The web browser has changed little since, well, forever. We use the web in new ways and to get the most out of it requires a new browser design. Opera thinks it has the answer with Neon.
With Neon, Opera has reinvented the web browser interface. Underneath it is powered by the same engine as Chrome, so it has the same capabilities as that browser. It is fast, secure, and it works with the latest web standards.
It is the user interface that is different with Neon and instead of displaying web pages in tabs in a window, the idea is that you run it full screen.
The Windows desktop wallpaper image is copied and used as the background in Neon, so it could be used as an alternative desktop.
(Do you know how to access the secret features in Microsoft Edge browser?)
Store your favourite websites
Browsers often display a grid of thumbnails showing popular websites when they are opened or a new tab is created. Neon does this too, but instead of being rectangular, they are circular.
Your favourite websites can be placed here and there are a few suggestions to get you started. The icons wiggle when the mouse moves over them and clicking them opens the site.
The positioning seems a bit haphazard and the layout wastes space. This will not matter when using a large screen with a desktop computer, but on a small laptop the site icons quickly fill the space and some are off the bottom.
A grid of rectangular tiles for sites may be visually boring, but it makes the best use of screen space, especially when it is limited. I’m not convinced the floating bubbles design is an improvement over what we have now.
Search with Neon
At the top is a search box and as you type into it, a list of suggestions appears below. This is standard among search engines, but there is no address box or search box, just a place to type.
It is different, but neither better nor worse than the search suggestions in a standard browser.
Neon tabs are different
Neon has tabs, but they are handled in a different way. Go to a website and there is no close button and only minimise. Click this and the site is placed in a panel on the right as a circular icon.
It looks much more interesting and attractive than the dull tabs that are in other web browsers. Neon’s circular tabs don’t work any difference, but they look nice and are just as easy to use as tabs.
Frequently used tabs float to the top apparently, although I didn’t see much movement during the time I tried it. Neon tabs can be dragged to the centre of the window to add at as a new website bubble.
(Does Chrome open two tabs when you start it? Here's how to stop it.)
The sidebar's functions
A column of icons down the left side of the window open a sidebar that performs several functions. It is the most innovative part of the interface.
When tabs have media, such as a video clip, it is automatically added to the sidebar. Clicking the play button shows the media as bubbles with a thumbnail image.
A video for example, can be played in the sidebar without opening the tab it is on. The video can be dragged elsewhere on the Neon desktop and resized by dragging the borders to fit whatever space is available on the screen.
A snap icon enables content from web pages to be copied, but not in the usual way. You drag a box over part of the page, such as an image, some text, a video, a heading and so on.
The area is clipped and then stored in the sidebar in a gallery of thumbnails. You can open the gallery, click and clip and view it normal site in the main window.
Opera has had some wacky ideas over the years and a series of browsers with funky features. However, few have taken off and grabbed people’s attention.
Opera Neon is unusual and its approach to browsing the web is different and innovative. Will it take off? Probably not, because browsers as they are work so well. However, if you want something different and a fresh take on web browsers, then try Neon for yourself.