Much has been written about Microsoft’s effort to replace the underlying web page rendering engine in the Edge browser with a version based on the open-source Chromium project.
The plan is to produce a cross-platform browser, available on older versions of Windows too, which implements a lot of the innovative features that first appeared with the Edge browser in Windows 10, but by using the Chromium engine, improve compatibility with web sites that perhaps didn’t work as well on Edge as they did on other browsers; notably Google’s Chrome, which shares a lot of the same underlying technology as Chromium.
Microsoft has put over 1,300 contributions back into the Chromium open source project over the last 5 years, with 1,100 in the last year, so the effort isn’t just to take Chromium and use it, but to help improve it for everyone.
Early adopters have had the ability to run a fairly stable Dev Channel build for a while, but now the Beta Channel is available, it’s open for anyone to have a look. Read more, and download the Beta version from here.
It’s possible to run all 3 versions of the browser side-by-side if you really want, and they co-exist with the regular Edge browser and Google Chrome as well, so it’s worth giving it a try. You’ll quickly find that the new Edge is notably quicker and is already slicker than old Edge, and some people consider it superior to Chrome.
The Tab key on your computer has its roots in the Tabulate typewriter function, which let you align type to defined (even modifiable) stops, so you could easily type tables of text and numbers, like invoices and so on.
In short, Tab could be used to left-align text, and is still used in modern typing, especially in word processing and in writing code. People who type space-space-space-space rather than a single TAB press still exist, though.
As well as the many features invoked by the Tab key in modern Windows, though – like WindowsKey-Tab to look at the timeline or the more common ALT-Tab to switch between programs – there’s a new capability for Edge browser users that might be worth looking out for.
If you’re using the Edge Preview – the Chromium-based version that has recently been pitched as Enterprise-Ready (for testing at least) – there’s a feature that has been enabled, which lets you search within a website rather than going straight to your favourite search engine and without needing to go to the site’s homepage and perform a search within.
This is a feature that has existed in Chrome for a while, but now appears more prevalent in the new Edge. The prompt showing up depends on the website implementing an OpenSearch capability, which is used to plug some query into the search engine behind the site, and how well it performs depends on whether that site search is any good.
Try Microsoft.com TAB search term ENTER and you might just see how many apps that match your word in the Microsoft Store there aren’t, but try Amazon.co.uk TAB Surface ENTER and you’ll have the opportunity to buy Surfaces and many things associated with them. Try maps.google.co.uk | RG6 1WG (what? No Street View?)
Perhaps most useful is when you want to try something in a search engine other than your default; so if you normally use Bing, you’ll know that typing a phrase in the address bar on its own will cause the browser to search if it can’t resolve your term to being a URL. Well, if you type google.com TAB term ENTER then it’ll try that same search over there, rather than you needing to go to the search engine homepage first.
Bill Gates had a vision of the future, set out in his 1995 tome, “The Road Ahead” (and later in “Business @ The Speed of Thought”) which included computers performing seamless speech and handwriting recognition, and language understanding (even to the extent of lip reading). Many of his predictions have come true yet it’s easy to forget what the world was like before the advent of technology we now take for granted.
In the not-too distant future, we may have the ability, babel fish-like, to automatically hear in our own language, regardless of what is spoken. Institutions like the EU have thousands of translators and interpreters, who provide written, spoken and signed interpretation between different languages. There are rigorous checks in place when trying to get work in these areas (though not everywhere), as we all know what can happen when wrong grammar is used, the words are unsuitable, or punctuation is in the incorrect place.
Computerised language translation has come a long way, and though it may still a way off replacing real translators, it’s good enough for most people to get the gist of a foreign document or website – so while you might not rely on it to turn a contract from French to English, it’s fine to figure out what’s on a menu or read some instructions.
Microsoft Research Asia recently won a competition for the best machine translation between a host of languages, and the growing fidelity of AI models is helping to improve the quality – a year previously, the Chinese-English translation was adjudged to be at human conversation level already, so it might not be too long before machine translation gets good enough that it’s hard to tell the difference between that and humans.
A practical tip for users of the new Chromium-based “Edge Dev” browser; you can enable on-the-fly webpage translation by going to edge://flags/, search for trans to find the translation flag, then switch it on and restart the browser. It is an experimental feature, technically, so YMMV for now.
Now, when you browse to a foreign-language site, you’ll be prompted if you’d like to translate (or you can invoke the function using the Bing Translator icon to the right of the address in the toolbar).
Legacy Edge users can install the Translator extension.
As they say in translation circles, Yandelvayasna grldenwi stravenka!
Here’s a quick tip for getting the URL of a picture on a website you’re browsing – it’s a topic that’s been covered previously in ToW 458, but with a refinement for a more recent browser platform.
Never fear, though, as described in #458, you can always use the Inspect feature (in both Chrome and Chromium Edge) or Inspect Element in classic Edge, though it might involve fishing about in the source HTML of the page to find the actual URL of the photo.
In Chrom*, just go to the Sources tab in Inspect and you’ll be able to see many elements of the page, including the image files that form part of it, and helpfully, they are previewed if you select them. On busy pages, there could be hundreds of nodes, but you’ll soon figure out where to look and at least it’s likely to be consistent within that page in future. From there, you can open in another tab or just grab the URL.
