Tip o’ the Week 494 – Edge Beta breaks cover

clip_image002Much 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.

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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.

Find out what’s new and what’s coming next.

Tip o’ the Week 492 – TAB and Search

clip_image002The 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 clip_image004favourite search engine and without needing to go to the site’s homepage and perform a search within.

clip_image006Start by typing the site’s URL in the browser address bar, and you may well see a prompt to press Tab to search within that site.

clip_image008This 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.

Tip o’ the Week 481 – Lost in Translation

clip_image002Bill 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.

clip_image004Computerised 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.

There are plenty of mobile apps and websites like Bing Translator, and the cloud-powered translation service is built-into Word (just right-click and Translate on any text).

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 clip_image006webpage 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.

clip_image008Now, 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!

Tip o’ the Week 480 – Installing Apps in New Edge

Whatever you call it – New Edge, Edge Dev, Edgemium, Chromdge etclip_image002[4]c – the new Windows browser called Edge but with its rendering gubbins based on Chromium is making progress with regular updates and has quite a following already.

ToW 476 covered some of the articles that were written when it first came out, but buried within was a slew of interesting features that merit their own mention.

clip_image004[4]Such a capability is being able to install a web page as an App, making it look a lot like a normal Windows app to some degree. In older Edge browser, this was known as pinning a site.

In New Edge, just go to the … menu (top right) on any web page, and under Apps, you can Manage apps and install pages.

clip_image006[4]If the current site is a regular web page, you’ll see “Install this site…” but if the page is itself a Progressive Web App (PWA), like the Starbucks example above, then it will likely declare its name. There are lots of PWAs out there already – see here as an example – some are managed through the Windows Store, but since Google allowed Chrome / Chromium to install PWAs, many are published online and available directly.

Users don’t even need to know what a PWA is, for the most part – if a site looks and feels like an app, then that’s what it is. Some publishers report dramatic improvements in using PWA when compared to more traditional iOS/Android or UWP apps – Tinder, for example, found the PWA was 90% smaller than the regular app.

It seems that when Tindering, size really does matter.

Tip o’ the Week 477 – Grabbing pictures from websites – again

clip_image002Here’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.

clip_image004Some pages will let you simply get the image URL from right-clicking on it, but lots of sites will prefer to hide direct access to their images.

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.

clip_image006In 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.

Tip o’ the Week 476 – New Edge clickstorm

clip_image002After 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: Getting Started

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 clip_image004(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 clip_image006you have by going to edge://apps.

And there are many more… but we’ll finish up with:

Everyone Needs the New Microsoft Edge (Premium)

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 –

What if there were a version of Chrome that was literally stripped of all the Google tracking services, a browser that looked, worked, and performed exactly look Chrome, but didn’t follow you around the Internet like some lonely dog that’s been trapped in a house alone for the day?  What if there was a version of Chrome that provided the same benefits of Chrome—its stellar compatibility with web standards, its market-leading performance, its support for PWAs and other web apps, and its cross-platform sync of bookmarks, passwords, and other data—while actually respected your privacy? I mean. Can you even imagine such a thing?

The new Microsoft Edge is that browser.

Tip o’ the Week 475 – Chrome-plating to the Edge

clip_image002April’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.

clip_image006In time, most (though not all, it seems) of the features that have clip_image004been 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.

Tip o’ the Week 470 – Chrome Activities on Time

clip_image002As 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.

clip_image004One such extension was published recently, which allows the activity that a user is doing in Chrome, to be published to the Windows Timeline feature.
Install the Activities extension here.
(assuming you’re using Chrome… Edge users who just clicked on that link, go and have a word with yourselves).

clip_image006After 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.

clip_image008Look 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…

Tip o’ the Week 467 – Gardyloo, It’s the News!

clip_image002Edinburghers will know of the term, “Gardyloo” – perhaps a corruption of a French warning that “water” was about to need avoiding, like dodging the gutters in Blackadder. As well as regarding the loos, it’s in everyone’s interest to make sure your source of news is clean and fresh. Not fake.

clip_image004clip_image006A startup called NewsGuard hit the, er, news recently, after launching a service that uses real journalists to assesses sources of news, and scores them on various criteria on how they source, handle and attribute the stories they report.

