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10 Microsoft Edge features that will convince you to give up your old browser

Popular Science logo Popular Science 10/20/2020 David Nield
graphical user interface, website: Edge is here to tempt you away from Chrome, Firefox, and Safari. © Provided by Popular Science Edge is here to tempt you away from Chrome, Firefox, and Safari.

You may have given up on Microsoft web browsers after experiencing Internet Explorer, the clunker that drove many people to alternatives like Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox. But hear us out: Microsoft Edge is a browser fit for the modern age and it has the features to prove it.

graphical user interface, website: Edge is here to tempt you away from Chrome, Firefox, and Safari. © Microsoft Edge is here to tempt you away from Chrome, Firefox, and Safari.

Rather than upgrading Internet Explorer, Microsoft decided to build Edge from scratch, not once, but twice. It initially launched in 2015 alongside Windows 10, but was rebuilt four years later using the same open-source Chromium code that Chrome uses.

1. Competitive speed

That reconstruction enabled Microsoft to remove support for older, outdated technologies and code, making Edge a lot leaner than its bulky forerunner.

Key to this process were a variety of under-the-hood tweaks that help the browser’s pages load faster and react more responsively, while preventing the program from overwhelming your computer’s system resources. This investment is paying off, as speed tests show.

2. A way to save text from websites

One of the flagship features of the new Edge is Collections. Whereas bookmarks keep track of web links, Collections can store snippets of text from websites themselves, enabling you to quickly gather information from the internet and get it organized in a way that makes sense.

graphical user interface, application: Edge's Immersive Reader feature makes pages easier to read. © David Nield Edge's Immersive Reader feature makes pages easier to read.

Click the Collections icon in the toolbar to get started—it looks like two squares with a plus inside one of them. Click Start new collection and then Add current page to begin your collecting. You can also right-click on an image or a block of text within a page, then select Add to Collections to save it. You can add notes to Collections as well, via the sticky note icon at the top of the pane.

You can use Collections to keep track of a shopping wishlist, to plan a trip, or to pull together research for an essay that you’re writing, to name a few examples. If you’ve got Edge installed on other devices too, your Collections will sync across.

3. A feed of personalized content

When you load up the browser, its default first page will show you a selection of news stories, snippets of information, and videos tailored to your interests. This page, called "My Feed,” offers an instantly accessible motherlode of relevant content when you’re looking for something to watch or read.

Edge chooses the feed topics based on your browsing history, interactions you’ve had with Cortana, and personal data such as your current location (for weather reports). You can also customize what you see by clicking on the cog icon in the top right of this page.

If you’d prefer to land on a different page, you can change your defaults so you won’t see My Feed every time you open a new tab. Click the three dots (top right) and choose Settings from the menu, then pick On start-up and New tab page to make changes.

4. Smooth integration with Windows 10

If you spend a lot of time with Windows 10, then Edge is the perfect companion. For example, if you use Cortana to run a web search from the taskbar, the results will show up in the Edge browser, even if you have a different default browser.

Edge also integrates neatly with other Microsoft products, like the Windows Defender antivirus tool for spotting dangerous sites. While Chrome and Firefox still work perfectly well on Windows 10, the experience is a bit more seamless when you’re using all-Microsoft programs.

You can easily pin frequently-visited websites to the taskbar for quick access: Click on the menu button (the three dots) and then choose More tools > Pin to taskbar. Edge also works well on any Windows 10 device, whether you’re using a desktop or tablet—the two different modes that the operating system supports.

5. Simple privacy controls

It’s not always easy trying to figure out how companies are tracking you across the web, so Edge has simplified the necessary privacy controls into three tiers: Basic, Balanced, and Strict.

You can find details of what each tier means, and set your preference, by clicking the three dots to the top right of the interface and choosing Settings, then Privacy, search, and services. Getting too aggressive with cookies and trackers can cause problems on some sites—pop-up messages repeatedly appearing, for example, because the site doesn’t know that you’ve visited it before.

Edge itself recommends the Balanced approach, but you can experiment with all three to see what works best for you. Click Exceptions and you can list particular sites that are allowed to use trackers, no matter which privacy tier you choose.

6. Vertical tabs

Tabs are, of course, an essential way of getting around the web, and we’re used to having them up at the top of the screen. Edge gives you the option to organize them vertically, with the tab headings listed down the left-hand side of the browser.

The feature isn’t currently available in the stable, public version of Edge, but it should be soon. To try it out in advance, download the early developer version of the browser, called Edge Canary, from here. You’ll have to put up with a few more bugs, but you’ll get to see new features and interface changes in advance.

When the browser’s installed, you’ll see a vertical tabs button right up in the top left corner of the interface. Click on this to switch between vertical tab mode and normal mode.

7. Reading support

graphical user interface, application: Edge's Immersive Reader feature makes pages easier to read. © Provided by Popular Science Edge's Immersive Reader feature makes pages easier to read.

Edge has a cool feature for distraction-free reading, called Immersive Reader. While other browsers offer something similar, Edge implements it in a slick, simple-to-use way—you can jump in and out of Immersive Reader mode with a click, and the feature does an impressive job of making pages more easily digestible by getting rid of extraneous clutter.

To access Immersive Reader, click its icon (it looks like a small book) in the address bar. Edge will transform the page into a simplified form by removing ads and other distractions. In this mode, you can use the buttons at the top of the page to set options such as font size and background color, and even have the article read aloud to you.

8. Chrome extensions

One of the problems new browsers face is attracting developers to make useful extensions, which is where the likes of Firefox and Chrome really excel. But because Edge is built on the same Chromium code as Google’s browser, you can install any Chrome-compatible add-on in Edge too—open the browser menu (via the three dots in the top right-hand corner), then choose Extensions to see what’s installed and to find new options in the Edge Add-ons library. You can also head to the Chrome Web Store and install anything you find there, too.

9. Windows S Mode accessibility

Microsoft designed Windows S Mode as a streamlined version of Windows 10—a more lightweight option for home users, basically. That means it only runs apps from the Windows Store and has no room for big desktop packages like Photoshop. And Edge is the only web browser in the Windows Store.

So, picking Edge as your browser also opens up the option of using Windows S Mode, with its tighter security and easier app management—you’ll see this cut-down operating system available on laptops sold by some third-party manufacturers. Switching out of S Mode is always an option, but you can’t go back.

10. Phone support

It’s convenient to have a browser that syncs your desktop bookmarks, passwords, and other web browsing info to your phone. Luckily, Microsoft has launched versions of Edge for Android and iOS to give you all of these benefits.

Besides all of the cross-platform syncing—which includes any Collections you might have set up—Edge on mobile gives you handy features such as private browsing and control over blocking trackers and ads. If you spend a lot of time jumping between different devices and platforms, Edge can go along with you.

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