The big blue “E” never appealed to me before. Internet Explorer was basically a flawed product. Even 11 different versions couldn’t get it up to the competition. When Windows 10 first appeared with its new Edge browser, I was extremely disappointed. While there were a few new features, the new big blue “E” still couldn’t stand up to the competition. All of the other major browsers like Chrome, Firefox, and Opera were far superior.
It took Microsoft another year and a lot of work to get Edge up to snuff, but they did it. The retooled Edge browser that installs with the Windows 10 Anniversary Edition is much improved. At first glance, there is little difference but you will immediately notice an improvement in speed. The new Edge has surpassed Google Chrome, which has long held the speed record, in several benchmark tests. Edge is now built on a whole new rendering engine. It is devoid of those old Internet Explorer malware targets. There is no ActiveX and no VBScript support, making it a much safer browser than its predecessors. Yet it supports all of the current standards, something that obviously cannot be said of the aging Internet Explorer versions. The new Edge’s interface is crisp and clean. The Start Page, shown below, is customizable.
The biggest change is that Edge now supports extensions. This is a welcome addition since it was the biggest deficiency in the first version of Edge. To add an extension, you download it from the Microsoft Store. The first time you try to open it, you will be asked to turn it on. You can also do this later in the Settings.
The support of extensions was promised more than a year ago when Microsoft’s Joe Belfiore stated that extensions programmed for Chrome or Firefox would only require minimal coding to work in Edge. In reality it looks like that is not true since the Edge browser in Windows 10 Anniversary Edition started with only eight extensions. As I write this, a month after the release of the new Edge, there are only thirteen extensions and five of them are from Microsoft. If it were so easy, we would be seeing a lot more extensions by now. Certainly LastPass, Pinterest, Pocket and Evernote Web Clipper are very useful. The Microsoft Translator extension can work with more than fifty languages to translate web pages. Yet there are a lot of good, useful extensions missing.
One extension that I have to mention is the Office Online extension. This is a quick way to open and work in Office without opening individual programs. Microsoft, however, inserts one quirk. You can only open documents that are stored in OneDrive and you can only save documents to OneDrive. So of you happen to store documents on your own computer or you use Dropbox or another cloud storage option it will be useless.
Note to Microsoft: Microsoft, you want me to use Windows 10, Microsoft Office, and the Edge browser, but you won’t let me open or store Office documents (in Edge) on my own computer? Your tactics are a little too obvious and too constricting.
Besides extensions, the new Edge browser also allows you to pin tabs for quick access. Just right-click on an open tab and select Pin. Once it is pinned you will see the website as a small rectangle on the left side of the Edge toolbar. It can be very useful to see your favorite websites in the same place every time you open Edge.
Microsoft has also integrated Cortana, their digital assistant into the new Edge browser. You can now right click on anything you find on the web and choose “Ask Cortana.” Without leaving the website you are viewing, a sliding box will appear on the right side of the screen with Cortana’s information about your selection.
Cortana can also give you information about photos on web pages. Just right-click a photo to have Cortana give you facts about it, as well as related images. This doesn’t work with all images, but when it does, it can even give you the size of the photo. Cortana can also give you a little help when you are surfing. She can offer menus for restaurant sites, directions for a doctor’s office, and even a coupon for a shopping site.
Edge has a Reading mode which shows the article without ads and videos. While this works well with some pages, many do not have Reading mode available. If the Reading mode is available, a small book on the toolbar starts to animate.
A Reading List feature lets you save webpages for reading later. This is similar to Instapaper and Pocket. Just use the star to mark the page as a Favorite, then choose Reading list and give it a name. This new version will save your list for offline reading. It will also sync with different devices as long as you are signed into the same Microsoft account and have turned synching on in the Settings.
Like the previous version of Edge, this Anniversary Edition version the annotation feature lets you draw on a website with your finger or a mouse. You can then save the annotated website as a screenshot or you can save it in OneNote.
Edge is a solid contender with some excellent features. It is snappy and works quite well with almost all web pages. Because of its clean interface and annotation feature, it is a joy to use on touch screen systems. Yet, I won’t be using Edge until more extensions are offered. So right now it is a wait-and-see proposition for me.