Vivaldi Browser – A Better Beta

I have heard some good things about a new browser in beta, called Vivaldi Browser, so I figured I would try it out for myself to see how good it really was. If you’re here for the screenshots, they have more at https://vivaldi.com/press/.

First Impressions

Upon installing and launching it, I immediately noticed that its UI is made to match with Windows 8 or 10. The product’s icon is in the top left and has a padding that sets it away from the tabs across the top, and appears clunky (clicking on it revealed why it was so, though. It’s a menu). Tabs are dynamically sized. A trashcan is on the right at the end of the tabs, and only clicks after having closed pages. Think about it like a tab recoverer. The navigation icons in the top left took up too much space with respect to the rest of the browser – they have forward and back, rewind and fast-forward, and then reload and home icons. These icons were not all the same size. Colors from tabs, dynamically generated by the page, became the background color for the navigation panel. The address bar and the search bar are separated. Navigating to a page has a nifty feature I liked – the address bar became a progress bar, and the size and the number of things being downloaded were shown as the page was loading. These would be hidden when the page fully loaded. A bottom bar contains (from right to left) zoom control in the form of a slider and its corresponding “reset” button, a page actions button, image control, a rectangle, which I assume is for making the page full-screen, but doesn’t seem to click, and a toggle for hiding/showing the left panel. That left panel includes, from top to bottom, icons for bookmarks, downloads, notes, addition of web panels, and settings.

Tabs and Stacks

I discovered tab stacking by accident (it WAS written on their site, though)- dragging and dropping a tab on top of another tab groups them, and the number of tabs in a stack is represented by that number of rectangles above the tab. They didn’t seem to come OUT of the stack by dragging them out, however, so the only way to unstack is with a right click on the stack. This isn’t readily apparent to users, though – I’d recommend changing it. All tabs in a stack can be displayed at the same time with their “tile tab stack to…” and is reversible with “untile tab stack.” Tab color still updates based on which tab has focus. Scroll works on where the cursor is over, NOT which tab has focus, a change from how Window 7 does it.

Tab-Stack-Grid

The active tab in a stack is indicated by a blue border.

Tabs, while rearrangeable, would not move past their “new tab” icon. It seems you cannot drag a tab or a tab stack to the trash. Hovering over an inactive tab shows a screenshot of the page. The screenshot does not update in real time and instead is there to give you an idea of what is on the page.

Sometimes, the color picker is strange. Google is a salmony-orange, for instance.

Chrome Integration

Going to chrome://{anything} automatically redirects to vivaldi://{anything}. vivaldi://flags’s tab title is still chrome://flags, though. Installing a theme from the Chrome Web Store does nothing. In vivaldi://settings, nothing appears save for the name “Vivaldi” in the top left. vivaldi://extensions and //plugins work as expected.

Settings

Vivaldi’s settings have animated checkboxes. This was more eye-candy than I expected honestly, and was a pretty nice touch. It also opens in a new window, as compared to Chrome and Firefox’s new tab approach (this can be changed to match, actually). Settings immediately setting it apart from other browsers include its appearance, tabs, and panel controls. The settings mainly control how your information is stored, how you interact with the browser, and what is seen or hidden.

Changing the User Interface

My favorite settings are the ones that allow you to change the UI. Vivaldi does not let me down here – I have near total control over what is displayed, and keyboard shortcuts to control when/how they are. F2 is a nifty feature too – a command palette is hidden under this keystroke, giving you one-click access to more obscure settings and options. Toggling the address and tab bars, for instance, makes an almost minimal browser.

Settings-Minimal

Orange is a great color for Google.

Need to go almost-total-minimal? Ctrl+F11 has your back.

CTRL-F11

Fast-Forward and Rewind Buttons

These buttons are differently sized compared to the rest of the icons nearby. They are toggleable in the settings. The fast-forward button is available on pages where there is more content on another page – think Google’s search results or the next page in your favorite blog. Fast-forward goes to the next page (more results), and rewind goes back to the “root” (in this analogy, http://www.google.com).

Web Panels

Built in are three web panels – bookmarks, downloads, and notes. Adding a URL makes more. These are available everywhere at all times – think of them as a tab that always stays on top. The Vivaldi team mentions using them for chatting with people while working, etc. This is a feature that has the potential to be extremely useful – while working with a team on a project, for instance, talk about and make changes in real time all without having to change tabs in a single browser. Probably the best tool for lazy people in this whole browser.

