Opera has offered the first look at the next iteration of its web browser, Opera 12.

The Norwegian software developer unveiled the first-look at the browser at its Up North Web conference, which took place in Oslo this week.

Opera 12, which will be made available in Alpha on Thursday (October 13), builds on the software accelerated graphics seen in the current browser, Opera 11.5, with hardware accelerated graphics and support for the WebGL standard.

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Furthermore, a drop down menu has been added to the address bar allowing URLs to be turned directly into Speed Dials (Opera's take on Favourites) that appear on the home page of the browser offering web users one-click access to their favourite sites. Skins have also been replaced with an improved Themes function that lets users customise the images and colours seen in their browser offering "a much more pleasurable web browsing experience".

However, in the near future two new features will also be added to the browser, although they will first debut in Opera Labs, the firm's site that offers a first-look at its new technologies, as they rely on changes to the CSS3 standard.

The first is Reader that allows web users to read web sites on different pages just like in books. According to Hakon Wium Lie, CTO at Opera, the scroll bar on websites offers an "old-fashioned and quaint" experience for web users and he likened the function to parchment scrolls used by the Romans.

Instead, the Reader function brings native support for pages to the browser and lets tablet users simply swipe their screen right to left to read the text and view images on a website that doesn't fit on the screen, a function which a number of apps already offer. For those using the browser on a device that doesn't have a touchscreen, web users will be able to move the mouse or use the cursor keys to jump to the next page.

Opera also intends to introduce a function that allows the browser to connect to a webcam and ensures web users can manipulate and share images direct from their browser. The functions uses a JavaScript API and connects to the webcam's device driver. Web users can then click on a button in the browser top capture images. Once the pictures have been snapped, they can simply enter an email address in the box displayed on screen and the images will be shared with the recipient.

Opera also unveiled Opera Mobile 11.5 and Opera Mini 6.5 for Android at the conference.