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Vivaldi 1.0 Release: Your New Default Browser?

By Craig Buckler

It’s not every day a new browser is released. The market has not seen a new entrant for some time but Vivaldi v1.0 is now available to download and install on Windows, Mac and Linux.

Do We Need a New Browser?

Vivaldi logo

Browsers have been gradually converging since Chrome appeared in 2008. Vendors strive for simplicity with minimal interfaces and easy user experiences. There’s nothing wrong with that approach, but the applications have become interchangeable. Few users would notice if you swapped Chrome for Edge or Opera for Firefox—the launch icon is the primary difference.

A few years ago, technical users could rely on Opera or Firefox plus extensions for a highly customizable browsing experience. In 2013, Opera abandoned its own Presto engine, adopted Blink and simplified the UI. Mozilla continues to remove less popular features—a recent casualty was tab groups. A gap in the market has opened for those who want more power.

Vivaldi was created by a team of ex-Opera developers led by Jón S. von Tetzchner. (Read my interview with Jón about Vivaldi 1.0.) The philosophy: to create “A Browser for our Friends”—something they wanted to use. The result is a browser which sets itself apart from the competition.

We’ve previewed Vivaldi once or twice before but here’s what to expect if you’ve been waiting for version 1.0 …

Technology

Like Chrome and Opera, Vivaldi is based on the Blink rendering engine. It’s a dependable choice that offers good web standards support, extensions and developer tools. Unusually, Vivaldi’s interface is also implemented using HTML5 technologies, which allows rapid cross-platform development, great customization and some interesting future options.

Setup

Installation is fast, and presents an initial welcome screen to configure your color scheme, tab bar position and Speed Dial background:

Vivaldi setup

Like Edge, a dark theme is provided—I hope other vendors will follow eventually. That said, Blink sometimes sneaks into view, such as on the History panel which is always black on white regardless of what color scheme you choose.

You’re not prompted to import bookmarks or passwords, but the Bookmarks tab on the Speed Dial screen provides the option.

The Settings dialog (which can also open as a tab) offers a bewildering array of options:

Vivaldi options

Settings are logically arranged, well named and mostly obvious. I didn’t feel overwhelmed like I did in older editions of Opera.

You can show the full URL including the query string. Opera and Safari take note—web developers usually need to see it!

Interface

It’s subjective, but Vivaldi is the most attractive browser available—not that there’s much competition! The interface is clean and configurable; tabs and panels can be moved wherever you desire.

The active tab and address bar background use the dominant color of the current web page. It sounds gimmicky—a little like the Ambilight backlight offered on some Philips televisions—but it works remarkably well.

Power users can access the Quick Command bar with F2. It offers a command-search-and-launch system similar to those found in Sublime Text and Atom. Combined with the configurable keyboard shortcuts, you may never need to use a mouse again:

Vivaldi Quick Commands

If you’re happy to use the keyboard or mouse gestures alone, the whole user interface can be disabled to provide a distraction-free experience.

Tab Management

Tab handling is excellent. Tabs can be:

  • previewed on cursor hover
  • shown as thumbnails by dragging the tab bar separator
  • pinned to the tab bar
  • rearranged by dragging
  • stacked and combined by dragging one tab on top of another

A group of stacked tabs (or multiple tabs selected with Ctrl + click) can be tiled into a single view using the status bar icon:

Vivald page tiling

The only issue I encountered is that fine mouse control is required to stack tabs. Unstacking is less elegantly handled using a right-click menu rather than more obvious dragging.

Session Management

By default, Vivaldi opens your previous browsing session tabs. Tabs can be set to load on activation, which makes startup faster (Firefox has had that for a while, Opera has just received it, but Chrome and Edge continue to load everything).

Your active tabs can be saved as a session (File > Save Open Tabs as Session) then reloaded later (File > Open Saved Session). It’s a useful feature which offers many of the benefits of tab grouping without keeping tabs active. The interface could be improved, and I’m not sure why tabs are restored in reverse order to how you had them positioned?

Panels

The side panel is one of the core features Opera users loved. Version 1.0 provides panels for bookmark management, downloads and notes. Notes can be stored about a web page by highlighting text and choosing Add Selection as New Note from the right-click menu.

Vivaldi notes

Notes aren’t as sophisticated as those found in Edge, but they are handy and easy to use.

Additional panel options will appear in later releases. Your own panels can be added by navigating to a web page and clicking the + icon in the bar:

Vivaldi panes

This works well for sites and tools such as Twitter, which provide a narrow responsive view. Other systems may be less effective.