The Mobile version of Edge browser was updated in January 2019, to include the NewsGuard plugin (though it wasn’t enabled by default), and at the time it was widely reported that their vetting had decided the UK’s Daily Mail, a popular newspaper and at one time the largest newspaper website in the world, was not to be trusted. (Screenshots above & right were taken on 24 Jan 2019).

More people probably read about the warning that was gleefully propagated by the Mail’s competitors, than there are actual users of the Edge mobile browser itself (if you use Edge on your PC, give it a try on your phone – it’s really rather good).

clip_image008clip_image010If you’d like to add the NewsGuard addin to the Edge browser on your PC, go to the Settings menu (…) on the top right of the Edge toolbar, and look under Extensions – then find NewsGuard in the Store to add it to the browser from there.

NewsGuard has since worked with the Daily Mail and decided that it’s not quite as bad as all that, so has backtracked and removed the klaxon warning.

It’s still not giving a completely clean bill of health – see the “nutrition label” –  but the feedback NewsGuard has shared with some other news websites may well help to improve the quality of their output.

The same extension is available on other browsers too.

Tip o’ the Week 458 – Grabbing pictures from websites

clip_image001There are plenty of reasons why you might want to get the URL of a picture that is embedded on a web page, and some of them don’t even risk breaching the copyright of the image’s owner or page author!

Legitimate examples might include things like downloading a company logo from its website so you can include it in a PowerPoint slide; try going to just about any major company site and you’ll probably find it’s not straightforward to save the image file. Ditto all sorts of clever pages that might stop you simply saving the picture to your PC.

clip_image003clip_image005Normal behaviour is, mostly, to just right-click on an image and in Edge, you’ll be able to save the picture (or use Cortana to try to give you more details on the image, even trying to guess what’s in the image depending on how straightforward it is – it’s surprisingly good). Ditto, if you’re using Chrome, except you can search Google instead. Try the same on a company logo, and you may find you won’t get the option to save or search.

If you want to grab the actual URL for an image on a web page, the clip_image006foolproof way of getting it is to look at the source – if you don’t mind fishing through maybe a few thousand lines of HTML. It’s not too bad if the image is at the top of the page, but it could prove tedious if elsewhere. In Edge, an easier solution would be to right-click on the image and choose, Inspect element. You may need to press F12 to get these options in your right-click menu. Chrome has a similar thing, simply called Inspect, and can be invoked by CTRL-SHIFT-I.

The Inspect Element funciton in browsers is designed to help web page debugging; it’ll let a user or designer jump straight to the section of a web page’s source, and inspect or even modify the code behind the page.

clip_image008As an example, right-click on the logo on www.microsoft.com and Inspect Element. You’ll see the highlighted section is the bit where the logo sits on the page, and immediately next in the hierarchical representation of the page code, you’ll see the <img> tag, denoting that this pertains to the image itself.

Look for the src= part, double-click on it and you’ll see the URL of the image in an editable text box, meaning you can easily copy that to the clipboard and get ready to paste it wherever you need it clip_image010to go. Try pasting it into a new browser tab just to check that all you’re getting is the logo.

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Using a search engine

Of course, there may be easier ways to get an image – using Bing or Google search, for example.

Bing is actually quite a bit better in this regard. When you click on an image in the results from Bing’s Image search, you’ll see a larger preview of the picture along with a few actions you can take – like jump to the originating page; search for other sizes of the same image; use Visual Search to run a query on just some selectable portion of the image; or simply just view it in the browser, thereby opening just that image and showing you the direct URL to it.

In the case of both Google and Bing, if you click on “Share”, then you’ll get a link to the search result of that image rather than the picture itself – so if your plan is to embed the image in another web page or upload it to some other place, then you’ll be frustrated.

clip_image012Another legitimate use of the original URL for a logo might be to change the icon in Teams – assuming you have permissions to Manage a team site (click the ellipsis to the right of the clip_image013name and if you’re suitably perm-ed up, when you click on the Manage Team option, you’ll see a little pencil icon on the logo if you hover over it. Click that to change the picture).

Simply choose Upload picture, paste in the URL of the logo you want to use and you’re off to the races.

Figuratively speaking, anyway. You might have to jigger about with the proportions of the image by downloading it first and editing it elsewhere, as the image will need to be more-or-less square. Built-in icons in Teams appear to be 240×240 pixels in size so you could try to target that if you’re resizing.