Email

Vivaldi devs boast they will have an email client built directly into their browser. The panel for it has already been built, but there is no email capability yet.

Overall Impression

I’m liking the way this is turning out so far. Its command palette, tab-grid view-mode, ample keyboard shortcuts and mouse gestures, and simple interface make it a favorite for both ordinary users and power users. The email client might be unnecessary but could have its uses. The web panels are definitely a feature that will draw attention. A fork of the Chromium project, it can accept extensions already available on the Chrome Web Store, making transitions from Chrome easier. All in all, this is a browser with potential, and it’ll be interesting to see how well it does once it tries to make its way into mainstream markets.

Solus OS: A Clutter Free Experience

Solus is a relatively new Linux distro that I’ve discovered recently. It features its own desktop, Budgie, instead of the mainstream options such as GNOME, KDE, etc. I’ve used Budgie before when in Arch, and then again when in Apricity, but this time I’m using it in the operating system it’s designed for. Budgie integrates with the GNOME stack, so all the basic and GNOME Tweak options are available, as well as a host of other things creative clever people can probably pull off with the stack. Solus does not leave the average user behind with all this tech talk (though, if you are installing Solus on your own, you’re probably no longer the average user) too – it presents a simple, uncluttered desktop sure to delight even the most minimalist people.

Solus Homepage

Nice wallpaper.

Solus Download

Love some nice gradients

Solus comes in two flavors at the time of writing – a release candidate and a daily version. Dailies are released when changes added are somewhat stable in their repositories. The release candidate, however, uses stable repositories – they may still be slightly buggy, but far less so than the daily version could be.
When you’ve booted into their live system, you can preview Solus and then install it if you so choose. You begin on a standard lock screen à la GNOME, and the live user has no password.

Lock 1

à la GNOME

Lock 2

Wow desktop options

Logging back in with the live preview is interesting. You have to use the enter key instead of clicking “sign in,” because the button is disabled WITHOUT a password (a password is required), but there is no password assigned to this profile. Note that these screenshots are not from the lock screen first presented upon startup, but screenshots from the logoff button.

Budgie begins looking a lot like GNOME. You can customize it with the Budgie options available in the Windows-pre-8-esque application menu. Solus comes with its own options to customize the global theme of the windows as well as the small taskbar at the bottom, instead of leaving these options up to GNOME. The standard interface for options in GNOME is present, as well as some lightweight applications for general use.

App Menu (Stock)

The App Menu, with no settings changed

Budgie Options (Stock)

The original settings

Budgie Theme (Edit)

My settings

So how much can I customize the panel, you ask?

Budgie Panel Stock

Change panel settings here – this is how it looks with all options on (default)

Shadowless GNOME

Removing the shadow only

GNOMEless Budgie

Removing the theme only (so the color, really)

GNOME+Shadow Removed

Removing both shadow and theme

I can’t seem to get the right side fully transparent, as seen in the following image:

Applet Edit

Right below the mouse is the tiny dark rounded rectangle

GNOME Tweak Tools come pre-installed:

GNOME Tweak Font Stock

Default fonts

Apply Global Dark Theme GNOME

Another dark theme option, interesting. This one sets window colors everywhere, though

Which should change the user interface globally.

Installing Solus is a quick process – at the time of writing, they have all the setting up to be done when inside the installation, instead of setting these options pre-installation.

Install 1

The installer gives you two options: install to hard drive or use the preview, which basically cancels the install.

Install 2

Pick a drive, any drive

Install 3

Now pick a partition (and set it to root)

Install 3_1

If you want to change partitions, you can do so via the GUI instead of using the terminal

Install 4

Name the device for a network, optionally install a bootloader (GRUB 2.00)

Install 5

Installing…

Install 6

It’s actually pretty quick. Nice.

Installation to the Virtualbox drive was pretty quick – a couple of minutes and it finished. An “installation finished” screen appears when it’s done, and gives you the option to reboot into your new installation, where you finish setting up your preferences.

Once you’ve rebooted into your installation, you’re greeted with the language select.

Welcome 1 Welcome 2

“Welcome” in different languages cycles at the top of the page. While expected in today’s world, it’s still a nice touch.

Post-Install Keyboard

Pick a keyboard layout that matches your board.

