automatically, without requiring users to bookmark those pages. Other changes include enhanced zoom and image control, a better integration of the trash can as well as improvements to Bittorrent, which now supports more download hosts.