Vivaldi is the best web browser you’ve never used

There’s no shortage of web browsers tempting those who want a new browsing experience. Google’s Chrome browser leads the pack, followed by Mozilla Firefox, Apple Safari, Microsoft Edge, Opera, and many, many more.

Chances are you’ve heard of these, and maybe tried them all. Now, though, there’s a new browser on the scene, trying to push through the crowd to get into the cool group. It’s called Vivaldi, and its roots stem from Opera, the plucky underdog of the web browsing world which, if you ask many long-time users, went off the rails. The Vivaldi web browser was born to calm those disgruntled Opera natives. It accomplishes much more than that.

What exactly is a Vivaldi?

The Opera browser was once based on Presto, a proprietary browser and layout engine developed by Opera Software. In February of 2013, however, the company decided to jump on the Chromium bandwagon and completely re-write its browser from scratch to use an engine called “Blink,” introduced to the Chromium project in April of 2013.

Released as Opera 15 in May of 2013, the overhaul angered many users given a number of distinct features were dropped. By then, Opera Software co-founder and former CEO Jon Stephenson von Tetzchner had already left the company, and moved on to form Vivaldi Technologies at the end of 2013. He set out to pick up where Opera 14 ended, providing features power users want in an entirely new browser.

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Drawing inspiration from Italian Baroque composer and virtuoso violinist Antonio Lucio Vivaldi, Tetzchner and his team created Vivaldi on the open-source Chromium browser engine, which powers Google Chrome, Chrome OS, Opera, and similar browsers outside the Mozilla and Microsoft fold.

That means it uses the Blink layout engine to “compose” web pages in the browser window, just like the latest release of Opera. Unlike Opera, though, Vivaldi was built to support a broad range of features that today’s streamlined, purpose-built browsers have ditched.

Power users need apply

Google Chrome is often preferred by people who consider themselves power users, yet most of what makes it powerful isn’t part of the browser. There’s no default option to make the interface your own, save for installing themes that can be downloaded through the Chrome Store. There’s no way to natively take in-browser notes. It has no native mouse gesture-based commands. There’s no native Reader View – and so on. Power users instead gain features through extensions, which do the job, but can slow and clutter the browser as they’re piled on, as well as pose a security risk.

Vivaldi offers these features without using extensions by default. It aims to make the most out of your internet use by providing tools to make the experience easier, more manageable, and intelligent. That comes with a price — a slight reduction in size of the main browser window. You might consider that an acceptable trade, though, if you’re interested in using the web to do more than order a pair of socks from Amazon.

Vivaldi aims to make the most out of your internet use by providing tools to make the experience easier, more manageable, and intelligent.

Vivaldi’s default layout includes a slim Panel residing to the left providing four specific tools — Bookmarks, Downloads, Notes, and History – that you can hide if not used. Along the bottom is the thin Status Bar for taking screenshots, tiling/stacking pages, managing images, and adjusting the zoom. In the top-left corner, a slick Vivaldi logo hides all the menus, such as File, View, and Tools. These options, which tend to be obscured into menus in other browsers, take up space here.

That said, Vivaldi is visually clean despite its visible Panel and Status Bar. That’s where the Vivaldi name really takes off, as you become the composer of the interface. Many elements can be re-arranged in the “Settings” window, such as positioning all tabs in a vertical tower, and moving the address bar to the bottom.

Your composition doesn’t stop there. With Vivaldi, you can “compose” your own themes. This includes changing the colors of the background, foreground, highlights, and accents. You can also toggle on the “adaptive” theme, which will change the browser’s colors to match the current website. In a sense, Vivaldi can become your own visual masterpiece.

The Settings panel reveals its real depth

Outside the visual composition, Vivaldi’s “Settings” window digs deep into the power user’s toolbox. You’ll find a tool for customizing keyboard shortcuts spanning handy Window, View, Tab, and Page commands. You’ll also find a tool to compose mouse gestures that you define based on set commands. For instance, you can assign a specific motion to open a new tab, reload a page, or rewind the history. By default, gestures will only execute if you are pressing the right mouse button during the process. Using the ALT key as an alternative is ideal when using a laptop’s trackpad.

Vivaldi’s heavy “power user” aspect isn’t just locked to the “Settings” window. Hit the F2 key, and you can type anything into the Quick Command text field to perform a search using the browser’s default search engine. This window also provides a long list of commands that can be executed in the text field, such as accessing the browser’s built-in Task Manager, importing bookmarks from another installed browser, and more.

Another notable power user feature resides in the History section of the browser’s Start Page. Not only will you see all the places you’ve visited via links, but three graphs showing your browsing habits. They display your page views, page transition percentages, and a list of the top domains visited in an easily-read fashion.

It’s ideal for students, office workers, and designers

One of Vivaldi’s most unique extras is the Notes feature, found on the Panel. Vivaldi lets you type notes within a small window embedded in the expanded Panel while you browse the internet. These notes can include attached files stored locally on your PC, full screenshots, links, and a specific capture of a selected area.

Another nifty, time-saving tool is Vivaldi’s Web Panel feature. Web Panels aren’t exactly bookmarks, but are instead meant for websites that serve as tools, such as Wikipedia, online dictionaries, RSS feeds, and whatnot. Web Panels open within the Panel, and do not include address bars.

Finally, we must point out Vivaldi’s nifty tab stacking and tiling features. We crammed seven tabs into our stack, and accessed each one by hovering the cursor over the stack’s main tab, which rendered a thumbnail view of all stacked windows. This is good for grouping multiple pages together under a single tab, rather than having eight or more tabs strung along the top.

Meanwhile, the tiling feature essentially stuffs up to four websites into a single window. The Page Tiling button resides on the Status Bar, which provides options to Tile Vertically, Tile Horizontally, or Tile to Grid. In this case, you can just view up to four pages simultaneously rather than switch between tabs, or dig out a tab in a stack.

You should give Vivaldi a try

We could go on about the Vivaldi browser, but we’ve outlined the basics. Vivaldi is a web surfer’s complete toolbox, packed with gadgets you probably didn’t even know you needed. It’s a browser that you can move into, and make your own.

Give Vivaldi a shot. It’s completely free, so the only expense is the time you spend giving it a test drive.

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