(Credit: Screenshot: Tom McNamara/Download.com)

In the world of desktop web browsers, there are effectively three camps: Chrome, Firefox, and Webkit. We say "effectively" because most other alternatives actually use one of these three browser engines under the hood. If you're using Firefox on iOS, you're actually using Webkit. If you're using the Tor browser in Windows, you're actually using Firefox.

Vivaldi (Windows, Mac) uses the foundation of Google Chrome (Android, iOS), but there's a lot more going on here than just a "reskin." The team behind it also made the original Opera browser. (Antonio Vivaldi was a famous opera composer, hence the name.) When Opera Software was sold to a Chinese company in 2016, many on Opera's development team decided to leave and pursue their own vision of what a browser like Opera should be.

SEE: How to beef up your Chrome and Firefox security in 2018

Today, Vivaldi has hit version 2.0, and with it comes a variety of cool new changes and features that make the browser worth checking out. Here's a list of our Top 5 features that separate it from the competition.

Feature No. 1: A crazy level of customization

This is a lot of options. Has science gone too far? (Credit: Screenshot: Tom McNamara/Download.com)

Vivaldi works perfectly fine out-of-the-box, as it's based on Google Chrome, although its visual design arguably looks closer to the current Firefox (Android, iOS), with its squared-off, compact tabs. But when you press Alt+P, a whole new world opens up.

If you don't like to have tabs at the top of the browser wide, you can move them to the bottom, left, or right, without having to install an extension. A small trash can icon in the upper right also keeps a running list of the tabs that you've recently closed, so you can re-open specific ones. This is an improvement over regular Chrome, where you have to keep pressing Ctrl+Alt+T to restore tabs in the order that they were closed, until you get to the one you want.

What specific number of pixels would you like to have as the minimum amount given to a tab at any time? If you want them to stay wide so that you can read their labels at a glance, Vivaldi will let you set this anywhere from 30 to 180 pixels. There's also an unread indicator for tabs that you've opened in the background but haven't viewed yet. Don't like those indicators? You can toggle that too.

The settings window has an entire section dedicated just to how tabs work -- and you have 17 other sections left to explore.

Feature No. 2: Syncing your data across devices, and a free webmail account

(Credit: Screenshot: Tom McNamara/Download.com)

Like Chrome, you can log into an account within the browser to keep a record of your bookmarks, browsing history, and other activities. When you log into this account in Vivaldi on a different device, it can import all that data and let you pick up where you left off. Instead of using Google accounts to manage this, though, you make a Vivaldi account.

But as an added bonus, you get your own @vivaldi.net email address with a mobile-friendly webmail interface. (Unfortunately, there isn't a mobile version of the Vivaldi browser itself, but we hope one is coming. For now, it's on Windows, Mac, and Linux.)

After some digging around, we determined that users get 5GB of free storage, a maximum attachment size of 20MB, and a "self-learning spam filter." There doesn't appear to be an option to upgrade to more capacity. Either way, if you want to sync your browser data across devices, but you're a bit leery of Google's psychic robot empire, Vivaldi's alternative system may be preferable. (Firefox also has a non-Google sync feature.)

Vivaldi's webmail is no Gmail, but it looks like it would do in a pinch.

Feature No. 3: Built-in note taking and screenshots

(Credit: Screenshot: Tom McNamara/Download.com)

There's a document icon in the panel to the left (which you can move to the right, or hide, among other tweaks available in that huge settings window), and clicking on that opens up Notes, which is a little scratchpad widget.

It's like Google Keep Notes (Android, iOS), down to the ability to attach images, screen captures, and URLs to each note. You can create different folders to organize your notes, and there's a search function if you can't find one right away.

On the status bar at the bottom, there's a little camera icon that lets you take screenshots of a full page, or sections, and you can save them as a PNG, JPG, or just copy the contents to a clipboard to paste into an imaging editing program.

If you don't want the status bar, you can hide it and just use keyboard shortcuts to control the screen capture tool.

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Feature No. 4: Web Panels

(Credit: Screenshot: Tom McNamara/Download.com)

A web panel is like a hybrid between a browser tab and a separate browser window. With this feature enabled, you can load a web page in a sidebar, whose width you can adjust by clicking-and-dragging the boundary left or right. This is handy if you want to keep an eye on a news feed while you do something else in the main part of the browser window, like watch YouTube or write an article.

To create a web panel, just click on the "+" button in the panel where that Notes icon is to open a small window, where you can either manually enter a URL or click on the favicon that represents a website from your browsing history. This new web panel will be represented in the panel interface by that favicon. To close the web panel, just right click on that favicon and select Remove Web Panel.

Feature No. 5: Google Chrome add-ons work in Vivaldi

(Credit: Screenshot: Tom McNamara/Download.com)

One of the biggest factors for the adoption of an alternative browser is its compatibility with Firefox or Chrome add-ons. If it can't block ads, load a password manager, translate chunks of text, or perform other popular functions, it may never take off.

Thankfully, Vivaldi works just fine with Chrome add-ons, since it's based on Chrome. Pressing Ctrl+Shift+E will open a tab listing all of your add-ons, and if you click on the menu button in the upper left, there's a link to the Chrome Web Store at the bottom, if you need more.

Oddly, regular Chrome is ten years old now and still lacks a keyboard shortcut for this. (Firefox does it with Ctrl+Shift+A.)

Also see

Tom McNamara is a Senior Editor for CNET's Download.com. He mainly covers Windows, mobile and desktop security, games, Google, streaming services, and social media. Tom was also an editor at Maximum PC and IGN, and his work has appeared on CNET, PC Gamer, MSN.com, and Salon.com. He's also unreasonably proud that he's kept the same phone for more than two years.