Vivaldi Web Browser

Vivaldi Web Browser

 
  • PROS
    Highly configurable. Fast. Compliant with Web standards. Excellent tab implementation.
  • CONS
    Can get cluttered if you enable all of its tools. No Reading mode or Share button. No syncing or mobile versions.
  • BOTTOM LINE
    Vivaldi brings customizability and geekiness back to the Web browser. Despite being in its infancy, the program shows a lot of promise.
BYMICHAEL MUCHMOREThe Web browser world has been expanding lately. The biggest recent splash was made by Microsoft's Edge, which comes with its new Windows 10 operating system. And the browser dubbed Brave (still in beta) from Mozilla's ex-CEO has been making waves of its own, not always in a good way. Enter Vivaldi, the brainchild of Opera Software's founder and former CEO, Jon von Tetzchner. Vivaldi owes its existence to von Tetzchner's dissatisfaction with the available browsers, which are increasingly similar and stripped down. Vivaldi, by contrast, is intended to be the most customizable, feature-packed browser available. The software is still in its infancy, but after testing it, I came away with the impression that it's off a darned good start. It's very usable, and standard browser features and innovations alike are well implemented, in a clear, efficient, and intuitive way.
 
 
Setting Up
Vivaldi is available for Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux. The Windows version (which is what I tested) is a mere 38MB download that installs in seconds. You can choose from dozens of languages in the Advanced setup. The customization starts right from the time you first run the browser: A short wizard takes you through light and dark color schemes, tab-bar position (top, either side, or bottom), and start page backgrounds.
When you want to further customize the browser, the Settings dialog offers a wealth of options, and one welcome aspect of it is that any interface change you make immediately appears in the browser window. For example, you can click a button to display standard menu choices (File, Edit, and so on) across the top of the browser window, and the instant you click the button, the menu appears.
InterfaceVivaldi borrows some interface basics from Opera and Edge, with large, simple buttons, a menu that drops down from the browser's logo button at top left, and a collapsible toolbar, by default along the left rail. Not only do you get the standard back and forward buttons, but there are also fast-forward and rewind to take you to the beginning or end of a session on a particular site. Two things Vivaldi lacks that I find indispensable in browsing today's Web are a reading view and share buttons like you get in Edge and Firefox.
Vivaldi Tab Preview
Tabs. Vivaldi has one of the best implementations of tab customization, and most of its special tab functions can be turned off if you prefer. You can place tabs at the top, bottom, or either side of the browser window. Like Edge, Vivaldi shows site thumbnails when you hover the mouse cursor over a tab, and you can stack (or group) tabs by dragging one on top of another. One of the coolest capabilities is tab tiling, which lets you show sites side by side or in a grid within one browser window. It's surprising that other browsers don't offer this view, considering the prevalence of widescreen monitors.
You can also choose the behavior when opening a new tab: Should it appear at the end of the tab set, next to the currently active one, or next to tabs from the same site? You choose.
Vivaldi makes it easier to see which tab is active if you have a lot open, since the active one is the color of the site scheme while the rest are off-white (you can change that behavior to the opposite if you prefer). Like Edge and Firefox, Vivaldi even shows you which tabs are making noise, and a right click lets you mute them. You can even hibernate background tabs, if you want all inactive tabs to stop taking up bandwidth.
The Tab Sessions feature offers a way to save a set of tabs for later use. Most browsers let you do a similar thing with bookmark or favorites folders, but the Vivaldi feature is a bit more accessible, from the File/Save Open Tabs as Session option. You can name a session and then get back to it from the Open Saved Session command.
One tab function, however, available in the other major browsers, is missing in Vivaldi: You can't pull a tab out of the main browser window to create a new one. You can, however, drag them back and forth to reposition them.
Address Bar. Even this browser staple shows thought and extra functionality. I approve of the separate address and search bars, which are like those in Firefox. Entering a Web address is different from searching, and if you search on something that appears to the browser to be a URL, say it includes a period and some letters at the end, it hinders finding what you want. This also means you can choose among search engines with a dropdown. I suspect that the big platform's browsers combine the two so that everything you type is sent to their search engine. Another cool, techie feature of the address bar: When you load a page, it displays a progress bar with the size of data being download and number of items on the page to be downloaded.
Web Panel. A nifty interface feature is Web Panels, which lets you keep a site, usually a reference site like Wikipedia, pinned to a side panel. You access and add Web Panels from the left-side toolbar, which harks back to Opera and also offers buttons for bookmarks and downloads. In a neat trick, it uses the mobile version of a site, if one's available, so it won't look bad in the narrow panel.
Web Notes. The Notes feature lets you annotate a website, with the option to add a file or screenshot. Unlike Microsoft Edge's Annotation feature, though, Web Notes doesn't let you mark up and highlight the webpage or share to social networks, online storage, or email. But Vivaldi notes are saved and associated with the active page.
Panel and Speed Dial in Vivaldi
Bookmarks and Speed Dial.  Bookmarking is a strength of Vivaldi's, as well: You can access bookmarks from side-panel buttons, from the bookmark bar, or from the Opera-esque Speed Dial, which shows up on new tabs with helpful suggestions of sites to visit. Speed Dial is what you see by default when opening a new empty tab. You can move Speed Dial tiles around to taste, and when you add one, Vivaldi shows suggestions based on your browsing.
You can also create folders of tiles, but Vivadi's tiles don't offer live, app-style functionality like Opera's. But you're not locked into a particular search provider bar as you are in Opera; in fact, the Speed Dial page in Vivaldi doesn't offer a search bar, which really isn't a problem since you've got one at the top of the browser window at all times.
Mouse Gestures. Another tool inherited from Opera is Mouse Gestures, which let you do things like closing tabs or reloading pages by holding down the right mouse button and dragging in a pattern. The Setting page for this shows animations of the actions, and you can click the right and then the left mouse button to go back. All the standard browser keyboard shortcuts also work.
Extensions. Vivaldi offers all the extension capability of Google Chrome, and you actually get extensions for it from Chrome's extension gallery. I tried adding the LastPass extension (one I rely on). The extension appeared next to the search box and worked just as expected.
Performance and CompatibilitySince Vivaldi is built on top of Chromium, the code that powers Google's browser, it inherits much of Chrome's speed and compatibility. I had no trouble browsing to any type of content, including things like Facebook Live Video, Apple iCloud, WhatsApp Web, AsanaThe New York Times, and financial sites. Like Chrome, Vivaldi has built-in Flash and PDF viewing capabilities.
HTML5Test.com Results
As expected, Vivaldi scored 521 on HTML5Test.com—the same score as Chrome on the same system. The test endeavors to measure standards compatibility by testing that HTML5 features are recognized by the browser, but doesn't verify that the features arecorrectly implemented. The table to the right shows how the current crop of browsers fares.
Performance tests tell a similar story. I tested on the Surface Pro 3$789.00 at Amazonwith a Core i5-4300U CPU and 8GB RAM, clearing all browser's caches, quitting all other apps, and removing all extensions. I kept the tablet PC plugged in and ran each test five times, threw out the highest and lowest results and averaged the rest.
Browser Benchmarks
 
