Opera Neon is the new “concept” browser released by Opera Software. It is not meant as a replacement to the same company’s “Opera browser”, but as a project to rethink the way browsers should be. The idea behind this release is to put these new ideas to test, and hopefully those that prove to be more useful will be included in the Opera’s standard browser.
The first thing I noticed is that Opera Neon is not available for Linux: that seemed strange since the standard browser version has been long time available for this operative system (and also for MAC and Android users ). This omission is probably due to the experimental nature of the browser.
Lacking a Linux version I proceed to download the Windows version and spent some days playing with it. I was really curious to find out what Opera Software had brought to the table with this new software. The company’s standard version of the browser has not the biggest share of users in the browser market, but it has always released a browser powerful, functionality packed, and innovative: it was, after all, the first browser to support tabs, and incorporate a speed dial.
So I proceed to launch the Opera Neon browser, and I found myself facing an interface that doesn’t resemble much to the usual browser interface, nor even to the standard Opera browser’s. Opera Neon’s interface is beautiful, innovative, and despite its differences with the browsers we are used to, intuitive, and easy to use.
The speed dial we have grow used to it is still there, but it looks completely different: the grid like disposition has been replaced by a selection of bubble like elements, that burst like real life bubbles when the user clicks the delete icon, but it has the same functionality.
The tabs bar has been moved from the horizontal top bar to a vertical bar on the right: instead of tabs we have the same bubbles that we find in the speed dial area. The bubbles display an image representative of the site we are browsing, so that we can identify quickly the content of each tab: a useful feature for those users who open many tabs. I noticed that when it comes to tab organization features Opera Neon lacks some of the features present in the standard version of Opera, but here it is when it pop ups another of Opera innovations: self-managing tabs. Those tabs more frequently used, and presumably more useful to the user, will find its way to the top so that the user has not to waste time looking for them in an endless list of tabs.
At the left we find a tool-bar with browser features like new tab, multimedia tab, image gallery, downloads, etc. The multimedia tab lets us quickly find the tabs where video/audio are playing.
Like in the standard browser we can move the videos to its own pop-up window, so that we can keep track of the video while at the same time browsing other tabs.
Another useful feature is the split-screen mode. This features takes advantage of the size of modern monitors to allow the user to display two different tabs side-by-side at the same time.
The left side bar incorporates too an image snapshot utility, that allows the user to easily capture images from the web that grab his attention, and stores them (along with the URL they were taken from) in an image gallery tab for posterior browsing.
Although Opera Neon it is not mean to replace the standard opera browser many of the features of the standard edition are there. We can control, cookies, history, language settings, and it has too an incognito browser mode.
Developers will also find the familiar developers tools we know from Chrome.
Although Opera Neon lacks some of the features the standard version has, it is still complete enough to offer a satisfactory experience to the user.
At the end of my evaluation of the software, though, my feelings about it were a bit ambiguous.
On a positive side Opera Neon brings some innovation, and new ideas to the world of browsers, and from a design point of view it is certainly striking.
From a functionality point of view, however, it is less revolutionary. Features like the split-screen, or the way it easily organizes multimedia information are really nice, and I am looking forward to see them in the standard version of the software soon. Still I find them not comparable to the impact that in its time had the incorporation of tabs, the speed dial, or the opera turbo to name the first that come to mind.
Still one must keep in mind that Opera Neon won’t be replacing the standard version anytime soon, although sooner or later (lets expect that is sooner ) the most useful features of Opera Neon will make its way into the standard version of the browser. Therefore as a concept browser to test new ideas, and keep improving the main product it is more than satisfactory.