Living on the (New) Edge: What’s Missing

Posted on April 15, 2019 by Paul Thurrott in Microsoft Edge, Windows 10 with 23 Comments

Whether you’re coming from classic Edge, Chrome, or some other browser, the new Edge is probably missing a feature you need.

That’s understandable, as Microsoft has only been publicly testing this browser since last week, and probably won’t finalize the first shipping version until late 2019 at the earliest. But the absence of even a single missing key feature can make or break your experience. Which is why most people probably won’t want to dive into the new Edge at this early date despite my belief that this product is important and will ultimately benefit all users.

To me, the biggest issues right now are all related to sync.

Microsoft has disabled Google account sync in the new Edge and has replaced it with Microsoft account (MSA) sync. That makes sense, but it’s also incomplete. Today, you can only sync Favorites (bookmarks), and then only between instances of new Edge on Windows 10.

So what’s coming? Lots. Soon, you’ll be able to sync extensions, browser history, settings, open tabs, personal information for forms (addresses, phone numbers, and so on), and passwords too. That syncing will one day extend to the new Edge on Windows 7, 8.1, and Mac, and it will work with Timeline in Windows 10. It will one day include mobile Edge. And those in corporate and educational environments will be able to sync through Azure Active Directory (AAD) instead of MSA.

You can get around a lot of this by doing a one-time import of your personal data from your current browser, as I noted in Living on the (New) Edge: Getting Started last week. But this browser can’t ship publicly until it has a complete sync experience. That’s pretty much job one.

Microsoft has highlighted a set of areas in which it will focus on the initial shipping version of the new Edge. These include accessibility, ARM64 compatibility, authentication, battery life, editing, fonts, layout, (smooth) scrolling, security, tooling, touch, and web standards support.

Few of these are in the product at the time of this writing. But you can enable smooth scrolling, and another useful feature, Dark mode support, using the edge://flags/ interface. And that’s an interesting place to look if you’re looking for future feature support. (I’ll be writing more about this interface soon.)

Some of these features are works in progress, Microsoft says. It is actively working on adding support accessibility technologies like Microsoft UI Automation (UIA), a high-contrast display mode, Web VTT-based captioning support, native caret browsing, and Windows Text Services Framework support. And it is likewise just about ready to ship a native ARM64 version of the browser for Windows 10 on ARM PCs.

Other expected features will take a bit longer. Microsoft specifically calls out smooth scrolling and battery life improvements, noting that it would like to help all Chromium-based browsers have the smoothest scrolling experience and best battery life.

Beyond this, of course, is a long list of features that are unique to classic Edge. I first voiced my concerns for fans of classic Edge last week, noting that many of these features—which include its tab management functionality, Favorites pane, Reading list, ebooks support, smart pen-compatible annotation capabilities, and more—will likely never be ported to the new Edge.

In its announcement of the first Edge Insider Preview release, Microsoft did say that the early builds we’re now seeing are focused mostly on fundamentals and that it “will be refining the feature set over time based on the feedback we receive.” I’m not so sure about that: I think the feature set is pretty much set in stone, frankly, and that Microsoft already knows exactly what it will provide in the first shipping version of the new Edge.

But this is your chance to prove me wrong: If you are a fan and user of classic Edge and would like to see your favorite key features make their way into the new Edge, you should let Microsoft know. Being Microsoft, it never explains how you might do that, so I’ll tell you: You need to visit the Microsoft Edge Insider Preview forums and let Microsoft know what you expect. A thread called We’re Listening! is a good place to start. But also check out the Discussion space, and if you don’t see the issue you want being raised, you can start a discussion yourself.

You can also install the new Edge and then use the Send feedback (smiley face) icon in its toolbar. This is geared mostly towards describing a problem you’re currently experiencing. But you may find it useful for dropping Microsoft a quick note to let them know how you really feel.

I’ve already seen many changes since that first release a week ago, mostly for the good. For example, Reading View is there now. The workaround to changing the default search engine from Bing is no longer required. And a change mid-week last week broke the display of the Momentum new tab extension I prefer, but I see this morning that it’s already fixed. Nice.

I’ll keep reporting on important changes to the new Edge as Microsoft refines it, of course.

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