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The little-known web browser that beats Chrome for productivity

Got too many browser tabs? Vivaldi might be what you’ve been missing.

The little-known web browser that beats Chrome for productivity
[Screenshots: courtesy of Vivaldi]

For a while now, I’ve wanted to make Vivaldi my default desktop web browser.

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Vivaldi proudly caters its browser to power users, packing in the kind of tab management tools that would otherwise require a long list of clunky browser extensions. It’s also full of customization options, so you’re never more than a click or keyboard shortcut away from what you’re trying to accomplish.

But until this week, I had to watch from the sidelines as Vivaldi rolled out one intriguing feature after the next. Unlike Google Chrome and Microsoft Edge, Vivaldi didn’t support installing websites as desktop apps. This feature, which allows sites like Gmail and Notion to run in their own windows without the usual browser clutter, has become so important to my workflow that I can’t use any browser without it.

On Thursday, Vivaldi released an update that adds web app support, and at long last, I’m gorging on all the powerful tools that the browser has to offer. If you’re suffering from browser tab overload, you should at least give it a try.

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A full rundown of every Vivaldi feature would to too extensive to list here, but here are the ones I’m enjoying the most:

Web apps

Right-click any tab, and you’ll see a “Create shortcut” option at the bottom of the context menu. Selecting this option and clicking “Open as window” will install the site as a freestanding app on your computer. Now, you can launch the site straight from the MacOS app list or Windows Start menu, and you can optionally pin it to your dock or task bar. It’ll also open in its own window without the usual tab bar and browser menus, so it feels just like a regular app.

This is a great way to turn sites like Gmail, Tweetdeck, Notion, or Google Calendar into standalone apps, separating them from the rest of your tabs. It’s the one feature that finally makes Vivaldi whole—and that’s sadly still missing from Firefox and MacOS Safari.

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Web panels

Instead of making you open a new browser tab just to glance at your calendar or email, Vivaldi can load any website as a “web panel,” which slides into a side-by-side view with your current tab. Each site gets its own icon in Vivaldi’s sidebar menu, so you can quickly open, close, and toggle between different panels. It’s the fastest way to check on your favorite sites without committing to another tab.

Dig up old tabs

Click the little trash icon at the end of your tab list, and you’ll see a list of every tab and browser window you’ve closed recently. While Chrome also has a “Recently Closed” feature, it’s buried behind several menu layers where you’re unlikely to ever use it.

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Vivaldi also makes your recent browsing history easier to access than other browsers. Just click the clock icon in Vivaldi’s side menu, and a searchable list pops up with every page you’ve visited over the past day (or longer, if you choose).

Vertical tabs

Aside from Microsoft Edge, Vivaldi is the only major browser that can display your tabs in a sidebar instead of on top of the screen. This lets you fit more tabs on screen without smooshing them down and hiding their page titles, and while it takes a solid few weeks of getting used to, it’s hard to go back once you do.

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Vivaldi also goes a step further than Edge by letting you arrange tabs along the right or bottom edges of the screen. (You’ll find these options in the “Tabs” section of Vivaldi settings.)

Tab stacks

While other browsers such as Chrome and Safari have started dabbling in collapsible tab groups, Vivaldi’s been doing it for years and offers several ways to group similar tabs together.

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My personal favorite is the “Two-Level Tab Stack,” which creates a secondary row of tabs for each group. You can also set up “Accordion” tabs, which expand to show the full group when you click on them, or “Compact” groups that essentially look like tabs within tabs. These are neat alternatives to sorting tabs into separate windows, though of course Vivaldi supports that as well.

The quick command bar

Pressing Ctrl+E or Cmd+E in Vivaldi brings up a search bar for all your open tabs, so you can type the title of any tab and switch to it by hitting Enter.

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In fairness, Chrome recently added its own tab search tool, which is accessible by hitting Ctrl+Shift+A, but Vivaldi’s command bar can also search the web, bookmarks, and your browsing history. And if you head to Settings > Quick Commands, you can enable extra options such as a built-in calculator and extension search. It’s the kind of universal browser search tool that you’d think Google would have figured out ages ago.

String things together

Vivaldi has also started dabbling in automation with its “Command Chains” feature, which lets you perform multiple browser actions at the same time. Some examples: Load several sites at once in separate tabs, render a site in Vivaldi’s reading view while switching to full screen, or get a blank slate by opening your home page and closing all other tabs.

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You’ll find the Command Chains builder under Settings > Quick Commands. Once you’ve created some, you can execute them through Ctrl+E command bar, or assign them to keyboard shortcuts under Settings > Keyboard.

Take a break

If you’re frittering away too much time on the web, Vivaldi’s Break Mode can help you stay focused. Press Ctrl+. or Cmd+., and Vivaldi will lock the address bar, cover up your current webpage, and hide the page titles of all your open tabs. All that’s missing is a way to run the mode on a timer.

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Save tabs for later

Are you afraid of closing your browser because you might need some of the tabs you’ve got open? Vivaldi’s “Save All Tabs as Session” feature should put you at ease, preserving all your tabs, stacks, and windows just as you left them. You’ll find this feature by clicking the “V” icon at the top and heading to the File menu, where you’ll also see the option to open any sessions you’ve saved already.

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In finally closing out, you might discover that you don’t need all those tabs as much as you thought.

Check out Jared’s Advisorator newsletter for more practical tech advice and tips.

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