As the new CanLII CEO, I was offered the chance to end this long hiatus and contribute again to Slaw. I was happy to oblige.
Let’s jump back in time:
At the time of my last contribution to Slaw, I was a very opinionated web user and thought that Internet Explorer 6 was the most evil thing that ever happened… to computers at least.
Being a rogue member of the Firefox community in a conventional-Microsoft environment, I felt like I was part of a Rebel Alliance of some sort. I marveled about all the technological prowess of the new generation of browsers like a visitor at the 1964 World Fair riding the Carousel of Progress.
I had tabs instead of a clutter of windows in my taskbar. I was able to sync my tabs on all the computers I was using for research. I also was able to install plugins with “all but magic” features and I was able to search Google (or CanLII with the right configuration) directly from the address bar. I was the envy of my colleagues.
I eventually abandoned Firefox and moved to the faster, sleeker (and maybe creepier) Chrome that I have mostly used since. The clutter of windows in my taskbar was replaced by an even worse clutter of tabs in my browser and I almost no longer use plugins, because they tend to leak memory and slow everything down.
None of that mattered anymore anyways since the web was pronounced dead in 2010 in a Wired cover story, then resurrected, only to be said to be dying again a few months later in the Wall Street Journal and dead again in a TED talk.
In any event, dead web or living web, the browser war was over, having been replaced by a more colourful conflict on smartphones with plants and pigs defending respectively against zombies and flying birds.
I wasn’t too surprised to learn, in my first couple of weeks at CanLII, that despite a strong trend towards mobile use, the overwhelming majority of site visits on CanLII still come from “non-mobile” users (despite the site being optimized for mobile viewing, by the way). I thus figure that there are probably people among the Slaw readers that have an interest in browser evolution.
If you’re like me then, when you use CanLII or do research on the Web, your screen typically looks like a jungle of disorganized tabs. Apparently, there’s now a browser for us. It’s called Vivaldi (https://vivaldi.com/) and it’s, according to this article, for power users:
One problem with the modern pantheon of browsers (…) is that they’ve become too mainstream and thus too cautious and conservative. They’ve focused on the vast majority of Internet users who, studies show; use only a handful of tabs at a time. This has for years left power users underserved.
So, I tried a new browser and partied like it’s 2008!
After a couple of months of regular use, I can highlight three features that I find most interesting, and they are mostly all about managing tabs:
1) Stacked tabs
Instead of having a disorganized clutter of browser tabs that make it impossible to quickly get the info you need when you need it, Vivaldi allows you to “stack” tabs. Just drag one tab over another and voilà, you created a stack that probably makes it easier to find the specific tab you’re looking for in your “tab jungle”.
2) Searching tabs
If, despite stacking your tabs, you still have trouble finding the one you need at the moment, you can use the F2 shortcut to search within the titles of your currently opened tabs.
To some extent, Chrome allows you to see two tabs next to each other if you drag one tab out of the current window and use your operating system’s window tiling features to place the two tabs next to each other. This is a clumsy process though.
Vivaldi does that flawlessly and easily. “Stack” the two tabs you want to see one next to each other. Right click on their now common tab and select “tile tab stack”. They are automatically presented side to side. This is particularly useful for researchers who wish to have the English and French version of a document next to each other or to be able to see a case next to the piece of legislation it cites.
There are a lot of other features in Vivaldi that can be useful for CanLII users and legal professionals in general. This includes a built-in note tool that allows to grab screenshots directly within the browser and a tiling tool for single tabs that allows the user, for example, to see two sections of the same act in the same window even if they are far apart in the actual text. I think all of the above can significantly improve one “power user”‘s experience on CanLII, and I am happy to hear your tips, assuming that there are (or will soon be) other Vivaldi users among Slaw readers.
I was reluctant about writing a first Slaw post in almost a decade about something that could be perceived as an uninspired nerdism about a relatively unexciting tool (the browser). Yet, legal professionals, and CanLII users in particular, appear to spend a considerable amount of time in this particular piece of software, and I will therefore shake off my doubts and assume my browser obsession.
That said, and this is more important than tab organization and other browser bells and whistles, I love the idea that there is still room for innovation in browsers. Indeed, I don’t think that switching from the Web to “apps”, in how most people access information over the Internet that is, is a great evolution. “Apps” are a field where the smaller, more innovative, less risk-averse and more irreverent (in a good way) players have less success competing against the behemoths of the Internet and their increasingly sleek apps. In other words, the Web is still the freer platform and one where the playing field is the most leveled. I thus welcome a new wave of innovation and competition among browsers makers, if only because it means that the Web isn’t dead after all.