Tab minimalists look away: Vivaldi introduces two-level tab stacks

Browser maker Vivaldi is tackling the issue of tab overload by adding a second row of the things via two-level tab stacks.

Tab stacks have long been a feature of the Vivaldi browser. Indeed, the company’s CEO, Jon von Tetzchner, was at the helm of veteran browser maker Opera when tabbed browsing became commonplace.

The stacking concept is no longer a such distinctive feature. Chrome will cheerfully permit the grouping of tabs, for example, for those unable to keep their browsing habits under control.

vivaldi tabs

Two levels of tabs (click to enlarge)

Those same users probably have desktops spattered with shortcuts too. The monsters.

Recognising that the mere stacking of tabs might not cut it for all, Vivaldi’s designers have upped the ante with the introduction of two-level tab stacks.

While the original implementation had stacks taking up no more space than a single tab, keeping things compact and tidy, the two-level option shows the content of the stack on a new line, with full-size tabs that can be fiddled with like any other tab.

It also works regardless of the preferred placement of the tabs: top, bottom or side.

The functionality has been in experimental preview since last year, but has been enabled by default in Vivaldi 3.6. The compact mode for tab stacks remains in place for anyone that prefers things a little more minimalist.

vivaldi tabs - compact view

Space-saving compact mode, click to enlarge

We took it for a spin, and in our entirely subjective opinion the solution works well and is an improvement over the compact view for stacked tabs. The preview of the tabs is still present and correct, but the extra row makes for a more logical navigation experience. The ability to turn it off is also handy for those who do not require such fripperies.

Atle Mo, designer at Vivaldi, told The Register: “We’ve wanted to do tabs over two lines (or two levels) for a long time (years, actually), as a natural expansion of the current implementation. It has been asked for by our users, and we have experimented with this idea internally for a while.

“The first (compact) version we made of tab stacks is very space-saving in the main tab-bar, but it can be hard to use if you have a high number of tabs inside. The general idea with two-level stacks is that you get the full-size tabs and all the benefits that entails – readable tab titles, notifications, easy drag and drop, etc.”

The team has also updated the design of the tab thumbnails, to make them less space consuming.

As for the concept itself, Mo told us: “We primarily rely on early feedback from our ‘sopranos’ testers and gave them builds to test during the development process,” before sending the code out to the wider world. It was CEO von Tetzchner who made the initial request.

The arrival of tabbed browsing all those years ago ushered in an era of “tab hoarders” and a plethora of first and third-party solutions to tab overload.

While adding another row of tabs may initially put one in mind of the more intrusive Internet Explorer add-ins, we found two-level stacks surprisingly intuitive in use. Certainly, enough to miss it when switching to a different browser.

Vivaldi describes its latest take on tab management as a “first-of-its-kind” feature. It will be interesting to see how its rivals respond. ®