Post-Install Keyboard Selects

The “Preview” option brings me here

Pressing a key on your board highlights the corresponding key on the image. This works well for keys with darker backgrounds in the image, but not as well with the lighter background ones. The highlight on these keys is only applied to the letter itself and is quite subtle – perhaps to the point of missing it. A recommended change would be perhaps changing the background of these keys as well, or picking a single third color that all keys’ backgrounds would change to when selected.

Post-Install Privacy Location

Location Service/Privacy Check

They’ll pick your time zone based on this, giving you the option to change it if it’s incorrect:

Post-Install Timezone Edit

Edited out location

It’s now all about setting up more personal things

Post-Install Accounts

Add your accounts, with an option to skip

Post-Install Info

All about YOU!

Post-Install Info Filled

No custom profile picture option? Boo.

They’re pretty picky about passwords, which is the next step.

Once you’ve finished setting up, they’ll give you a nice picture and say you’re done:

Post-Install Finished

I photoshopped this into the featured image because it looked nice. Credits to whoever authored this…

Then sign in again, this time with your new username and password. At this point, you’ve finished setting up Solus itself. The application menu doesn’t seem to fit with the rest of the OS – the default icons do not have the same aesthetic as the OS. Icons, themes, and cursors are, of course, customizable – place files in the folder GNOME Tweak Tools looks for them, and then select them from GNOME Tweak Tools. A GUI for package management is provided, helping users not as comfortable with the command line.

Right-clicking on the panel, then editing the applets causes the window to close, and then the panel to disappear and reappear quickly. Note that I am running the daily version, so bugs are to be expected.

Post-Install Budgie Settings

That one large applet icon. Interesting.

Notice that the applet icon is larger than all the other ones.

Post-Install-Edit Desktop

What time is it?

The default wallpaper also hides the clock should you remove it from the status area, and that tiny rounded rectangle is still there. Frustrating.

All things considered, this is a pretty good start. It’s clean, it’s customizable, it’s simple and familiar but also has its own sense of individuality. I’d definitely recommend trying it out over the weekend on a virtual machine and getting to experience a different distro. As far as using it as a daily driver, however, if you require stability in all things, you may want to just wait for the release of a stable version for the guarantee.

KLWP: A Simple Pimple

There are two versions of this wallpaper – RC1 and RC2. RC1 uses Roboto and RC2 uses Moon, the same font in the space wallpaper post last month. Required for this wallpaper to work properly (you may experience less options or breaking should you not have these installed):

And the actual download itself: RC1 or RC2.


 

Interested in the Zooper alternative for RC1? (Tasker and Kolorette are still required)

Interested in the Zooper alternative for RC2?

You will need the color control component for both versions, however:

Should you need the font files, grab them here.


 

Comparing RC1 and RC2 – playing music:

Comparing RC1 and RC2 – music paused (default state):

Miscellaneous RC1 shots:

Miscellaneous RC2 shots:

Tangram Browser: Efficient Research Via Beautiful Browser

When I first saw Tangram browser in the Play Store claiming it could “complete complex information tasks that usually take hours in minutes,” I was a bit cautious – sometimes, claims are overblown. I took a look at the screenshots, and it certainly wasn’t anything like a usual browser. This one actually looked good. I gave it a shot.

Upon opening, I was presented the option to enter my email for updates, or to skip it. Then there was a quick tutorial summarizing Tangram’s features, and the purpose between each of the three “parts.” The FAB in the bottom right is similar to the omnibar of Chrome or Firefox.

Screenshot_2015-10-11-11-18-15 Screenshot_2015-10-11-11-18-43 Screenshot_2015-10-11-11-19-00

Tangram’s real power comes from when searching for something. I used “design freebies” for this, because I’m a broke aspiring designer.

Screenshot_2015-10-11-11-22-55

Which leads to this:

Screenshot_2015-10-11-11-24-51

That’s neat. Let’s take a look at the second one.

Screenshot_2015-10-11-11-27-25

That font looks interesting. Here’s where things get a bit interesting, actually. You can click and hold on the image to “save image,” which will, when you return to the list by swiping from left to right, keep a little thumbnail of that saved image.

Screenshot_2015-10-11-11-31-43

Notice the background of the list entry I was just on has changed to a darker shade, that the title has changed to reflect the title of the current page, and that the thumbnail at the bottom of this specific entry is the image that I saved. Cool stuff. If I go back into that page and look at the related items portion, I’ve found another interesting font. Open it in a new tab via hold.

