Opera upgrades Windows browser after beta success

Upstart Web-browser company Opera Software ASA has launched Version 6.0 of its desktop browser for Microsoft Corp.'s Windows operating systems, just two weeks after it introduced a beta version at the Comdex Fall trade show in Las Vegas. The new browser runs on all versions of Windows, including the recently released XP.

More than 500,000 beta copies of the software have been downloaded since then, a record for the company, said Dean Kakridas, vice president of desktop products.

"I think it's our greatest release ever. I've been here for two years and seen Version 4 and Version 5, and with Version 6 I really think we've arrived," he said.

Among the improvements in the new version is the choice of either displaying multiple documents each in a separate window, as is the case with Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) or Netscape, or instead displaying multiple documents as tiles within the single browser window, as has been standard on earlier Opera versions.

The two options make it easier for users familiar with IE or Netscape to switch over to Opera, said Kakridas. "In the tradition of Opera, we're trying to give users the choice of how their windows look and operate."

Also new is the "Hotclick" feature, which allows users to double-click a word or right-click a selected phrase in order to view a pop-up menu with options including search, encyclopedia lookup, and translation.

Version 6.0 also supports the Unicode worldwide character set, which enables languages written in non-Roman alphabets, such as Chinese, Japanese, and Russian, to be displayed.

The browser offers a new look, which users can customize with a choice of buttons, skins, and panels.

Many of the same features are also offered in Opera's preview Version 6.0 for Linux, which was released earlier this week. Version 6.0 for Windows, which is sponsored by advertising, is available free for download from the company's Web site. Users can then, if they choose, register to avoid banner advertising by paying a fee of US$39.

Users who already paid for Version 5.x are entitled to a free upgrade, the company said. Those who paid for Version 4.x and then upgraded to 5.x for free will be offered a discount.

Opera for the desktop has attracted a small but growing number of enthusiasts, with some 6 million downloads of Version 5. But the privately held company's main hope for increasing its revenue comes from its embedded browsers for devices such as handheld computers and set-top boxes.

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