Norwegian firm Opera Software has unveiled the latest version of its Internet browser, Opera 11.6, “just in time for the festive season”, according to a company announcement today.

Opera is the world’s fifth most popular browser, behind Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox and Apple’s Safari. W3Counter estimates that, as of November 2011, Opera enjoys a 2.4 percent share of the worldwide market, and the firm itself claims to have had more than 220 million downloads.

The company has introduced a number of changes to 11.6, which include:

  • Revamped address field: which provides in-browser search suggestions, quicker access to favourites, Chrome-like starring to create bookmarks and a speed-dial list for easy access.
  • New browser engine: which the company claims makes browsing faster and more efficient, thanks to a “new HTML5 parsing algorithm which helps unify code discrepancies among browsers”.
  • Improved in-browser email: improvements have been made to the in-browser mail feature, which operates like Google’s Gmail Chrome app

With version 11.6, Opera has also refined a number of existing features, which include the rather nifty mouse gestures (which you can see more of here) that help save time, tabs, extensions, bookmark synchronisation and other features that have now become standard browsers.

Internet users with less stable Web connections — as is often the case in developing markets — can switch to Opera Turbo, which “uses Opera’s cloud-assisted browsing technology to compress Web pages thus making them [load] faster “.

Opera’s Christmas cheer is particularly infectious, and the company is releasing 11.6 “just in time for the holiday season”.

Almost 50% of the world’s population has never tried a new browser — people in your own town, maybe even someone you know. Why not help them discover something better this year? A new browser is a gift that keeps giving all year round.

I’ve always been a big fan of Opera browsers, particularly on the mobile phone, as they are efficient and speedy. For those less certain than me, however, Opera has ten compelling reasons to check out its latest browser:

  1. You clean everything to prepare for the holiday, why not your computer?
  2. No assembly required; it’s all in the download package.
  3. It is free, a deal year-round, rather than a Black Friday doorbuster.
  4. Unlike socks, this fits everyone.
  5. We tried not to say it, so we misspelled it: IT’S FSAT.
  6. Justin Bieber doesn’t use it.
  7. It’s supported by science since version 10 (at least): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tYEUFwJXVvw.
  8. Your kids won’t wake you up at the crack of dawn Christmas morning; they’ll be too busy with the browser.
  9. See #6.
  10. Your current browser is so fat it can’t slide down the chimney.

You can download the new version of the Opera browser on the company’s website.

Here are a number of screenshots of the new features of the 11.6 Opera browser.

Auto-complete search in address bar:

address field 520x223 Opera debuts version 11.6 of its browser just in time for Christmas

Enhanced in-browser mail:

mail 520x379 Opera debuts version 11.6 of its browser just in time for Christmas

Speed dialling and bookmark stars:

speed dial 520x406 Opera debuts version 11.6 of its browser just in time for Christmas