Screenshot_2015-10-11-11-37-21

Opening the page in a new tab has caused both tabs to be grouped together away from the search results, and that the heading of the group is the name of the site it’s from. That’s neat. You’ll also notice that I’ve saved a couple more thumbnails from the first page as well. Let’s find some more free stuff, and stack the two we have now.

Screenshot_2015-10-11-11-48-39

You’ll note the 2 in the bubble above the stack icon, representing how many items are in the stack tab, and that we have three different items grouped in the web tab. Let’s stack these three as well.

Screenshot_2015-10-11-11-50-54

You’ll notice that these are date and location stamped (currently hidden), and that there is no grouping by website here. You’ll also see those images we had saved earlier are still here, giving us a quick glimpse at why we saved the page. Let’s make two new folders in the bookmarks panel, one for fonts and the other for images.

Screenshot_2015-10-11-12-01-05

This is a gorgeous, no frills app. Love it. Let’s bookmark those stacked pages so we can have them for later.

Screenshot_2015-10-11-12-03-36

Sort them into folders by holding on similar items. Place them into folders with the two-way arrow icon.

Screenshot_2015-10-11-12-05-29 Screenshot_2015-10-11-12-06-09 Screenshot_2015-10-11-12-07-17

You may also highlight areas and take a snapshot, which will appear as a thumbnail under the entry similar to saved images.

Backing out of Tangram will ask you if you’d like to quit. I’m not a big fan of such prompts – of course I meant to quit, that’s why I tapped it – so I’m hoping an update will make this an option. Speaking of, there is a hamburger menu on the left:

Screenshot_2015-10-11-12-20-58

But tutorial throws a 404 error and there’s nothing under browser settings. Check for update simply sends you to the Play Store page, and set as default…sets Tangram as the default browser. A later update will most likely patch these.

Reasons I’d recommend:

  • Fonts/colors/UI is good
  • Easy for most people to pick up and use – fairly intuitive use
  • The point behind it – getting stuff researched and organizing that information – is beautifully executed

They could fix:

  • That hamburger menu…
  • Archive button under stack in webview? Why?
  • When in a folder in bookmarks, the back button should go one level up each time until it gets to the root folder to ask if you want to quit. The current implementation is ask to quit on back button wherever in application, excluding webview.

It doesn’t come with advertisement blocking nor content parsing, which would probably turn off some people. Otherwise, it’s a fabulously clean browser that does more than the others on the market. I highly recommend taking a look and finding out for yourself all that it can do.

Pocket Git – Mobile, Material Version Control

When I first saw Pocket Git on the Play Store, oh, a couple of months ago, I was enthralled. All the other clients of the time – and even now, still – are Holo themed or has traces of *gasps* Gingerbread. This is the time of MATERIAL, of pushing boundaries of design, of bringing paper to a higher standard. Now is the time of meaningful, beautiful animations on familiar things. Holo (and God forbid, Gingerbread) is a thing of the past, and new products should take on all the progress that makes “modern.” Pocket Git is just that – modern. It’s beautiful. It’s quick. It’s new and shiny. Pocket Git, I think, is something that brings us to another level.

Pocket Git, on the surface, is similar to any other git client on the store now. It has all the same functions. What makes it better, then, is how these functions are PRESENTED – function must meet form. It has colors that automatically make sense, and intuitive iconography. My only wish is that it could send pull-requests when it comes to Github projects.

After purchasing and installing the app, set up your account username and email. I recommend using the same ones used when you signed up with your host (Github, Bitbucket, etc). I had used Github, so processes might differ. Open a project in your browser, and then share the page to Pocket Git. This automatically fills necessary values – git paths, etc. Select a place to store the files (I recommend using something like /Git/{projectname}, as this will place all your projects in one place).

You have the option to authenticate yourself, via HTTPS or SSH, or not at all. If you have 2 factor authentication enabled, you’ll need to select SSH. Otherwise, pushing commits will fail. If you have 2 factor authentication, create a new key pair for your device (or use an existing key, but I’m not sure if there are any security issues with this). Github has a nice tutorial here about SSH keys and passphrases, if you’re unsure about this process. Follow it word for word. Then, place the private key (the one without the file extension, the one with is the public key and not what you want) on your mobile device. In Pocket Git, hold the name of the project requiring authentication, select the pencil/edit icon, and enter the file path to the private key. Attempt pushing and pulling to test it out.

