The landscape for web browsers has changed a great deal in the past few years. The WebKit engine is only growing more popular, Firefox is changing at a much greater pace than it once did, and the once undisputed king, Internet Explorer, does not dominate user share as it once did.
In brief, there is a window of opportunity for another browser to bring something to the fold. Vivaldi is an ambitious newcomer, and we’re going to find out if it’s one worth watching.
Vivaldi’s default home page, like most modern browsers, is a Speed Dial page. Adding new entries is straightforward, being done through the large ‘+’ icon. While most browsers now integrate something similar, Vivaldi is one of few to integrate bookmarks and history.
The UI is also largely conventional: in the upper left there’s a menu button like in older Firefox builds though this can be changed for a traditional menu in the settings. On the far right, there’s a tab history button, allowing you to recall specific tabs.
Upon reaching a website, the UI shows off its trump card, automatically recoloring to match the dominant shades on the website. Facebook, in particular, works wonderfully with this, though the change can be disabled in the settings.
Vivaldi’s settings are exceptionally flexible with regards to the UI; keyboard shortcuts can be remapped from the moment of install, tab positions can be moved around, and so on.
Tab stacking, in particular, may leave you thinking of Opera – and it should. You may have already drawn comparison between their names, with Vivaldi having composed operas during his lifetime. Tab stacking works just as it did in Opera; simply move a tab over another to create a group.
Vivaldi’s existence is the result of Opera’s diversion from the Presto rendering engine. Many Opera features disappeared in the change-over; Vivaldi is meant to continue with the original intention of Opera’s evolution, so users of the older browser should feel right at home.
Those who have not used Opera will not be familiar with the panel on the left (though it can also be moved to the right). This panel incorporates numerous features, including a list of downloads, bookmarks, and eventually an email client. The panel also includes a note-taking section, meaning things can be jotted down. Research, in particular, could be made easier as a direct result of this.
Along the status bar at the bottom of the browser, there are a few other interesting features, as well as a scale for zooming in or out on a web page. One button can immediately disable the loading of images: a potential aid for users on slow internet connections.
The other button is of particular interest, including a variety of accessibility options. A list of checkboxes makes it possible to do various things, such as increasing the contrast of a given web page, forcing it to filter into black and white or grayscale, or forcing it to display monospace fonts.
If you’ve ever struggled with poorly designed or difficult to read websites, these options could massively benefit readability.
At present, the browser doesn’t really seem extensible although with Opera having embraced extensions before its total overhaul, this could be subject to change in the future.
Vivaldi doesn’t feel massively different from other browsers, at least in regards to overall usability. It’s comparable to Chrome and Safari, given that it uses the WebKit engine. As a result, performance is essentially on a par with the other main browsers, but it’s the little details that make Vivaldi seem so promising.
Vivaldi is still in development and won’t be totally perfect for some time, but even the current developmental builds have been stable in our testing. If you’ve ever expressed longing for the old Opera functionality, Vivaldi has soundly bested its competitors in bringing it back – and done so with support for Windows, Mac and Linux alike. If not, it still remains a well thought-out browser worthy of some attention.