Opera Software released the first public beta of Opera 9 on Thursday, giving users the go ahead to put its new Web browser through its paces.
Opera 9 includes a feature called "widgets," which are small Web applications such as newsfeeds or games that reside in a window on a user's desktop. It also comes with the BitTorrent file-downloading software built in, meaning users don't have to start that software as a separate application.
The beta release follows a second technical preview of Opera 9 that was released about two months ago.
"There are no big feature changes in the beta version. The main difference is that the beta version is stable enough for people to use as their primary browser," said Tor Odland, a spokesman for Opera, in Oslo, Norway.
The software may still have some bugs in it, however, and Opera advised users to back up their files in case it causes any problems on their machine.
The software can be downloaded free of charge from http://www.opera.com. It's available for all major operating systems including Windows and the Mac OS, Odland said.
The final version of Opera 9 will be released in the next few months, he said.
Microsoft's Internet Explorer dominates on the Web. Mozilla's Firefox browser has managed to eke out 10 percent of the market, according to figures released earlier this month by Web measurement firm Net Applications. Apple Computer's Safari browser held 3.19 percent, followed by Netscape with 1.05 percent and Opera with 0.54 percent, Net Applications said.