Pocket Git has a nice manual that explains its iconography and colors, which was something extremely useful to have. A blue circle with a dot inside means edits were made but staged, a half blue and half green circle represents changes were staged but file was edited again, and a red circle with an X inside is marked for deletion. When a file (or files) are staged, a pink FAB is available to commit those changes. Commit a change, and then push the changes by tapping the cloud and then “Push.” Pull the most recent changes with the same steps – cloud icon > “Pull.”

Add a file/folder, view stashed files, project history, your information, and the manual form the three stacked dot overflow menu. The project history page is one of the most polished parts of this app. The information provided is done in an extremely visually pleasing way. The tree down the left side is a graphical representation of every pushed commit made, and also includes forks and merges. The execution of this portion is stunning – each branch has its own distinctive color, making following branches an easy task. Each point on a branch is associated with a pushed commit, and the author, time, SHA checksum, and comment of said push are detailed to the side of the tree. Selecting a push displays more details – more information is shown, and you are given the option of checking out the project at this point. The more detail page, however, is not as visually stunning as the rest of the app. You may also view differences between files directly in the app, without needing to view the changes in another application.

All in all, this is a visually stunning, polished, well-featured application for its price. Developers using git systems will find this to be a wonderful tool for their workflow. Beginners will find it to be a nice way to get their feet wet. Designers will find it to be a pretty piece of work. Whoever you are, if you use version control for your projects (and you really should), Pocket Git is probably the app for you.

STANDARD DISCLAIMER: A happy customer’s review. No payment for praise. This is a good app. Highly recommend.

Apricity OS: Arch Linux for Mom

Apricity OS is a beautiful distro. It’s a fork of Arch Linux, but unlike Arch Linux, comes with a plethora of programs. If you want a system that you can hit the ground running with (and probably give to the less technologically inclined), and you value aesthetically pleasing interfaces, then Apricity is for you (or Mom).

Apricity’s overall design is pleasing to the eye. The color scheme is really nice – the darks are dark enough to be darks (but not overly dark), and the lights are…appropriately light. The icons and UI are bundled with the distro itself, and the wallpapers come from various other distros as well. Apricity comes with several fonts to choose from, and Tweak-Tools enables changing entire themes across the system. There’s no end to customization options.

An odd quirk I’ve noticed is that in the mouse options, the colors of the slider of the double-click-speed option seems to be going the other way than tradition states. The images below make sense of this.

Apricity Sliders 1

Odd sliders here….

Yup. Cheese.

More odd sliders!

Notice how on the top, the volume starts from 0 (the left), and the color/active part of the slider expands to the right. However, the image on the bottom (the mouse settings in question) seem to be going the other way – originating from the right.

It comes with a set of programs that mimic the functionality of other programs that would be found on the average Windows user’s device. Libreoffice is the office suite. Inkscape and GIMP are the image editors. A calculator, calendar, image viewer, and terminal are included. An interesting addition to Apricity not found in Arch is the option to view packages from various repos.

Apricity Package GUI

The GUI for package management. Interesting.

Their decision to use a completely filled green box to represent the installed state of a package is…interesting. A blue box would fit the scheme better. Want to install an item? DOUBLE click the empty box. Then commit changes. A list of changes appears for you to confirm, followed by an authentication prompt, and then the install screen.

Also of note would be the “caffeine” option in the notification bar – THIS is something I’ve always wanted in Windows, honestly. Toggle it on to disable screensaver/sleep modes when doing a task that does not keep the computer awake, and then toggle it off to re-enable screensavers/sleep modes. The lock screen is clean and simple, and the login screen is right underneath. User switching at this point results in black flashes, something that the ordinary end-user would most likely be confused/concerned about. The pause button in the quick options does not seem to offer a way out of a black screen. As with other GNOME desktops, dragging a window to the side of the screen will resize it to half the screen size on that side, dragging the window to the notification bar at the top will resize it to the screen, and multiple desktops are available to spread your work over.

Interested? The official site (and download) is here. According to their site, Apricity does not support 32 bit machines, so ensure your computer is up to the task before wiping. Installing Apricity on a clean drive? You’ll get GRUB with a custom-ish UI, with Apricity auto-launching after a couple of seconds. Boot times from cold starts (in a virtual machine) is around 20 seconds, including the several-second wait at GRUB. Shutdown offers you a sixty-second window to cancel, and only took me about four seconds to totally turn off.

Installing Apricity was about as difficult as walking in a park, and much more user-friendly than the standard command line of Arch. Questions were asked about time zones, keyboard layout, and other essentials, and then the installation of the OS itself was acceptably quick enough given its size.