Tom Mighell – tech blogger, podcaster, author, and lawyer – recently tweeted that he was using Microsoft’s Edge browser more often than Google Chrome. Intriguing. What makes Edge a contender in the browser space? Should you switch from Chrome? What is new and improved? And what features are especially useful for lawyers?
What is so surprising about someone preferring the Edge browser? Well, you must look at the history of browsers. Microsoft released Internet Explorer in 1995. In 1998 Internet Explorer came bundled with Windows 98 pre-installed. It became the de facto browser for most users. In fact, Microsoft said it was baked into the operating system (though techies persisted in figuring out ways to uninstall it). At times it was rife with security issues and awfully slow. Other browsers like Firefox, Safari, and Google Chrome appeared as alternatives. They quickly gained market share, but Internet Explorer was still the one to beat until Google Chrome overtook IE in 2012. Microsoft released the Edge browser with Windows 10 in 2015. However, MS was still bundling IE with Windows. Edge remained underutilized. Since then, Microsoft has enhanced the Edge browser and diminished Internet Explorer. Early in 2020 Microsoft released an updated version of Edge, built on the Chromium technology that powers Google Chrome. Now Edge has been gaining in market share.
The newest version of Edge was released with the Windows 10 October 2020 update. The updated version has better performance, more privacy options, and some interesting features. While Edge has all the functionality that people are accustomed to in a browser – universal search bar, tabbed interface, customization settings, favorites, history, task management, extensions, and private browsing – there are some new options that are appealing, and even more on the way.
Collections – in Edge, Collections are different than bookmarks or favorites. Collections are more like an Evernote notebook or Pocket. You create a collection name and add websites, or text selected from a webpage. You can add notes about a particular element in a Collection or within the Collection as a whole. You can open all the pages in a Collection or send the Collection to Excel, OneNote, or Word. For research, Collections can be quite handy and without having to use a tool beyond your browser. In the right click menu on tabs you can add all open tabs to a new Collection. In the Canary Channel build of Edge (which is an Insider preview version) just in time for the holidays if you add an item to a Collection, say a new desk chair, a link to do an instant price comparison appears. Additionally, they are adding online coupons. No need to search through PriceGrabber, RetailMeNot and Honey anymore!
Vertical Tabs – In the Insider builds of Edge they have introduced vertical tabs. You can choose to have your tabs spread across the top of the screen horizontally as usual OR if you right click you can turn on vertical tabs. If you have a whole lot of tabs open in a horizontal arrangement, they become truncated and harder to see which is which. A vertical alignment makes them easier to see and navigate through. It’s the little things!
Enhanced PDF Reader – Coming soon the PDF reader built into the browser will let you highlight, fill in forms, read aloud, see the PDF table of contents if present (!!!), add text notes, validate digital signatures and more. That is a whole lot of functionality packed into the browser viewer for a PDF.
Extensions – If you migrate from another browser like Chrome or Firefox your extensions will also come over to Edge. Not all extensions will work, but most will. Edge also has an extensive extension list.
Alt + Tab – In Windows if you press Alt + Tab you can see which applications are open and scroll through and select one to jump to. This is a handy shortcut if you have a whole lot of documents and apps open. Soon in Edge you will also be able to see the open tabs in the browser, as well as documents and apps, so you can jump to what you want to with laser precision (note: if you don’t see this option you may not have the Windows 10 October 2020 update yet)!
Edge for Business – Microsoft has a version of Edge just for business. Or, rather, several versions. IT managers can pick a version, build and platform to deploy and configure the browser across the firm or organization. This includes Internet Explorer mode for firms that are using legacy sites or applications designed for the older browser, single sign on (SSO) and network protections.
Privacy and Security
The Internet is a dangerous place. The Edge browser has several features built in to help keep your browsing safer and more private. The browser includes a whole suite of tools to help you stay safe. These tools include blocking third party trackers and InPrivate browsing options so that your internet browsing, and search aren’t saved to your account. It also comes with Microsoft Defender SmartScreen, turned on by default. This protects you from phishing and malware websites and from downloading potentially malicious files. If you want to get more details on how to manage your privacy, they offer a privacy dashboard.
Edge is available on all operating systems (including Linux) and you can import your favorites, extensions, and passwords from other browsers, so it is easy to switch. It is fast and attractive. Microsoft is adding many unique features and interesting options. You may not be ready to use Edge as your default browser yet, but it is certainly one to watch!
Editors’s Note – This article is republished with the author’s permission – first publication on the North Carolina Bar Association site.