I think Opera’s new Neon browser could be a game changer.
I’ve been using Google Chrome since college and it’s treated me well. As a developer, the web inspector is fantastic, the responsive mode is sweet for initial testing, and for the most part it’s pretty fast. With that said, it’s kinda boring.
The UI (though good and intuitive) has pretty much been the same since launch and its design falls into same appearance of browsers we have seen since the dawn of the internet.
Address bar, tabs underneath, maybe a tool bar, bookmarks, and so on. This is not to dismiss traditional browser design; it’s been working for years, so there really hasn’t been a reason to adjust the style.
Then I saw Opera’s concept browser, Neon, and needed to play around with it. Neon is built in the blink web engine, which means that it’s built on the same engine as Chrome. This, in turn, means that the majority of the features in Chrome should also work in Neon.
Upon opening it defaults to a full screen view and grabs my current desktop background to create the background for the browser. Pretty cool surprise! Then some link suggestions animate in from the bottom of the browser in a playful pattern. This is the type of animation I like. I try to use quick little animations that improve the usability of a website, so it’s pretty sweet that it’s being used in a web browser.
The site bubbles have a fun little animation on hover and on close out:
Whoa! Pop with a little smoke effect; everything shifts over too. That’s fun. It’s also another example of good animation with good UX.
Also, instead of living at the top of the page, tabs are listed down the right hand side, and are also using a bubble design. These are all nice, refreshing changes.
Okay, so those are all the cool fun parts. What about using it? What can it do that other browsers can’t? Check out split window. Here is an example of it works:
Whether I need Facebook Messenger open while I’m reading the news or want to have documentation open on two API’s I’m using, I find myself using split window quite frequently.
Another sweet feature is built-in screenshots. On Mac, it’s a bit redundant; one thing Apple has done pretty well is making multiple screen grabs easy and intuitive. If this feature ever makes it to Windows, it would be a welcome update. Having a screenshot feature that isn’t print screen then paint is cool. However, it’s nice to have it right in the browser, making it easy to share on social media.
Another item I found interesting was the player feature. This creates a separate site of tabs for sites with sound and/or video, allowing you to pause audio without moving back to that tab. So in the example below, if “Master of Puppets” by Metallica was getting a little loud for me, I could click player and pause it from there.
I’m really impressed with Opera. This is a cool start to the future. Honestly, I was impressed with some of the features Microsoft released with Edge. If Opera keeps this project updated I’d be happy. It’s nice to have a browser with a focus on browsing—sounds obvious, but after you use it you’ll know what I mean.