Opera Software has always had a fairly sizeable and loyal fan base. The decades old browser never quite went mainstream, at least not on the desktop, but it attracted droves of power users thanks to its innovative streak and host of unique features. However, with its switch to the Chromium engine, Opera ditched almost everything that made it unique, and in the process disappointed most of its power users. It has gone from being a cutting-edge internet suite to a light-weight Chrome shell. There are still many users who use Opera 12 – released over two years ago, as their daily driver. The good news for all of them is that Jon Von Tetzchner – Opera’s co-founder and Ex-CEO has announced his next venture, and he is not giving up on browsers.
Vivaldi is a brand new browser from the very same people who brought to you Opera. Like the current Opera browser, it will be using Google’s Blink rendering engine. However, unlike the current Opera browser, Vivaldi aims to bring back most of the good stuff from Opera 12. The user interface of Vivaldi has been built using web technologies like Node.js, and Browserify. The first technical preview was released today with five key features:
- Quick Commands: This is similar to Launchy on Windows or Spotlight on Mac. It offers a quick and easy way to navigate through tabs, search through history, change settings, and a bunch of other stuff with just the keyboard.
- Panels: Panels used to be one of the many unique features in Opera, and it makes a comeback in Vivaldi. Right now the Panel provides quick access to bookmarks, downloads, and notes. In the future, you will also be able to access your mail and contacts from this section. Opera’s Notes feature has been improved, and now supports webpage screenshots.
- Tab Stacks: You can organize tabs into groups (called Stacks) by dragging a tab on top of another. This is a really neat feature, but I hope that Vivaldi also brings back and improves the automatic tab stacking feature that Opera experimented with briefly.
- Speed Dials: Opera introduced speed dials – visual bookmarks that are quickly and easily accessible, which are now present in all major browser in some form or the other. Hence, it’s hardly a surprise that Vivaldi also has speed dials. However, unlike most other implementations, Vivaldi supports folders in Speed Dials and you can also quickly open up your browsing history and bookmarks.
- Intuitive UI: Vivaldi is bright and colourful, yet simple. The URL bar changes its colour automatically based on the website that you are currently viewing, and hovering over a tab opens a thumbnail preview. Any tab that you close can be restored from the trash can.
Other things that Vivaldi is currently working on include online synchronization, spatial navigation, extensions, and an email client.
The technical preview is pretty stable, but it’s obviously not ready to be a daily driver. Simple shortcuts like Ctrl+Enter are currently missing, and I did experience some stability issues. However, it already does enough to get me excited. It’s a refreshing new alternative, which can hopefully become what Opera once was.