Performance is most easily and repeatably measured by JavaScript benchmarks, such as Google Octane and JetStream. As expected, Vivaldi mirrors the performance of Chrome and Opera pretty closely on the standard JavaScript benchmarks, since they're all build on the same rendering code. Microsoft's PenguinMark tests graphics hardware acceleration, and for some reason Vivaldi falls well short of Chrome on this one, though it still tops Firefox. The venerable Internet Explorer does well on this one, too, but is way behind in the other JavaScript tests.
JavaScript does run most of the client-side interactive functionality in websites these days, but keep in mind that browser performance involves more than just what shows up on these synthetic JavaScript benchmarks: Loading webpages has multiple components aside from JavaScript. HTML and CSS parsing, network interaction, prioritization of which content is loaded first, prefetching, handling mouse moves, DOM events, painting the window with content, and caching strategies all play roles. Unfortunately, Vivaldi inherits Opera's slower startup time, but most people can spare 4 seconds to get their browser of choice loaded.
Is Vivaldi a Classic?It's always good to see more choice and innovation in Web browsers, and Vivaldi certainly offers much to those who want to use a lot of tabs and fine-tune their Web browsing experience with exactitude. This version is just the start, and Vivaldi's creators promise a steady stream of new features, including syncing, mobile apps, and an email reader. We can't wait to see what new features will turn in in Vivaldi, but in the meantime, our Editors' Choice Web browser is the also-customizable, but more mature, Firefox.
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