The move from my desktop-centric digital life to a cloud-centric one was an inevitable one. From the days I first signed up with Gmail back in mid-2004, it would be hard to imagine the extent to which cloud-based apps and data storage would affect the way I worked. From a time when every letter I wrote, every review I put together was saved locally on all manner of PCs down the years, now pretty much all of my content sits across online services.Sure, there are the inherent privacy concerns–all of which are well founded–but as long as critical stuff is kept offline (and under encrypted lock and key,) nothing beats the comfort of knowing that all of your work is permanently accessible, no matter where you are and what device you’re using. Huzzah to the cloud.The Chrome defaultFor millions of users, Google is the mainstay of their Web experience. In my case, it’s pretty much all encompassing–Google Drive, Gmail, Photos, Analytics… I use them all, extensively. Which is why Google’s Chrome browser turned out to be my de facto browser of choice.Signing into this browser makes the entire browsing experience consistent across all instances and devices–I save a password for a new website on my home desktop computer and it’s available on my Android phone when I walk out the door, browsing and search histories from my tablet reflect on my work laptop. It’s easy to get hooked on to the ‘one ring to rule them all’ approach.Chrome has since evolved, morphed and grown into a capable browser, but at the expense of being just. too. damned. resource-heavy. Even on a system with 4GB of RAM (admitted, many entry level ones these days have twice that much of memory,) firing up Chrome and typically opening 8-12 tabs makes little work of gobbling up gigabytes of RAM. And for power users the situation only worsens.From what used to be a smooth, enjoyable Web experience, Chrome in its current avatar has become a behemoth: unwieldy and sluggish. Sure, it would suffice for the most part of the work day, but at those instances when opening an especially busy website, with Flash animations and plenty of HTML5 bells and whistles, it would bring the browser–and often the OS itself, to its pleading knees. I itched for something different, which is when I decided to consider other options.I came across news of this new browser early this year while it was in its beta (the official version launched in April.) It’s one with an interesting history–the Vivaldi project was started by the ex-CEO of the company behind the popular Opera browser, and is based on the same Blink rendering engine used by Chrome. The project was initiated with the aim to offer a feature-rich, configurable browser aimed at power users. It is a community-driven browser that offers plenty of options for customizability, while based on proven open source standards including HTML5, Node.js and other technologies that are deployed across the Web these days.It’s been about a week that I’ve been using Vivaldi as my primary browser and it’s been a very positive experience. Its unique features such as the advanced tab management (tiled and stacked tabs with previews,) web panels that pin important web pages, an integrated notepad that makes it easy to jot references to web pages, the ability to configure virtually every component of the browser interface (toolbar to the right? address bar at the bottom? easily done) and more. Virtually every aspect of the browser can be tweaked, including the keyboard shortcuts, mouse gestures and appearance of interface elements.There’s also this cool feature where the active web page’s color theme can be reflected in the browser’s interface (so your browser takes on a blue hue when in Facebook, red in Flipboard and so on.) It’s also got a hugely useful search feature that is called up by hitting F2, which basically deep searches for what you type across browsing history, bookmarks, tab names, even browser settings so finding stuff across your browsing session is very easy.Capping it all, even though the browser is based on Chrome, it appeared to manage memory far better–barring a couple of stray instances, I saw no issues with opening about 18 tabs simultaneously while switching between them and using it extensively over the course of work days.Because it uses the same foundation as Chrome, Vivaldi runs all of your existing Chrome extensions off the bat. Also there’s the case of using this browser to go ‘completely dark’ to Google should you be so inclined–even the default search engine can be substituted with alternatives.The only real downside with the browser, in its current 1.2 version, is the inability to natively synchronize bookmarks across instances on other computers. This can however be currently achieved using an extension such as Xmarks that effectively does the job.The reason I’m liking the Vivaldi browser so much is that it’s enable me to set it up just the way I like it, with features that make working on the Web far quicker and more convenient. If you’ve never really questioned the need for another browser, chances are you probably won’t be much better off using this browser. But if you’re a web power user looking for a richer browsing experience, Vivaldi ticks that check box with aplomb.
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