My God, it's full of tabs: Vivaldi's coolest new features shine on phones and cars
Opera founder's outfit continues to push the browser functionality envelope
There are plenty of Chromium-based browsers out there, but few of them fit in as many new features as Vivaldi manages to, or run on as many devices… including cars.
As a power user's tool rather than a populist one, Vivaldi's release schedule is slightly more measured than many rival browsers. The latest release of the company's eponymous browser is version 5.7, while both Firefox and Chrome are somewhere around version 110. The open source Chromium basis of the latter provides the engine inside Vivaldi.
In this release, the main new shiny is reserved for the mobile version. Currently, this only runs on Android and its relatives. If you are looking for an iOS version, you'll only find a holding page. We suspect that it will follow the end of Apple's WebKit-only policy.
The new mobile version does has some nifty new features, though. It's faster, even if you have lots of tabs open – they mention that it works with hundreds of tabs open. The mere thought of that makes The Reg FOSS desk whimper slightly, but this aversion does not apply to other members of his family.
A fun new feature is control of playback of audio and video on background tabs. It suppresses auto-play videos, a welcome touch that's on by default. But it also has an option for the converse: it can keep audio playing even when you switch a tab into the background – or even the whole browser. If you use a website to stream music without a local client app, you will soon find that playback in the background is a premium feature that isn't available to freeloaders. If you put your phone to sleep, or switch apps, the tunes immediately stop. Vivaldi can keep them playing.
Vivaldi also reminds you to enable synchronization of your data. This extends further than just browser passwords. For instance, it can sync your open tabs from all your devices. The data is encrypted, and as this particular vulture discovered when trying it out, if you forget your passphrase, your data is gone. There are no backdoors or password-recovery processes here.
Vivaldi also supports Android Automotive, which is the special edition of Android that runs on in-car "infotainment" devices. Note that, confusingly, this is a different product from Android Auto, which links an Android phone with a car's "head unit" – the in-car entertainment system – and was announced way back in 2014.
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Oddly for such a web-centric company as Google, Android Automotive doesn't include a web browser. Back in 2021, Vivaldi was the first to do this in the Polestar 2, and it later also made a deal with Renault. Now it also runs in the Mercedes Benz E-Class.
To be honest, there is less to shout about in the desktop edition of this release. Vivaldi 5.7.2921.60 actually uses the rendering engine from Chromium 110, but that is a minor update. The main desktop 5.7 debuted a couple of weeks ago, with a revamped Window panel, which allows you to navigate through hundreds, or even thousands, of tabs and/or windows in a vertical tree view, alongside and separate from the tab bar at the top. The first comment on the announcement is from a Vivaldi user who had 742 tabs open at that point. It's probably more by now. So this is probably the browser of choice for taboholics.
There are also more keyboard shortcuts, and new facilities in the integrated email client, including the ability to mark folders as read automatically. The company also has a free trial available of a new privacy-centric search engine called Neeva, founded by former Google ad and commerce boss Sridhar Ramaswamy. ®