Software

Vivaldi: A stellar web browser, but don't make it your default yet

Before making the switch to Vivaldi, read what an avid Chrome fan likes and doesn't like about this much-talked about web browser.

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Image: Jack Wallen

Is the "browser war" still a thing? With Chrome gobbling up a vast majority of market share (according to October 2016 research from W3Counter, Chrome is at 57.1% and the nearest competitor is Safari at 15.4%) it stands to reason why anyone would question a new browser being brought to market. That's exactly what I wondered about the Vivaldi browser.

Forked from the Opera browser, Vivaldi was initially released on April 6, 2016 and looked to bring back the Opera of old. I held off using Vivaldi simply because I couldn't imagine a browser seducing me away from Chrome. I use Google's browser on all of my Linux machines, my Chromebooks, and every Android device in my possession. Why? It works incredibly well and offers seamless transitions between devices.

And yet, there was something in me that demanded I install and try out Vivaldi, so over the last two weeks, that's what I've been doing. With few exceptions, Vivaldi has been my go-to browser on my primary workstation. Here's my take.

SEE: 'When in doubt, make it an option': How Vivaldi is trying to make the browser personal again (ZDNet)

My initial response

After the initial installation (the stable release is available for Linux, Windows, and Mac), I was amazed at the speed of page rendering. I was reminded of the first time I migrated from Firefox to Chrome and its superior page loading. But this time around, I was already accustomed to blinding fast loads, so the fact that Vivaldi impressed me with its adrenaline-rush renders was serious.

Based on that initial impression, I had a new default browser—such speed would play well in my aggressive and fierce workflow. This was a browser that could keep up with my brain and keep me on my toes.

I liked it. A lot.

And there were features...oh such features. A customizable start page (add your own category folders for Speed Dial), Quick Commands keeps your fingers on the keyboard, Notes, Web Panels, and more. It seemed that if I wanted a feature, it was there.

In fact, the Quick Commands feature alone made Vivaldi worth my time. Hit F2 and then type anything, such as bookmarks to gain access to the various bookmarks-related features and content (Figure A).

Figure A

Figure A

Using the Quick Commands in Vivaldi.

For anyone that prefers to keep their fingers attached to their keyboard, Quick Commands will go a very long way to make that happen.

Mid-term response

After the initial love-fest with Vivaldi, things settled down to become a bit more pedestrian. I found myself depending more upon the Speed Dial category folders (as opposed to the more standard bookmarks method) as well as Quick Commands (hitting [Ctrl]+[t], followed by F2 and typing a URL is so much more efficient than leaving the keyboard for the mouse).

At this point in my usage, I was still loving the browser. Even though there was no way to keep it in sync with my Chrome OS or Android devices, the browser's speed and efficiency could not be denied.

Late-term hiccups

Vivaldi does support extensions; in fact, you can install extensions from the Chrome Web Store directly from Vivaldi, but don't expect them to work properly. I attempted to install the two Chrome extensions I depend upon every day: Buffer and Google Keep. Buffer worked as expected, but Google Keep would install but could not authenticate against Google's two-step authentication. This bordered on being a deal breaker.

Although the Vivaldi developers claim the browser does work with Google extensions, this is a work in progress and, as of this writing, not all extensions function as expected. I'm certain the goal is to ensure all of these extensions will work on Vivaldi, but there's no way to be certain if this claim can be fully realized.

One other issue that came to light is known as Lazy Loading. Lazy Loading is simple: A tab does not actually load until you click it—this is especially obvious when you use pinned tabs. I work with five pinned tabs on my browsers:

  • Google Drive
  • Google Inbox
  • Google Calendar
  • Facebook
  • Twitter

As soon as I open my browser, bam!, the pinned tabs are there for me. However, with Vivaldi (and Lazy Loading), those pages do not load until I click one of those pinned tabs. Yes, that cuts down on CPU usage, but when you work at a very high speed, you want those tabs at the ready at all times. As of this writing, there is no way to disable Lazy Loading for the stable release; it is rumored that will be an option in the 1.5 release. Until that happens, those of you who pin tabs will have to deal with this "feature."

SEE: Vivaldi's email client, sync: How its browser team is working on key new features (ZDNet)

My conclusion

Outside of a some minor hiccups, Vivaldi is a stellar web browser. Its blazing speeds and ability to keep your fingers on the keyboard make it one of the most efficient browsers I've ever used.

In the end, Vivaldi does stand up to the competition. With regards to ease of use and efficiency, it's actually superior. But given that it doesn't offer a mobile version yet, it cannot sync with Chrome, and Lazy Loading cannot be disabled, Vivaldi still has a ways to go before it lands that coveted title of default browser.

Also see

About Jack Wallen

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen.com.

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