A new beta of the Opera browser includes the BitTorrent file-downloading software, and "widgets" - small Web applications that sit on a user's desktop.

The first public is beta
of Opera 9 follows a second technical preview of the software 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 widget feature is intended for newsfeeds or games, while the inclusion of BitTorrent means users don't have to start that software as a separate application.

The software can be downloaded free of charge, and is available for all major operating systems including Windows and the Mac OS, Odland said. The final version of Opera 9 should be released in the next few months, he said.

Despite continuing technical advances, browsers other than Microsoft's Internet Explorer continue to struggle to gain share. Mozilla's Firefox browser has managed to climb to 10 percent of the market, according to figures released earlier this month by Web measurement firm Net Applications, while Apple's Safari browser has 3.19 percent, followed by Netscape with 1.05 percent and Opera with 0.54 percent.