Most people reaching the latter part of their thirties get a twinge of nostalgia when they hear the Ghostbusters theme, catch a repeat of Cheers on TV, or fear the inevitability of oncoming nuclear war. For us techies of a certain age, however, nostalgia means the grinding noise of a 56k modem, AltaVista, Netscape Navigator, and Microsoft Internet Explorer.
Microsoft’s original web browser didn’t have the largest fanbase, and in reaction to this the company released its successor, Microsoft Edge. Since 2015, Microsoft Edge has been Windows 10’s default web browser, and has become so popular that it’s just been replaced. By New Microsoft Edge!
Microsoft Edge isn’t Microsoft Edge
Unlike New Coke, however, New Microsoft Edge, or Microsoft Edge Chromium, is actually a pretty great web browser. The reason it’s so great, is that it’s actually Google Chrome in disguise. Microsoft’s new version of Edge is built on the open source version of Google Chrome, Chromium, which means its fast, secure, and already well supported.
Microsoft has also built in a raft of new features, any one of which would be worth upgrading for:
- You can install Google Chrome extensions.
- The new collections feature, which is an improved version of the traditional bookmarks.
- The ability to “install” web apps and pin them to your task bar — try visiting Outlook or Office.com and using the install app option.
- Your collections, bookmarks, and passwords are backed up against your school account and synced across all of your devices.
- Edge administrator management is built into Windows Azure and Server.
Let’s take a look a closer look.
How to install Microsoft Edge
To install Edge just visit https://www.microsoft.com/edge and select your operating system. It’s available for Windows 7 up to 10, Mac, Android, and iOS.
If you’re running Windows with a previous version of Edge, the old version will be removed and replaced with Edge Chromium and you’ll see the snazzy new icon instead. Don’t worry, though, you old bookmarks will be brought across, and you’ll also get the option to import Chrome bookmarks.
Once installed you’ll be give the option to set up the layout of your new tab page. If you’re using Edge with your school Microsoft 365 account, make sure you choose the Informational option, as this gives your an excellent overview of all of your documents, recent collaborations, and immediate access to your favourite Microsoft services.
Here you can also choose whether you want to use Microsoft Bing as the built in search engine. Yes, I’m sure some people leave it ticked. Don’t be so negative.
How to install Google Chrome Extensions
For me, the ability to install Chrome extensions is the real killer feature here. You no longer have to rely on the sparse few Microsoft Edge extensions from the Microsoft Store to get by. Now you can install any of the thousands of Chrome extensions, including Zoom, LastPass, Google Classroom, Loom, and Microsoft Editor.
To install a Chrome extension:
- Visit the Chrome webstore: https://chrome.google.com/webstore
- Search for the extension you want.
- Click Add to Chrome:
That’s it! You’ll get a nice notification to tell you the installation has completed, and your new browser extension will be available immediately
How to “install” a web app in Microsoft Edge
You can also “install” web apps using Microsoft Edge. Most of the main Microsoft 365 web services support this feature, including Outlook, Calendar, Office.com, and Word, which allows you to pin your most used apps as a full screen web app to your Start menu and task bar.
It’s difficult to explain in writing how this works and why you would want to do it, but this feature turns Microsoft’s maturing web services into a sudo-desktop app. The best thing to do is to try it for yourself:
- Open one of Microsoft’s web services. In this example I’m using Office.com.
- Click the small + icon at the far right of the address bar.
- Click Install.
Once the installation has finished — it should only take a few seconds — you’ll be presented with an elegant full screen version of the Office.com web app which you can pin to your task bar for easy access.
Why you should install the new Edge
In the new version of Edge, Microsoft has taken the best web browser engine in the world, built an elegant UI on top, and added range of Microsoft 365 apps and services to it.
I’ve been using the Chromium version of Edge for over six months now, and it’s such an improvement over its predecessor. Most websites are already optimised for Chromium, which removes so many of those niggling websites which don’t display correctly, or just don’t load, and for that reason alone, it’s worth upgrading. Go and upgrade now, and never look back.