I’ve become a browser whore. After years of sticking with Chrome, it became a loveless marriage of convenience. It was on my phone, it stored all my passwords, why move?
Why? Because there are better browsers out there. For the past few months I’ve been shacked up with Firefox, which is much more like its old, punky self of late, but still has irritating foibles. For the past week, I’ve been living with Vivaldi and I’m not going back. Here’s what’s convinced me to dump Google Chrome and make Vivaldi my default PC browser.
Separation of search and state
Sorry, that’s a weak pun. There will be no more. But unlike Chrome, Vivaldi has separate bars for web addresses and web searches. You can still whack your search terms into the address bar if you wish – Vivaldi’s nothing if not flexible.
But if you want to search the web without autocomplete addresses appearing beneath your search terms, you can. And you’ve got a healthy selection of search engines to peruse, including Google (obvs), the privacy-friendly DuckDuckGo or Ecosia, which uses the profit from web searches to plant trees.
Want to keep an eye on the live football scores while you’re nannying around on the web or meant to be working? Then create a Web Panel. The Panel sits on the side of the screen, providing you with live info from the site while you continue to browse in the main window. It works best with sites that have responsive design (such as Football Web Pages here, or even yours truly), where the site’s content adapts to the size of the window it’s being displayed in.
Its History page is a nerdgasm
Not only does Vivaldi offer a History sidebar that lists and lets you search pages from your browsing past, it has a full-blown browsing History page that tickles my inner geek.
It’s organised in a Calendar view, letting you see what your most visited pages were on each day. This is served alongside a histogram, showing how your web activity fluctuates from day to day, as well as a pie chart showing you the types of links you follow. None of this information will make your life any better, but you won’t be able to stop looking at it. Trust me.
It’s fundamentally flexible
Want to open a specific set of sites with a single shortcut? Vivaldi lets you do that. Want to restrict web audio to only the active tab? Vivaldi can do that. Want the address bar to sit at the bottom of the screen? You’re a fecking weirdo, but Vivaldi can do that, too. It’s hugely flexible, with more options and settings than any other browser I’ve come across.
Tabs adopt the site’s colour scheme
The colour scheme of the active tab is determined by the colours used on the site you’re visiting. Open BTQ in a tab, for instance, and you’ll see our royal blue colour scheme on the tab bar and behind your bookmarks. Switch to the BBC and it’s dark red.
If this gets on your Alan Whickers you can turn it off in the Theme options, because Vivaldi doesn’t thrust its design choices on you.
All your Chrome extensions will still work
Got a Chrome add-on you can’t bear to part with? You don’t have to. Vivaldi is based on the same Chromium engine as Google’s browser and has full access to the Google Web Store. Bring your Chrome extensions with you, alongside your browser history, passwords, bookmarks and any other data trapped in Chrome.
This might be a journo thing, but I often need to take full-length grabs of websites. To do this with other browsers normally requires an add-on. With Vivaldi, I just click the little camera icon at the foot of the screen, select which format to save in and the job’s done.
It’s made by fundamentally decent people
I’ve interviewed Vivaldi CEO Jon von Tetzchner several times. He’s one of the good guys. He cares about privacy, he says what he thinks, he has a philosophy and he sticks to it.
He’s a man of high principle. When he didn’t like the direction the Opera browser’s new owners were taking, he abandoned the browser he founded and started over from scratch with Vivaldi.
It’s taken a few years to shave off some of the browser’s rough edges. He hasn’t delivered on some of his early promises, such as the mail client. But he’s been honest and open about why features are jettisoned, and the Vivaldi community – many of whom jumped ship from Opera with him – respect that.
You can save notes on websites
Again, a feature that appeals to my journo bones, but Vivaldi has a built-in note taker. Highlight a bit of text in a web page, right-click and select Add To Note, and the text clip is saved. Open the Notes section from the sidebar and you can scan through or search your notes. Each note contains a link back to the page it came from, and you can add screenshots if you’re worried the info will change or disappear from the page.
Now click here: How do I save a group of tabs in Vivaldi?