Opera Software announced Wednesday morning that the first beta release of the company's Opera 7 Web browser was available for immediate download. Opera 7 includes a revamped HTML rendering engine and a slew of new features that the company says make the Web browser alternative superior to competition from Microsoft Internet Explorer and the Netscape/Mozilla camps.

"At Opera we try to cram a lot of useful features into a small package," says Jon S. von Tetzchner, the CEO of Opera Software. "We are happy to be able to say that Opera 7 does just that. We have greatly improved our rendering engine, user interface and e- mail client, and increased the rendering speed."

Opera 7 Beta 1 includes a new email and newsgroup client, an alpha-blended user interface, faster Web page rendering, better standards support, a mode for testing Web pages on small screens like those found on PDAs, a new navigation bar, and more. For more information and the free download, please visit the Opera Web site.