Vivaldi: A web browser for power users
Vivaldi is a new Internet browser from the folks who made the original version of Opera. Led by former Opera CEO Jon von Tetzchner, the aim is for Vivaldi to recapture what made Opera originally appeal to its users, with key extra features such as notes and mail built in, as well as support for keyboard commands.
Currently available in a technical preview version – whatever happened to just calling these things betas? – many of the extra features aren’t yet implemented, but the core experience is there. So we fired it up to see what it offers.
Related: Microsoft’s Project Spartan to replace Internet Explorer
Vivaldi – The same but different
At its core Vivaldi is actually pretty similar to most of the competing browsers. It’s built on the Chromium platform that powers Chrome, so uses the same rendering engine. As such, in terms of speed and rendering style it’s basically identical, which is no bad thing as Chrome is a fast and fairly reliable browser.
By default the overall layout is also very familiar. You’ve got tabs running along the top, navigation clustered in the top left and the URL box top dead centre. Like Firefox – and unlike Chrome, Opera and Internet Explorer – it has separate search and URL boxes.
This is the first hint that Vivaldi is aimed at power users, and not those who simply want the most cutdown, simple experience, as has been the push in more recent years from many of the existing browsers.
A quick tour of Internet Explorer, Chrome and Opera reveals just a handful of tools immediately at your disposal, with Back, Forward, Quick Bookmark, a Menu button and Home – Chrome and Opera don’t even have this – being about all you get. Firefox adds a download button and a bookmarks dropdown as well as having the separate search box.
Vivaldi, though, adds a fast forward button in the top menu, then has two more menu sections too. Along the bottom there’s a zoom slider, a page actions button – for applying filters, blocking content, etc – and a Hide Images button, along with a button for opening the third toolbar which runs down the left edge.
Inside this left toolbar is the bookmarks menu, the upcoming Vivaldi Mail feature, a Contacts list, the Downloads menu and a Notes feature. There’s definitely a lot going on but the interface manages not to feel at all cluttered. Items are placed in logical places and are all kept small and out the way.
It’s definitely not for the more casual user, but then that’s exactly what the developers wanted to create, and we think they’re onto something.
Vivaldi – Reactive interface
What helps the overall impression of Vivaldi having a clean interface despite its number of features is the clever design. The developers have chosen to eschew the standard Windows window style, as used by all its competitors, so doesn’t have to accommodate the particular stylings of the default window decoration, such as the translucent borders of Windows 7.
This is then married a clean, sharp-edged interface that uses simple but effective fonts and icons.
Perhaps the neatest trick though – and it really is just a trick – is that the tabs and top menu will change colour according to background of the website that you’re viewing. We can’t say it entirely aids functionality, but it’s full marks for effort.
Vivaldi – Tab Stacking
In terms of built-in features that are available now, one of the most useful is stacked tabs. This simply arranges all tabs from the same website into one tab, with a little drop down menu appearing when to click on them, allowing you to jump to the exact page you need.
We feel the implementation may need a little work as the area you have to click to bring up the tabs dropdown is a little too small for quick navigation but it’s definitely a useful feature. We’re also fans of the full page preview when you hover over a tab.
Vivaldi – Notes
Another feature we haven’t seen before is Notes. This enables you to jot down a few words and instantly grab a screenshot along with a URL, giving you a complete ‘for checking later’ tool right in the browser.
It’s similar to what Microsoft looks to be delivering with its Spartan browser for Windows 10, which will also include the ability to draw on the pages with touchscreen devices, but Vivaldi has beaten it to the punch.
Vivaldi – Extensions
Like most modern browsers Vivaldi will support extensions, but they’re not yet implemented. Also, there’s a clear focus on Vivaldi trying to create a browser that does most of the really useful things on its own, saving the user having to try and find extensions to do them. It also feels this helps keep the browser more secure.
We confess to having been a bit sceptical of the need for yet another browser, but so far Vivaldi has us convinced. For power users that like lots of useful tools at their fingertips, and that don’t want the hassle of having to download and install a load of extensions, it really does deliver. It’s also fast and looks good. Definitely one to keep an eye on.