Vivaldi vs. Firefox: A user's perspective

What does Vivaldi need to usurp Firefox as the default browser for one particular user? Find out below.

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Image: Jack Wallen

Vivaldi has become one of my favorite browsers on the market. With a host of features (none of which seem to add up to bloatware), this browser has the right combination of bells and whistles to always keep me returning.

However, it has yet to win over the spot as my default browser. For that, I rely on Firefox. But why? I decided to use both browsers side-by-side for a few weeks to find out what it is about Vivaldi that prevents me from making the switch on a permanent basis. The end results, surprisingly, had me even more confused as to which I should be running (I'll confess what tipped the scales in a moment.).

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Customized vs. Out of the box

One of my primary criteria for using a tool is efficiency—an area where Firefox has always shined. Out of the box, there was very little to do to make it more efficient. Vivaldi, on the other hand, did require a few tweaks to get it up to the Firefox par. For instance, out of the box, Vivaldi requires a double-click to open links from the Bookmarks Bar. I realize that's a fairly small nit to pick, but when you open a large number of bookmarks throughout the day extra click add up. Fortunately, Vivaldi allows you to change that double to a single-click. To do that, open Settings and go to the Bookmarks tab. In that window (Figure A), you can check the box for Open Bookmark Panel Items with Single Click.

Figure A

Figure A: Single-click bookmarks is a much-needed tweak for me.

In that same Settings window, there's another tweak that was a must-have for my usage. By default, Vivaldi opens bookmarks in whatever tab has focus. When your brain works faster than your hands, that setting can create a world of frustration. To get around that, click the checkbox for Open Bookmarks in New Tab and you're good to go.

In my opinion, both of these options should be enabled by default.

The next customization I took care of was the default search engine. Honestly, I have zero use for Bing (which is the default). In fact, there are really only two search engines I use: Google and DuckDuckGo. To make these changes, head to Settings | Search. Select Google (or DuckDuckGo) as the default, move both above Bing, and click Save (Figure B).

Figure B

Figure B: Making better sense of the search engines.

Next came Do Not Track. This is disabled by default. Considering where we stand in today's world of head-spinning web history tracking, I'm shocked that Vivaldi doesn't enable this by default. To do this, go to Settings | Privacy and click the check for Ask Websites Not to Track Me (Figure C).

Figure C

Figure C: Do Not Track should be enabled out of the box.

Another issue that really got under my skin is when I'd open a specific site (such as any site that requires a login), only to find I had to first click on the username text area before I could start typing. This is another issue that falls under the category of fanatical efficiency, but I want to lessen the number of clicks, not increase them. When I open a page, I'd prefer the focus to immediately be given to such items. Fortunately, this option is but a checkbox away. Go to Settings | Webpages and click the checkbox for Focus All Controls and Links (under Webpage Focus - Figure D).

Figure D

Figure D: Giving proper focus to new tabs.

Are we done yet?

At this point, Vivaldi does a good job of mimicking the efficiency of Firefox. There's little more customization to be done. And yet, Firefox is still my default. Why? What is it about Firefox that makes me select it over Vivaldi? Unfortunately, the answer lies in one particular aspect that is not likely to change.

You see, as an advocate of open source software, with all things being equal I will always go with the open source option. Now, if Vivaldi had the upper hand over Firefox with a particular feature or usability that I couldn't get with the open source equivalent, I'd happily set Vivaldi as my default (as I'm not a purist). But until said time, the open-source browser remains as my default.

What does that say? Simple. With a few quick tweaks, Vivaldi is as efficient and solid a browser as Firefox. Outside of being open source, there is nothing Firefox can do that Vivaldi cannot mimic. Truth be told, if we're looking at a feature-for-feature comparison, Vivaldi easily comes out on top.

Now, if Vivaldi were to shift to an open source license, I'd kick Firefox off that "Default" curb and go about my day, humming Spring's melody. Until then, Vivaldi will only come out to play for testing, or when Firefox Nightly (which is the version I use at the moment) has problems with a particular site.

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By 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.