In case you haven’t heard, Microsoft Edge is back: The rebooted, revamped, and rebuilt program is now based on the same Chromium engine as Google Chrome and a variety of other browsers, and Microsoft has taken the opportunity to streamline and tidy up the application at the same time. Here’s how to give it a trial run, and some of the features you can try out when you do.
You will eventually get the new and improved Edge over Windows Update if you’re running Windows 10; otherwise, you can install the browser here. In addition to versions for Windows and macOS, Microsoft has also developed apps for Android and iOS, so all of your browsing activity can be synced between devices.
When you get the browser up and running on Windows or macOS, you’ll first be asked if you want to move anything over from your current browser. Edge can import data such as bookmarks, passwords, and browsing history from Chrome, Firefox, or Safari. If you want to tweak what gets imported, click Customise import on the opening splash screen.
Based on our experience at least, this works flawlessly. Everything was ported over without a hitch and ended up in the right place in Edge, though of course your mileage may vary. It takes a lot of the strain out of logging into every single site again from scratch, though you’ll still have to deal with various implementations of two-factor authentication (the security protection is worth the inconvenience, though).
Next, you get to choose from three looks for the new tab page: Inspirational, Informational, or Focused. You can also tweak this setting via the New Tab Page link on the Settings pane, or using the cog icon on the New Tab page itself. Focused is the most minimal, Informational fills up your screen with news feeds, and Inspirational is somewhere between the two.
Overall, you’ll find the new Edge cleanly and tidily laid out. Some of the more superfluous features (like webpage annotations) have been cut, and the options screen is much more intuitive and easier on the eye than the one that appeared in the original Edge.
Many of us work across multiple devices, and to do this on Edge you’ll want to sign in with a Microsoft account. Click the avatar icon on the top right to enter your credentials. You can choose to be selective about what gets synced between Edge on different devices if you want—just click Customise after you’ve signed in.
Inside the address bar you’ll see options for setting cookie permissions for a page, as well as adding a page to your bookmarks. On some pages you’ll also see an Enter Immersive Reader icon (it looks like a book). This presents you with a clean, streamlined version of an article, with the option to have it read out to you, and some basic text formatting settings as well.
Click the three dots on the top right, then Settings, and the control hub for the browser appears. You’ve got a host of options to play around with here, but of particular note is the Privacy and Services page. You can choose from one of three options when it comes to how strictly Edge handles trackers, cookies, and ads.
Further down the same page are options for clearing browsing data, including your browsing and download histories, cookies, and cached images. Handily, you can have Microsoft Edge clear some of this data every time you close the browser down, which saves you from having to keep erasing your tracks manually.
Elsewhere, some of the settings pages are a little sparse and will hopefully be filled in over time. If you go to Site Permissions, you can set which websites have access to your camera and microphone, as well as your location as reported by your browser. Notifications can also be turned on or off for specific sites here.
An easier way to get at these settings is to click the icon just to the left of the site URL while you’re looking at a page (it’ll usually, but not always, be a padlock). You can see the site permissions and manage tracking settings for the site from here. To mute and unmute a site, click the audio icon on the tab itself.
Another benefit of Edge switching to Chromium is that you have access to a much bigger library of browser extensions, because anything written for Chrome should work. You can install them from the Microsoft Edge Add-ons page or even from the Chrome Web Store (Edge will prompt you to confirm you want to allow extensions from non-Microsoft sources).
Browser add-ons can be managed from the Extensions section of the Edge menu. You can enable and disable extensions, as well as remove them completely. To change whether extension buttons appear on the toolbar, right-click on them (this will typically lead you to the options for the extension, too).
There’s a lot more to come from Edge, we hope, but it’s already good enough to be your default browser after many months of beta testing. Even better, it feels at least as speedy and responsive as Chrome in use. With some unnecessary features removed, and some useful features (and Chrome extension support) added, it’s absolutely worth a try.