Folks using Opera may soon notice some slick new animations.
The Opera development team today released Opera 21, the latest major debut of the desktop browser for Windows and Mac.
The Windows version of Opera 21 uses a technology called Aura, which “allows for smoother, snappier animations with a more responsive feel.” Aura enables Opera to “hardware-accelerate the entire browser, including the user interface,” wrote Opera’s Ruarí Ødegaard in a blog post announcing the new launch.
The Mac version, meanwhile, achieves the same effects through Apple’s core animation features.
“So far, we have only scratched the surface of this technology, and Opera 21’s primary intention was to get Aura working and stable,” said Ødegaard. “In the future, you will see further benefits as it allows us to give everything that little extra bit of polish.”
These animations tend to be subtle, but small motions can have a big effect on how we perceive a product. When Apple made the jump from iOS 7 to iOS 7.1, for example, critics widely praised the iPhone maker for speeding up animations throughout the operating system. iPhone and iPad owners tend to feel more positive about their devices now, because the various animations happen quickly — like when they click on a folder and it expands, showing the apps inside — but still feel smooth.
The other major change in Opera 21 is an option to display a complete URL in the address field, rather than a simplified URL that includes only the domain and a small badge to show a site’s security. Opera still believes this is the best option for most users.
The rest of the enhancements were relatively minor: an update to the underlying Chromium engine to improve site compatibility, automatic screen scaling for monitors that use 200% DPI setting in Windows, and better Mac keyboard handling to better support web apps like Google Docs and GitHub.
Opera is far less popular than Chrome, Internet Explorer, Firefox, or Safari, but still commands a sizable userbase: For April 2014, StatCounter lists Opera’s global share of the browser market at 1.39%. In other words, a lot of people stand to benefit from this new release.
For a full list of changes, check out the Opera 21 changelog.