Vivaldi 4 Goes All-In On Browser Features: Email, RSS Reader And More
Vivaldi has launched the latest version of its web browser with a raft of major new features, including an email client, RSS feed reader and more.
The company has attempted to differentiate itself from the browser pack with its focus on features and privacy, and the company has gone all-in with this latest release.
Vivaldi 4 delivers the email client that the company promised when it first launched five years ago. It allows users to read and send messages from their webmail, IMAP or POP3 accounts from within the browser, with a local database of messages retained so that users can search for messages when a laptop is offline, for example.
The mail client is released alongside an RSS feed reader, allowing users to catch up with the latest news from their favorite websites, podcasts or videos from YouTube channels, for example. The feed reader is integrated into the mail client, so that feed items appear in the same stream as messages.
In an era where desktop browsers are normally judged by how lightweight they are, is Vivaldi worried that packing the browser with features risks being seen as comparatively bloated?
Vivaldi CEO Jon von Tetzchner says the browser’s performance isn’t compromised by the new features. “A modern computer can handle whatever you throw at it,” he claims. “I have 600,000 emails on my computer, as an example. We are making sure that it works with 600,000, emails – I’m sure it will work for most people that have typically a bit less than that!”
Other new features in Vivaldi 4 include a calendar, which once again integrates with various calendaring services or can be used as a standalone ‘offline’ calendar.
von Tetzchner says he pushed the case for the calendar to operate differently from the minimalist designs we’re used to from companies such as Apple and Google, with a focus on showing richer information to users from the default view.
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“Typically, all the calendars that you use out there, they have strict lines,” he said. “The [event] boxes are just more beautiful if the boxes are all the same size.”
“My thinking is that sometimes it’s more important that you see the content than the lines being explicitly aligned. So, if you have a meeting, and the description and title takes more than two lines, actually show it and just expand the box a little bit.”
It has to be said that if an appointment has a lot of extraneous detail in its description (the full list of dial-in options on a conference call, for example) that can lead to some expanded appointment boxes swamping your calendar, but as ever with Vivaldi, the view is customizable if you prefer brevity.
Another nice feature of the calendar is the way that you can enter data like a spreadsheet, with each timeslot having its own cell that you can just start typing into.
Translate without Google
Another major new addition to Vivaldi 4 is the ability to translate web pages. This, of course, is a staple feature of Google Chrome (and other browsers), but Vivaldi’s determination to keep Google and its data gathering at arm’s length mean that it has chosen Lingvanex to provide the translation service.
The translation service is hosted by Vivaldi itself, with von Tetzchner hoping that it will give those who are suspicious of Google’s business model another reason to try his browser. “Their [Google’s] business model is based on collecting data from a multitude of sources,” he said. “They’re collecting data in the browser. There’s Google Analytics, then there’s the Google ads, and yes there is Translate as well.”
“That’s not our business model. We don’t see any reason for us to identify data with users or collect massive amounts of data for any purposes.”
Choice of layouts
Vivaldi is wary that not everyone is a power user, nor wants a browser that’s so packed with features that it’s practically an operating system in its own right.
Hence, one further feature of Vivaldi 4 is the ability to choose different default layouts: Essentials, Classic or Fully Loaded.
Essentials strips Vivaldi back to little more than a basic address bar, with most of the added extras hidden from view. Classic adds more browser furniture, such as the status bar and the web panels (which effectively allow you to see condensed versions of web pages from within the same browser window). Fully Loaded adds everything into the mix, including the mail client and the feed reader.
“Everything that we do is about adapting to the needs of the user,” said von Tetzchner. “We spent huge amounts of time making sure that you can edit the menus to your liking. You can make your own keyboard shortcuts, you can make your own mouse gestures, we’re customizing every little detail gradually as we move forward.
“[But] you don’t have to,” he added. “You can use a simple browser without the panels, without the status bar. You can use that for simple browsing… and if you’re also concerned about all the tracking you can put on the tracker block.”