For a long time the Opera web browser was the clear innovator in the browser space. Opera was often the first to introduce features, such as tabbed browsing, that became standard browser capabilities.
And while other innovative browsers, such as Google Chrome, have been pushing the browser feature envelope as well, Opera Software's eponymous browser still remains one of the most innovative and cutting edge of all browsers.
In tests of the recently released beta of Opera 11, I found Opera to still be one of the most powerful and capable browsers available, and one that a power user can configure to meet their exact needs. The beta of Opera 11 showcases some new features that will likely become standard in competitors in the near future.
By far one of my favorite new capabilities in Opera 11 is on-demand plugins. With this feature enabled (you can enable it from the Preferences window), Opera by default does not load plugin-based content such as Flash videos and advertisements.
But rather than just blocking the Flash and other plugin content, Opera 11 makes the content on-demand. By simply clicking the area where the Flash content was, I could easily view it without having to unblock or re-enable Flash inside the browser.
To me this provided the best of all worlds, blocking unnecessary content but making it simple to access the content that I wanted to view. This can also be a real value on laptops, cutting back on the amount of power-draining Flash content that runs in the browser.
Opera has always been the leader when it came to using mouse gestures as shortcuts in navigating online content and with the beta of Opera 11 this gets much easier. Now a visual aid pops up in the browser window that makes it easy to see what mouse gesture will carry out which command (such as go Back in the browser).