Vivaldi is a cross-platform web browser that aims to be “A Browser for Our Friends.”
I did not know that the Vivaldi team and I were friends, but, hey, we could be if they continue producing software like this.
I have been using Vivaldi as my primary browser since its beta release, and I have watched it mature into one of the best browsers that I have ever enjoyed using.
Loaded with bells, whistles, customizations, and convenience features galore, Vivaldi impresses. Vivaldi 1.4 stable is the latest version as of the time of this writing. It is free and available for Linux, Mac OS X, and Windows.
What Makes Vivaldi Fun?
Themes and Customization
This might sound trivial, but Vivaldi let’s you adjust the colors and create your own color schemes from within the browser without needing to download any plugins like you do for Firefox.
When I show Vivaldi to others, the first thing they ALL want to do is play with the pretty colors. Especially programmers. Invariably, programmers go for the dark black with the red or green “hacker” look. No one else might be able to read the web page, but these folks cannot get enough of it. It wins them over, and, suddenly, all other browsers are viewed as outdated in their eyes. Think of Vivaldi’s theme customization as having the same “wow factor” on new users as the Compiz Desktop Cube in Linux. Smart move to include this.
This is where Vivaldi shines. Adaptive Interface Coloring is probably one of the best features included, and the one I like best. Vivaldi determines the most dominant color from a site’s favorite icon (favicon) and colors the tab and button bar with that color. This gives each site a flavorful “theme” and serves as a visual indicator among many tabs.
This is listed as “Accent Color from Active Page” in the theme settings, and it can be disabled.
Some sites using animated favorite icons change the colors in Vivaldi, such as Defender of the Favicon.
Don’t like the default tab placement at the top? Why not move them to either side or the bottom?
Now, this is convenient. A web panel is a secondary website within the browser that remains visible (or hidden but active) as you peruse other sites in the main window. Like listening to music using online sources? How about a mini-video from YouTube? You can have one of these open as a web panel while browsing other sites.
You can add several web panels and click its icon to go from one to another at any time. This is great for online music. Start up a playlist, and then hide the web panel. The streaming music from the streaming site plays in the background while you browse.
The horrid WebRTC (Web Real-time Communications) that leaks your real IP address over Tor and VPNs can now be disabled easily within Vivaldi. Other browsers, such as Fireox and Chromium, require manually tweaking the browser about:config configuration or installing a third-party plugin to disable it. Some browsers, such as Chrome, prevent it from being disabled at all (without serious work).
This is a huge privacy leak for those seeking anonymity. The more recent Vivaldi releases allow you to easily enable or disable this “feature” from the Privacy settings. (It’s enabled by default.)
One drawback I found with this, was that if certain extensions are installed that do their own WebRTC disabling, such as ublock origin, then the ISP part of the IP address will leak even though the LAN IP addresses are kept hidden.
In the case of ublock origin, I found best results by disabling ublock’s WebRTC blocking and relying on Vivaldi’s WebRTC blocking. This blocked all WebRTC leaks. Otherwise, the WebRTC checkbox is always checked in Vivaldi and cannot be unchecked. Always test for WebRTC IP address leaks on sites such as ipleak.net.
Upon opening Vivaldi, a list of site thumbnails of your favorite sites can be shown on the start page. Other browsers used to require extensions to perform this feature, but now, it is built into most of them, including Vivaldi.
Vivaldi uses the Chrome store as its extension base, so any extensions you have grown attached to with Chromium or Chrome should also work with Vivaldi.
Keep in mind that the extensions from the Chrome store might not be as varied as those for Firefox. For example, extensions that download videos from YouTube are not available from the official extensions source like they are for Firefox, so you might need to search unofficial extension sources to perform similar tasks.
In the status bar at the bottom of the browser, is a popup list that shows a number of actions that can be applied to the current page. Readability, CSS debugger, sepia color effect, grayscale filter, and others can be combined to customize a web page’s appearance to your liking.
These effects are built into Vivaldi. No extensions necessary.
Using Vivaldi gives the impression that it was designed with Linux in mind. It runs perfectly with Linux. At least for me. Usually, the Linux version of cross-platform software is added as an afterthought that is somewhat limited and less polished compared to the flagship Windows version.
Not so with Vivaldi. I have used both the Linux and the Windows versions (with 7 and XP), and I noticed that the Linux version actually runs better (Linux Mint 18). It opens faster, and the interface in Linux feels smooth and snappy while the Windows version seems to be less responsive and jittery at times. Sometimes, the Windows version pauses while scrolling a page. This is on equivalent hardware.
Instead, it focuses on following existing web standards and rendering pages well. Even potentially browser-problematic CSS features, such as border gradients, are handled well by Vivaldi. I prefer to design web sites using Vivaldi as the intended browser and then tweaking the site for other browsers.
The few features mentioned only graze the surface of what is available in Vivaldi 1.4. For full details, definitely read the full listing on the Vivaldi site — complete with tutorials and videos.
Performance-wise, it performs well and responsive. I have not encountered any deal-breaking issues with the stable versions, and it runs better than Firefox on my Linux Mint 18 system. Web page rendering seems about the same as any other browser. Vivaldi will not magically increase your Internet throughput, but it will make the Internet more fun to browse. The customization options alone are worth a look.
Despite the fancy eyecandy and customization possibilities, Vivaldi remains focused on displaying web pages. It does not try to be a Jack-of-all-Trades like the old Netscape Navigator/Communicator used to be. Vivaldi has one purpose and does it well — with more fun and flair.
Highly recommended for those seeking a break from existing browsers.