Vivaldi retains separate search and address fields, although it’s possible to search from the address too. Additional engines can be added by right-clicking a search box on any web page and selecting Add as a search engine:

Vivaldi search

Miscellaneous Features

Other highlights from Vivaldi’s numerous set of features include:

  • The page weight and number of assets is displayed in the address bar as a page loads. You can finally shame obese websites, although the figures disappear once loading completes (an option to retain them would be useful).
  • The Fast Forward and Rewind buttons allow you to quickly navigate through the history or search results.
  • The Status Bar provides a zoom slider, image toggle and page actions to apply useful (and less useful) effects to the active content.
  • Use any folder as your bookmark bar.
  • Mouse gesture support.

Despite the number of features offered, Vivaldi is fast. The application launches slightly quicker than Opera and significantly faster than Chrome or Firefox on Windows. Only Edge has … a slight edge on startup speed.

Web page rendering is almost identical to the other Blink-based browsers. However, Vivaldi appears to use fewer processes and a little less memory than Chrome or Opera.

Stability has improved and I’m yet to experience any issues.

Your New Default Browser?

Vivaldi 1.0 smooths the rough edges found in previous betas. It looks great and feels complete, cohesive and stable.

A few features are promised but not yet available:

  • synchronization of bookmarks, passwords, notes, tabs and settings
  • reading view and turbo mode-like features
  • additional side panel options.

Several user groups will be immediately attracted to Vivaldi:

  • web developers
  • power users frustrated by the lack of options in other browsers
  • those hanging on to Opera 12 and below (0.32% of the market)
  • anyone concerned by Chrome’s increasing bloat and privacy issues.

Vivaldi may not have the commercial clout to attract mainstream appeal, but it’s a refreshing change in a listless browser market. The company promises to listen to users; features will be added on demand, and they won’t remove those used by a minority.

Try Vivaldi—you’ll like it.

You might also enjoy my interview with Vivaldi CEO Jón S. von Tetzchner.

  • Bruno Seixas

    Its always a good thing when good alternatives are available. Thanks for the tip.

  • David Moran

    Would be nice to see what kind of dev tools the browser offered. The main site and the forums dont give a very promising tone

    • Lewis

      Hi David, I’ve been using Vivaldi for about half a year. It has several useful developer tools.

      These are the tabs: Elements, Console, Sources, Network, Timeline, Profiles, Resources, Security, Audits.

      Elements displays source code formatted for readability, with each element collapsed for easier reading too. The computation of each element’s styling is outlined in a CSS section on the right. The page context menu has an Inspect option which takes you straight to the code for that part of the page.

      The Network tab has proved very useful in getting to the bottom of slow loading pages.

      I haven’t made much use of the other tabs up to now.

      As I have the HTTPS Everywhere extension installed my Developer Tools also has a HTTPS Everywhere tab, it has a Switch Planner tool which analyses whether embedded elements are being served over HTTPS.

      I hope this gives you a better idea of what to expect.

      • David Moran

        Yeah that’s definitely some better insight. I’ll give this a shot on my personal comp and see how it works. Thanks for the info!

      • Paper9oll

        But is there a way to dock the Developer Tools?

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    • Craig Buckler

      Vivaldi provides the same development tools you get in Chrome and Opera. File > Tools > Developer Tools or Ctrl + Shift + I.

  • Paper9oll

    well not at the moment as new tab customization still not yet available (currently in their dev pipeline according to vivaldi forum guys)

  • Jacob Alvarez

    I’ve been using Vivaldi for a couple of weeks and am quite enjoying it. I especially like the panels, although, as you mention, some sites don’t play nicely with them (I’m looking at you company intranet…) and sometimes they act funky if you have multiple windows open.

    I still primarily use Chrome, because there are little things here and there that frustrate me with Vivaldi (eg. sometimes Vivaldi doesn’t signal that it’s trying to load a page until it actually gets a response and starts loading resources, which can be frustrating when developing in slower environments). But I’m sure they’ll iron those out eventually.

    It’s exciting and refreshing to have something new, cleaner, faster, prettier, and less invasive.

  • Dev Parker

    Which javacript interpreter is shipped? In the interest of converging dom models, what is elements supported?

    • Craig Buckler

      V8 – Vivaldi uses the same engines as Chromium. Only the UI and browser features are different.

  • JP

    Extensions are way too buggy (the ones I have anyway). Otherwise I’d use it. Love the gestures.

  • Brian W. Reaves

    Too bad it’s built on Chromium as it still comes with pepperflash (Flash) by default, and thus security & privacy issues.

  • http://herbied.edublogs.org Herbert H Dupree II

    I’m on 1.1 release and I like it. There are still issues to be resolved, as mentioned below, extensions are still buggy and not implemented properly; RSS goes to an XML source file and not the reader; default zoom does not hold between browser restarts and does not make use of the default zoom in settings->webpages. I’m sure that will be addressed prior to 2.0 release. I currently don’t have a VM established to play with the nightlies of all of the browsers due to licensing issues with Windows VMs in Hyper-V, but looking forward to the evolution of the browser.

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