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Rendering engines and code names

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A short history of Opera's rendering engine.

The Opera browser, written by Jon and Geir, started live as MultiTorg Opera, a company project of the Norwegian telco Telenor. The browser that was released in 1996 as shareware after Jon and Geir made Opera a separate company was called Opera 2.0. This version was further developed, with 3.0 and 3.5 as significant milestones (3.0 adding Javascript support and 3.5 adding CSS1 support).

The next version of Opera that was being developed in 1999 and 2000, was codenamed 'Elektra'. Nowadays people like to talk about 'rendering engines', but at that time Elektra was simply a codename for what was to become Opera 4.0: the entire browser. Elektra was designed in a manner that would make it easier to create versions for multiple platforms, not just Windows. The Elektra codebase would get better and better over the years, as the developers worked on improving it. Mac and Linux versions saw the light, but these versions were most of the time months or even years behind the Windows version. Opera 6.0 added the much needed Unicode support to this line, to make Opera a truly international contender. 6.0 was also the end of the line, and the Opera 6 codebase was also ported to the Symbian platform.

But at the time Opera 6 was being worked on, a few developers were already working on the next generation browser. And this one would truly have a separately developed browser core (rendering engine, scripting engine, networking stuff). The rendering engine, the part that was completely rewritten, was codenamed Presto. And at the same time a lightweight cross platform UI layer codenamed Quick was created. Together these components became the Opera 7 browser, which came out at the same time for Windows, Linux, and since 7.5 for Mac. Quick made it possible to develop a single user interface for multiple desktop platforms much, well, quicker :smile:

Opera 8 was the culmination of the Presto core development, and is as such a rock solid base for many releases we've seen in 2005 for various non-desktop platforms (Symbian, Brew, Windows Mobile, and several others). So we are finally seeing the end of the line for Opera 6.

The core developers are of course still developing, as can be witnessed by the Opera 9 previews. The codename for the Opera 9 release for the desktop platforms we hope to have this year is Merlin. The core of Opera 9 is a big update of Presto, with various new standards supported and lots of coding improvements behind the scene. But it is still named Presto.

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Nice. I never knew that UI had a codename :smile:

By Ramunas, # 16. February 2006, 14:05:39

An interesting read. I'm a sucker for good codenames :whistle:

By velmu, # 16. February 2006, 17:32:50

Interesting indeed. But since you've been linked to in the Opera Link Blog, you should maybe fix the grammar in paragraph three. (Where = were)

Good info!

By BAMAToNE, # 20. February 2006, 20:12:44

What error... :whistle:

By Rijk, # 20. February 2006, 23:27:39

Hmm... my mistake. :wink:

By BAMAToNE, # 21. February 2006, 01:11:06

Definately interesting Rijk...thanks for the informative history of this neat browser.

By gahbmwM5, # 22. February 2006, 04:22:50

I realise this is several months late, but...

Would Opera even consider releasing the Quick toolkit for outside developers? Lord knows there aren't enough decent cross-platform toolkits out there.

By dmpk2k, # 9. July 2006, 13:49:49

@dmpk2k: I doubt it. Quick is relatively light-weight, it provides only what is necessary in Opera. And it might be too dependent on other parts of the Opera code. I guess - I'm not a developer, after all.

By Rijk, # 10. July 2006, 09:03:52

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