Early this morning Opera Software released the long awaited first Beta of Opera Mini 5. You can get it by pointing your phone's built in browser at mini.opera.com/next. Or download the .jad and .jar fles or the Blackberry .alx and .cod to your PC for side loading from opera.com/mini/next/download/
Opera Mini 5 is bigger at 221 KB than its 125 KB predecessor and uses more phone resources. Given the new features this is to be expected but it also means that some older or lower end phones that can run Opera Mini 4.2 will not be able to use Opera Mini 5. In particular, Palm OS devices and BlackBerries running OS 4.1 are no longer supported. There is also no Android version of Opera Mini 5 yet although one is promised. Opera Mini 5 is optimized for screen sizes of 240x320 and larger. It will work on smaller screens but some menu options will be off screen and unreachable. You should be able to work around this using Opera Mini's keyboard shortcuts.
New features in this release are:
- Completely Redesigned GUI With Enhanced Touchscreen Support - Previous versions of Opera Mini are not very touch friendly with tiny, hard to click menu options and issues with scrolling and getting touches to register. Opera Mini 5 was designed to be touch aware.
The GUI on touch screen phones is completely different than what non-touch devices get. It has a bottom menu (image top right)that can be hidden and replaced with a couple of transparent buttons (image above right). There is also a URL bar fixed to the the top of the screen that can't be hidden although it disappears when you scroll down..
Non-touch phones have their menu and URL bars at the top. Both are hidden by default when a page is loaded (image above left). A press on the left soft key brings up the menu together with the URL bar (image top left). Pressing the # + 1 shortcut brings up the URL bar by itself. Both can be hidden with a press on the right soft key
There are many other differences between the touch and non-touch variants as well. The images on this page show Opera Mini 5 running on the non-touch Mokia N95-3 on the left and the touch screen Microemulator on the right.
- Tabbed Browsing - This is something users have been requesting for years. It works very well. Opening tabs and switching (image above) between them is instantaneous. The number of tabs appears to be limited only by available memory. I had eight tabs open on my N95-3 with no noticeable performance degradation.
- Password Manager - When you log into a password protected site you are prompted if you want Opera Mini to save the user name and password. If you say yes, Opera will pre-populate those fields for you on subsequent visits. The saved passwords are stored on the device. A password manager should be especially useful with Opera Mini which has traditionally had serious issues with its cloud based cookie retention.
- In-line Text Input - This optional feature lets you type directly into text fields or the URL bar instead of having to first click on a field to bring up the phone's native editor and then having to click a couple more times to get back to the form. It works well on QWERTY devices and on touch screen ones where Opera pops up it's own onscreen keyboard (image above right). On phones with just a numeric keypad, in line editing is more trouble than it's worth as only triple tap is supported (image above left). Unlike with the limited in-line editing of URLs that is in Opera Mini 4.2 there is no way to toggle between in-line and native input while you are editing. The toggle is buried in a sub menu that takes 15 clicks to get to and come back!
- Copy and Paste - Copy, cut and paste is now supported between all fields in web pages and in the Opera Mini GUI itself. It's really easy to do things like copying a URL from a bookmark and pasting it into a forum post. It's also possible to select and copy text directly from web pages. The one thing you can't do is directly copy text from a web page to the phone's system clipboard. This would be useful for copying text snippets into a text message or local document editor.
When trying Opera Mini 5 for the first time bear in mind that this is a first Beta of a completely redesigned browser. There are missing features and functionality. All the menus and many of the shortcuts have changed. Take some time to figure out how it works. If you find a bug be sure to report it using the Opera Mini bug tracking wizard and/or the "BETA: Report bugs" thread at the My Opera Opera Mini Forum.
This is a significant release and I plan to post more about Opera Mini 5 once I have explored it thoroughly. For now here's a quick list of my major likes and dislikes after exploring the new release for about an hour.
- Documentation is virtually nonexistent at this point. All I've been able to find is a list of shortcuts (with at least one error) under "Help" in the menu. There is a user generated "Opera Mini 5 Beta My Personal Tips" sticky thread at My Opera with lots of good information.
- There are many missing features from 4.2 that will hopefully be restored at some point in the Beta process. Notable omissions that Opera acknowledges and says will be included eventually are Opera Link bookmark synchronization, the built in RSS feed reader and direct file downloads. Other missing features are the ability to edit bookmark titles and the "1" key context menu items for page and link information and toggling mobile view.
- Provided your phone is supported, I think that Opera Mini 5 is a major improvement. On my Nokia N95-3 it is fast and seems stable. I have had no crashes or unexpected errors during my testing. Page loading speed and User Interface snappiness as equal to that of Opera Mini 4.2 which is the fastest of all mobile browsers.
- I'm particularly excited about the tabs, copy/paste and the password manager. These are features that were really needed and will really enhance usability and my ability to get things done online with my phone
I recommend the Opera Mini 5 Beta, give it a try. It installs alongside 4.2 and 3.1 rather than overwriting them so you have nothing to lose.