Living on the (New) Edge: On Startup and New Tab

Posted on April 12, 2019 by Paul Thurrott in Microsoft Edge, Windows 10 with 7 Comments

I suspect that even fans of classic Edge will appreciate how the On Startup and New Tab behavior has changed in the new Edge. It was certainly something that always bothered me.

To understand what I mean, let’s first review how these features—the browser’s behavior on startup and what you see what you open a new tab—are handled by classic Edge. Both are configured in Edge settings > General > Customize.

The “Open Microsoft Edge with” option can be configured with Start page (the default), New tab page, Previous pages, or a specific page or pages. Aside from the fact that the default Start page is absolutely miserable—full of ads and terrible news stories, and, worse, ads masquerading as news stories—this is a reasonable set of options for most people. I always select “Previous pages” for what I assume are obvious reasons: You don’t want to lose anything you were working on previously.

The “Open new tabs with” option is a bit more problematic. You can choose between “Top sites” and suggested content (the default), Top sites, and “A blank page.” Top sites is basically a grid of tiles representing the websites you visit most and/or sites that are sponsored by Microsoft in the browser, so eew. And “a blank page” is perhaps my favorite. Because it is, of course, not actually blank.

In the new Edge, the On Startup behavior (now in Edge settings > On startup) doesn’t include the Start page from classic Edge, which seems like a good sign until you realize that it’s hidden in the New Tab experience. So the three choices basically map to the first three remaining choices in “Open Microsoft Edge with” in classic Edge: Open the New Tab page (which is the new Start page), Continue where you left off (the same as “Previous pages”), and Open a specific page or pages. Left missing in action, of course, is “Open a blank page.” (Could you set the specific page to “about:blank” to achieve a blank page? Perhaps. But I can’t get that to work in the current Insider build.)

So, yes, I still configure this to “Continue where you left off,” which I believe is the behavior that most people will want as well.

Configuring the New Tab page experience, oddly, requires you to actually open a new tab. You can’t do this from new Edge settings. When you do this the first time, you’ll be presented with a page that somewhat resembles the old “’Top sites’” and suggested content” choice from classic Edge: There are tiles for frequently-visited sites at the top and, below the fold, your “feed,” which is that terrible collection of ads, news stories, and ads masquerading as news stories.

Nonetheless, this page is a significant step up from the similar classic Edge experience. It’s prettier, for starters, with a Bing Images backdrop image that changes every day. It’s also configurable. You’re asked to choose a layout for this interface when you first install the new Edge, but you can also configure the layout at any time by selecting the hamburger-style Page Settings menu in the top right and choosing between Focused, Inspirational, Informational, and Custom layouts.

This is a big deal, in part because the feed is hidden by default in all but the Informational view by default.

Better still, of course, is choosing your own New Tab experience, a feature that was unavailable in classic Edge. There’s no interface for doing so in new Edge, either, actually. But because this browser is now based on Chromium, you can choose from a library of custom New Tab extensions in the Chrome Web Store. (Which you need to enable first, as I discussed in both Living on the (New) Edge: Getting Started and Living on the (New) Edge: Extensions.) Just open the Chrome Web Store and search for new tab.

My choice is Momentum, which provides a gorgeous new photo backdrop every day, big time and date displays, and a nice menu for links which, for me, has replaced my previous usage of the Bookmarks Bar (called Favorites Bar in both Edge versions).

You can also configure Momentum with a to-do list, weather, an inspirational quote, and more. I love it, though I should point out that the last two new Edge Canary builds have screwed up the layout of Momentum so that the time display is shifted off the left, incorrectly. (It worked in this initial Insider Preview build and previous to that.)

Hey, it’s a beta (the new Edge, that is). I’m sure that will be fixed eventually.

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