Each major new version of Windows 10 includes dramatic functional improvements to Microsoft Edge. And with each of these releases, I reevaluate this web browser to find out if I can finally use it regularly.
Sadly, it’s always fallen short, and then some. As I noted in Edge of 17(03): Microsoft’s Web Browser is Still Lacking, the … well, I guess that title kind of says it all. Despite years of improvements, Microsoft Edge has just never measured up to more mature browsers like Chrome or Firefox.
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But hope springs eternal. And with Microsoft finalizing the Fall Creators Update as I write this, it’s time to consider Edge yet again. To make this happen, I’ll look at the complaints I made back in April and see what, if anything, Microsoft has done to fix those issues. The goal being that it’s possible that Edge could be improved enough so that I could actually use it.
Web apps. With Chrome, you can pin web apps to the Windows 10 taskbar, and I use some—like Google Inbox and Google Calendar—in this fashion every day. Microsoft has promised to support modern web apps and to let them integrate with Windows 10 in the future. That work is not happening in the Fall Creators Update. So while you can now pin websites to the taskbar from Edge, these shortcuts are just empty, and, when selected, the underlying site just opens in a new tab in your normal Edge window. That is not what I am looking for. Verdict: FAIL
Create desktop shortcuts. With Chrome and other web browsers, you can drag a site from the address bar to the Windows 10 desktop, creating a shortcut. Edge still does not support this in the Fall Creators Update. In Fact, if you try to do this, you’ll see a little “NO” graphic on the dragged item.Verdict: FAIL
General performance. Overall, Edge still works a bit more leisurely than Chrome, the web browser I prefer and use daily (both on PC and mobile). That said, Microsoft has addressed my issue with right-click menu performance in the Fall Creators Update. So I’m going to give Microsoft the rare thumbs-up here. Verdict: WIN
Favorites bar. I store my bookmarks in the Chrome Bookmarks bar, or what Edge calls the Favorites bar. Chrome gives me a lot of control over how this looks and works, and each item (bookmark or folder) can appear as an icon or as an icon with a label. In Edge, you can still only choose between icons and icons with text, globally. Verdict: FAIL
Mobile sync. Because Microsoft Edge only works in Windows 10, it is incompatible with the Android phones and iPhones that everyone uses. And that is a non-starter: When I sign-in to Chrome on my iPhone or Android handsets, all of my bookmarks, settings, and saved passwords come along for the ride. Edge still can’t do this. Verdict: FAIL
Extensions. Microsoft continues to add more Extensions to Edge, and there are now almost 50 available in the Windows Store. Granted, the number of quality extensions is low, and there are some extensions I use with Chrome that are still not available in Edge. But the core stuff is there, and it’s good enough. Verdict: WIN
Full-screen. With the Fall Creators Update, Microsoft Edge finally supports a normal (F11) full-screen page display mode. Problem solved. Verdict: WIN
Developer. Chrome offers an incredible F12 Developer experience that includes a Sources view that helps me pull images and other content out of websites. (I use this to grab full-sized images from Microsoft sites, for example.) Edge does provide its own F12 Developer Tools functionality, of course. But I still can’t figure out how to use it for this need. I am pretty sure it’s not possible. Verdict: FAIL
Notifications. Websites and web apps are increasingly using native app-like notifications to keep users up-to-date. Chrome supports this functionality fully. But only a tiny subset of the web can provide notifications to Edge. And they won’t work at all unless the site is open in a tab at the time. Microsoft says that this functionality is coming to Edge, but in a future update. Verdict: FAIL
So the FAILs have it, 5-3. But that’s still 3 WINs, for me, over the previous Windows 10 version. And it’s important to consider the relative pain of each of those FAILs. For example, the Developer bit is actually a big issue for me, and so is Edge’s inability to pin web apps to the taskbar in a way that works like native apps. But notifications are not; in fact, I routinely ignore website notifications in Chrome. Neither is the mobile sync stuff, at least for me.
(You may note that I’m not discussing too many new Edge features from the Fall Creators Update here. Honestly, most of that doesn’t affect me, positively or negatively.)
So it’s not as bad as it looks. And while I still can’t use Edge as my only web browser with the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update, Microsoft is (ahem) edging itself a bit closer with each release. And of course, thanks to my Windows 10 S experimentation this month, where I’m using Microsoft’s most limited Windows version for about half of each day, my Edge usage is actually skyrocketing.
You never know.