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.

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