Years after we all jumped ship from Internet Explorer to Firefox and Chrome, we don’t really want to go back to a Microsoft browser, do we? While buggy and slow when it first appeared, Microsoft Edge has been given a continuing stream of new features and updates that make it worthy of your consideration now. Below are nine of our favourite additions that make it a worthy replacement for your current browser.
We’ve been using Microsoft Edge exclusively for the last week, and can confirm it’s actually not as bad as you might expect — at least not after you’ve migrated all your bookmarks, browsing history, and passwords over, which Edge can do for you in a few clicks.
Based on our own experience and the experiences of others, Edge is still lagging behind Chrome in terms of speed, but the gap isn’t hugely noticeable most of the time. And while Chrome continues to clean up its act in terms of resource hogging, Edge does well here too—as you would expect considering Microsoft develops both the browser and the operating system it runs on.
Integrations between Microsoft Edge and Windows 10 continue to get better (such as notifications in the Action Center), and Microsoft’s browser works very well with the online Office apps, as you would expect. It can also handle Google Drive and its online apps very well too, though you will initially be met with a flurry of pop-ups to install Google Chrome...
Just one request to Microsoft: Please, for the sake of journalists, writers, and people who use Content Management Systems the world over, introduce support for the Ctrl+Shift+V shortcut to paste without formatting... our livelihoods depend on it.
You can cast webpages
Microsoft Edge now features the option to beam websites, photos, and videos to a device using the Miracast standard. This is different to the protocol Google’s Chromecast uses, but it is supported by (for example) the Amazon Fire TV stick and Roku’s line of streaming sticks (Editor's Note: which aren't available in Australia). Click the Share button (top right) to search for nearby devices and start casting.
Comprehensive autofill tools
Microsoft Edge couldn’t remember information you typed into forms when it launched, but it can now — and that means you don’t have to tap in your address or your credit card number 20 times a week. Saved information can now be properly managed and edited, and payment details linked to your Microsoft account can be automatically imported too.
Better autoplay options
Edge lets you mute tabs (right-click then Mute tab), but it also gives you more detailed options for managing autoplaying on sites as you browse the web. From the app menu click Settings then Advanced and you’ll come across a Media autoplay drop-down menu.
Select Limit to stop any autoplaying media that has sound with it, or Block to stop any autoplaying media or not, sound or otherwise. Edge warns that this might cause some sites to break, but it might be a fair price to pay for a more peaceful browsing experience.
You can set this on a site-by-site level as well, which is going to be helpful if you like the way some sites use autoplay but find other sites frustrating: Click the Show site information button in the address bar (which will be either a padlock or info symbol), then choose Media autoplay settings to set your preferences for the current site.
Some decent extensions have been added
A lack of extension support was something that made Microsoft Edge a non-starter for some in the early days, but plug-ins and add-ons are gradually finding their way to the browser now. From the app menu, click Extensions to see what’s available—you’ve got Grammarly, Pocket, AdBlock, LastPass, 1Password, Office Online and more right now.
A reading view that actually works
You might be vaguely aware that your current browser has a distraction-free mode that cuts out page clutter, but is it as good as Edge’s? Click the Reading view button on the right of the address bar and adverts and menus disappear, leaving only the text and images you’re interested in. Click near the top then click Learning tools for more options.
These extra options include a choice of themes, spacing settings, a mode where just a few lines of text are highlighted at a time, and colour-coded grammar-based emphasis that can also improve reading comprehension. As added bonuses, you can have articles read out to you, and there’s a clutter-free printing option you can find on the Print dialog as well.
Better PDF handling
Microsoft Edge now works much better as a PDF reader, so if you use your browser to open up other types of files, that’s something to make note of. As well as some under-the-hood rendering improvements, there a newly designed floating toolbar that lets you hear PDFs read aloud, add annotations to documents, change the document view, and more.
The redesigned hub and menus
Edge just looks a lot better these days too: The menus are now split into submenus and are easier to get around, while the all-important hub provides easy access to your favourites (bookmarks), your reading list (saved articles), your downloads, and your browsing history. These individual screens are a lot more detailed and intuitive than they used to be.
With the most recent October 2018 update, you’ll notice the program options are now more neatly organised, and you can collapse menu headings (and hub headings) by clicking on the arrow at the top. You can also pin particular submenus or particular hub tabs (like downloads) to stay on screen: Just click the Pin button in the top-right corner.
More customisation options
Speaking of the Microsoft Edge interface, which was rather rough and ready when the browser first arrived alongside Windows 10, you can now customise the main toolbar on screen to suit your needs—open up the Edge application menu, move to the Show in toolbar entry, and you can add shortcuts to your downloads, browsing history, and so on.
On the same theme, the light and dark modes have been included in Edge for a while, but they’ve been refined and polished in recent months—you’ll find them on the General tab in Settings. The full-screen mode (F11) has been given some tweaks too, making it easier to access the address bar and open tabs when Edge is taking up the entirety of the display.
Edge on mobile
It makes a lot of sense to have the same browser on your mobile and desktop devices, which might be one reason you’ve been avoiding Edge, but Microsoft now makes very decent versions of the browser for Android and iOS. Your browsing history and other data gets synced across of course, and you can ping webpages back and forth between devices. It even has a dark mode—the only major browser available on iOS with that feature.
The new Your Phone app included in the October 2018 update for Windows 10 makes it easier to sync your browsing between Android, iOS, and Windows 10, though for the time being your options are rather limited on an iPhone or iPad (you can basically share webpages and that’s about it). Just sign in with a Microsoft account to get up and running.