Microsoft is getting a lot of attention for pushing Internet Explorer towards retirement and replacing it with a young upstart called Edge. So here’s a quick overview of what you can expect from Microsoft Edge, the new web browser in Windows 10.
Note: At the time of this writing, Edge isn’t complete and some of these features aren’t yet working. –Paul
Here’s what you need to know about Microsoft Edge.
It was previously codenamed Project Spartan. Microsoft Edge previously went by the codename Project Spartan.
Why a new browser? Not surprisingly, some are confused why Microsoft didn’t simply push forward with the Internet Explorer product and brand. But IE is 20 years old, and while it’s available in Windows 10 for compatibility reasons—especially for business customers—Microsoft felt that it needed to start over with a new, modern web browser that was designed from the ground up for today’s needs. The company describes Edge as “the browser for the next 20 years.”
Why the name Edge? Believe it or not, the primary consideration for the Edge name was that users see an “E” icon on their Start menu or taskbar. For hundreds of millions of users, “E” means “the Internet.”
It’s all new. From a user’s perspective, Edge is a brand-new web browser with a new user experience. It’s not some version of IE with a new look and feel.
It’s not all new. From a web browser engine perspective, Edge uses a forked version of IE’s Trident rendering engine. Called Microsoft Edge HTML, this engine was stripped of much of Trident’s IE-specific legacy technologies and moved forward in ways that ensure Edge behaves like other popular browsers (Chrome, Safari) and is more compatible with modern web standards.
It’s a universal app. Microsoft Edge is a universal app, which means it will run on any version of Windows 10 with a graphical user interface. So you’ll be able to use this app on Windows 10 PCs, tablets, phones, plus Xbox One, HoloLens, and Surface Hub too.
What about competing platforms? I’ve asked whether Microsoft whether it will create versions of Edge for Mac, iOS (iPhone/iPad) and Android, but have been told there are no such plans at this time.
It looks modern. Like other universal apps, Edge features a somewhat stark, modern-looking UI that is designed to scale well across the various devices on which this app will run.
There are no versions or manual updates to worry about. Edge will be kept up to date and there won’t be a version 2 or 3 in later Windows versions, or any fragmentation. Edge will simply be kept evergreen going forward, by Microsoft, using Windows Update.
You may want to use the New Tab experience as your home page. This page is rich and attractive, and combines Bing-based search with a row of top sites tiles and personalized content that is somewhat reminiscent of the old Yahoo and iGoogle web portals.
Cortana is integrated. While Cortana will continue to work directly from the Windows 10 shell, Microsoft’s digital personal assistant is available right in Edge too, since so many people use the web to find answers and information. This integration is fairly deep, and you can summon Cortana implicitly or explicitly in many ways. For example, when you type terms in the address bar (or the Bing search box on the New Tab page), Cortana will provide instant answers—weather, or specific questions like when does summer start?, for example, without needing to go to a search page. When you’re on a web site that has phone, address and other information, Cortana appears in the address bar so you can open a pane right in the browser that provides a lot more information about the place. And you can highlight words or phrases, right-click, and then choose “Ask Cortana” to find out more, again in a pane (so you don’t need to navigate away from the page. It’s powerful stuff, and will require further exploration.
You can read without distractions. Like the similar feature in IE, Edge has a feature called Reading View that lets you read a web article without any of the ads, multiple pages, and other surrounding distractions. You can customize this view with your own fonts and colors, and just focus on the content.
You can save articles and web pages and read them later. Like IE, Edge integrates with a Windows 10 feature—really, a separate app—called Reading List so you can save web articles for later. Reading List of course syncs between your devices, so you can save an article on your work PC, perhaps, and then read it on your phone on the way home from work.
You can annotate the web. A unique Edge feature called Web Notes puts the browser into a special mode where you can add annotations on top of the page. These annotations can be made with your finger or, if you have one, a stylus (like Surface Pen). Web Notes are saved locally, but can be synced between devices, and you can share them with others too, even people who aren’t using Edge.
It will be extensible. Edge will support an extension model similar to that found in Google Chrome and Firefox. Extensions won’t ship in the initial version of Windows 10 this summer, however: Microsoft plans to add this functionality later in the year, on PCs first, with mobile versions coming later. The good news? Edge’s extension model will be very compatible with Chrome’s, so you will be able to use many of those extensions, and porting Chrome extensions to Edge should be fairly simple. Microsoft says that extensions will be available through the Windows Store.
Some promised features are not happening. Some of the features Microsoft showed off early on—most notably tab previews—will not ship in the final product. That’s what happens during a beta, folks.
It’s missing some very useful features from Internet Explorer. Edge is pretty cool, but if you’re an IE user, you will notice some useful features are missing. For example, you can’t save a web page as a web archive (which combines all the text, graphics and layout into a single MSHTML file). And you can’t pin sites to the Windows 10 taskbar, as you could with IE.
I’ll update this article as more Edge is updated.