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Opera 7 now out, re-engineered code

I know Joel has talked about how not to rebuild software (Netscape), but Opera has a well-earned reputation for making a tight, efficient browser.

Well, <a href="http://www.opera.com/news/">Version 7</a> is out, and <a href="http://news.com.com/2100-1023-954561.html">apparently they've reworked a lot of code</a>.

I've looked at the screenshot, and it's looking pretty nice.

Could this be a successful exception to Joel's comment on Netscape?

Steve Ng
Wednesday, November 13, 2002

woops, my bad (slashdot habits) for not noticing the grey instructions underneath the text box (I'm used to having a Preview button). Sorry folks!

the links:
http://www.opera.com/news/
http://news.com.com/2100-1023-954561.html

Steve Ng
Wednesday, November 13, 2002

The article said they re-wrote the rendering engine.  It doesn't lead me to believe that they re-wrote the entire application.

Joel's original article gave an example of re-writing everything in Netscape including the FTP code which given the amount of research and development that went into making it as good as it was, seemed ridiculous.

The difference is that if Opera had to release an intermediate version, they probably could have done so, using the old rendering engine, because everything else was not re-written.  That wouldn't have been true of Netscape.

Chris

Chris Blaise
Wednesday, November 13, 2002

Actually, I've heard that several components of Opera were rewritten from "scratch", ranging from the rendering engine to the e-mail client.

Of course, it's hard to define what "rewritten" means, because to the news media, it means one thing, to devs, it means another.

According to this News.com article it is "completely rewritten", but I think a grain of salt may be required.

http://news.com.com/2100-1023-965542.html

Steve Ng
Wednesday, November 13, 2002

I have Opera 6 (and IE 5.5). I have some problems with it that I hope are fixed now. I can accept other changes as long as they are either improvements, or not in my way.

Although it is still a beta, I tried it and found that:

- It did not pick up on my proxy settings. Even though IE and Opera 6 are around to provide them.
- It did not import any of my favorites (Bookmarks in Opera).

This may be fixed, but the problem with these kinds of omissions is that they really annoy you and taint you for the rest of the evaluation. In other words, I was now less likely to overlook even minor problems.

I hope they fix first impressions before they go commercial release, because otherwise some of the worthwhile improvements may not even get a fair chance.

There are also some very annoying "improvements" in the human interface that decrease the level of usability more than I think the increased level of "coolness" can compensate.

Erik
Thursday, November 14, 2002

Erik - no kidding. I was able to manually import my IE bookmarks and didn't get too bent out of shape about it, but changing the way the "A" key (or CTRL-Down) works is nearly unforgiveable (and I've written them about it and posted in the opera.beta groups).

In IE, you have to tab through every link to get to the one you want, and that's what Opera 7 has done. In previous versions, Opera would start link highlighting from the first visible link in the window, which was WAY preferable, especially on sites like slashdot where you may have three dozen links in the document before the one you want to click. IOW, if I was scrolled down to the bottom of the page, the "A" key would start with the first link I could see, not the first link on the whole document. Now it's just as worthless as IE's.

Troy King
Thursday, November 14, 2002

I don't so much get bent out of shape by the activity to correct Opera than by the fact that it is a very simple and machine like thing to do. So why should you have to do these things manually if the software could easily do it for you?

But even more so because you and I are comfortable enough with software to figure out what is wrong and how to correct it.
But my dad would be told that he can't connect to the internet any longer (because the proxy setting was lost) and would have no way of knowing what went wrong.
And to add insult to injury, his carefully collected bookmarks have also gone!

Can you imagine the anxiety he would feel? And then what he would feel if he was told that it is not as bad as it looks and that it can easily be corrected by hand, and that it could have been easily prevented by the developers of Opera, if only they had bothered?

And then of course imagine how quickly he'd move to IE or Mozilla, or whatever, if he found out that at least their developers where smart enough to DO prevent this. What other problems must there be with Opera if their developers could not even manage this simple feat?

Would this extrapolation be fair? I don't think so? But it would be very natural for many human beings who are not developers.

The point is, for any product to become, or stay, successful, you have to care as much about the little things, as about the big things. From the human user's point of view, that is.

Erik
Thursday, November 14, 2002

Erik, I didn't mean to insinuate that you were bent out of shape, my apologies. I was saying that I wasn't, not that you were. I chose my words poorly (again).

I agree with what you're saying, and one of the threads in the Opera beta news group right now is very similar -- that it's a little too alpha, and a little too prominent on Opera's site, and that it could very well chase some users off, especially given all the attention it's receiving on news sites.

Troy King
Thursday, November 14, 2002

"Erik, I didn't mean to insinuate that you were bent out of shape, my apologies. I was saying that I wasn't, not that you were. I chose my words poorly (again)."

No need to apologise. I didn't mean to imply that you implied that I was bent out of shape :-)

Erik
Thursday, November 14, 2002

I can barely keep up with the topic changes. There are about four of us repeatedly hitting "Recent Topics" and posting new comments right now. :)

Troy King
Thursday, November 14, 2002

I've said it before: rewriting is not a mistake; stopping shipment of anything is a mistake. When you rewrite you need to do it in a way that is sustainable for the business.

Netscape's mistake (at least one of them) is that they did a mass shift and didn't stay competitive. You have to manage the process and segment the work into achievable bite-sized chunks. It's like refactoring, but at a larger granularity.

Jeff Kotula
Thursday, November 14, 2002

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