Handy for pasting into online forums, Yammer, Facebook etc. In most cases, you’re just referencing – embedding, even – a file that’s out there on some website or CDN, so you’re not even breaking copyright law. Probably.
After the first week or so with the New Edge browser, it feels grrrrrrrrrrreeeeat!
Paul Thurrott – a well known Microsoft commentator who’s branched out in recent years to cover lots of other tech too but is basically still a Microsoftie at heart, has published lots and lots of advice on www.Thurrott.com…
If you haven’t tried the new Edge out yet, then give it a whirl – it’s not finished and it’s not perfect, but so far it feels fast and it’s (mostly) compatible…
These are the Features Microsoft Turned Off or Replaced in Chromium-Based Edge – lots of Google services built into Chrome have been switched off. Or replaced by Microsoft services doing much the same thing, only more trustworthily and less advertisingy…
Living on the (New) Edge: What Syncs, What Doesn’t – though see we’ve already announced plans to update Android version of Edge to sync back with the new desktop Edge.
Living on the (New) Edge: Extensions – since there are some popular classic Edge extensions that aren’t yet showing up in the new Edge extension lists, you too can put Chrome ones in there. Like OneNote Web Clipper.
Living on the (New) Edge: Favorites – familiar if you already use Chrome
Living on the (New) Edge: On Startup and New Tab – one of the nicest features… you get the beautiful Bing image with your most-used tiles, and all the clickbait-infested Microsoft News content is a scroll away.
Living on the (New) Edge: Web Apps – a nice feature that makes it easy to “install” web pages and/or PWAs just like proper apps. You can pin apps to the start menu or task bar, you can jump straight to the others you have by going to edge://apps.
And there are many more… but we’ll finish up with:
Thurrot has a premium subscription service to get certain content, though you can read a couple of articles for free. In this one, he summarises why he thinks the new Edge will be good for all –
April’s big news was the public preview of the first Edge browser that uses the Chromium rendering engine. If this seems like a minor footnote in history, it at least marks a turning point in browser development by Microsoft. Instead of continuing with the Edge browser on Windows 10 using its own EdgeHTML rendering engine (and all the potential compatibility headaches and support issues that may entail), the team decided to move to using the open-source Chromium engine that underpins Google’s Chrome, and to make Edge available on older versions of Windows as well as the Mac.
After early builds were leaked, the Edge team has been working to release the preview in daily (“Canary”) builds, or weekly (“Developer”) versions. They can be side-loaded alongside both the regular Edge browser and Chrome, so giving it a try is a fairly low risk activity, and in unscientific comparison tests it appears to be as fast or slightly faster than both Chrome and the other Edge.
Check out more info on the Edge Dev blog, and get the latest build from the Edge Insider site. The Chromium-based Edge (already being referred to as “Edgium” by some) will support addins built for Chrome, though for now, just a subset are available from the Microsoft Store, and many more will follow and it is possible to add others.
In time, most (though not all, it seems) of the features that have been built into Edge will migrate to the new version, but for now, the test builds that are being made public look a lot like Chrome in places – eg. the settings menu, that takes place inside a browser tab rather than a sidebar, like “Classic” Edge.
Other oddities include shortcut keys – in old Edge, CTRL+SHIFT+P will launch an InPrivate window (useful for logging into Azure portal or Office365 admin page using different creds … what else?) but in both Chrome and the Edge Dev build, that launches the print dialog, and Incognito/InPrivate is CTRL+SHIFT+N.
As many of now know, the Edge browser in Windows 10 is going to change.
In short, the browser application will be rewired to use the open-source Chromium rendering engine, meaning that Edge will be every bit as compatible as Chrome is in displaying web pages and apps. It doesn’t mean that Edge will look and feel the same as Chrome, though – if the latter is a skin on the Chromium engine that provides a load of additional functionality, so Edge will be a different skin but will look and act much the same as it does today.
For now, at least, there are a lot of Chrome users on Windows 10 and various teams at Microsoft have gone to some lengths to build Chrome extensions to support other services or software, maybe in the same way they work on Edge or even beyond. See here for a list of Chrome extensions published by Microsoft.
One such extension was published recently, which allows the activity that a user is doing in Chrome, to be published to the Windows Timeline feature.
After installation, then any browsing you do in Chrome while will show up in Timeline – press WindowsKey + TAB or click the Timeline button that is generally found next to the Start button on your taskbar, and use the slider at the side to jump to a particular date, or click the search bar on the top right (keyboardistas, just press CTRL-F) and search for a keyword within the content you were browsing earlier.
It’s a fantastic way of searching not just browser history, but other activities – like Office docs or many Windows apps.
Look under the icon for the Activities extension, and you can choose which browser you’d like to use to open the tile from the Timeline – in the example above, a Google search within Chrome took us to a content page, and clicking or tapping that tile will re-open the website.
So, if you’re currently using Chrome under sufferance but would like to keep most of your browsing in Edge, having browsed in Chrome and gone back to the Timeline, it will give you the option of using your default – Edge – or using the other one, er, Edge…