Browser Review: A Day in the Life with Microsoft Edge

Internet Explorer: Once the dominant internet browser, now a running joke.

Oh how the mighty can fall so very far.

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In case you’re unaware, the browser that has come pre-loaded on Windows for over 15 years is pretty much hated by the web world.  From designers to developers to power users, Internet Explorer or IE serves as a constant headache.

(If you want to know more about that, check out this post)

Simply put, things that should work fine on a website like to not work on Internet Explorer.  Weird glitches show up.  Designs don’t properly render.  The list goes on.

While Microsoft has put for some serious effort in the past year or two to control the damage (see here and especially this one), it’s too little too late.  Even if IE worked perfectly (and it definitely does not), the name has been tarnished so much, there’s really no saving it.  So they did the only thing you can do in a situation like this:

Destroy and Rebuild

Over the past year, Microsoft has been beta testing a new browser originally titled Project Spartan (we’re pretty sure that’s yet another Halo reference).  With the release of Windows 10, that browser has been given a new name.  And that name is Edge.

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Internet Explorer is dead and buried.  Long live Microsoft Edge.

What is Edge?

Not to be confused with a well-known, beanie wearing, and somewhat polarizing guitar player, Microsoft Edge is the new pre-loaded Windows browser.  The logo is quite similar to IE’s.

Everything else…well, it’s pleasantly different.

Unlike the continued versions of IE, Edge is a new platform rebuilt from the ground up.  The hope is that with the new name and the clean build, Microsoft can ditch both the shortcomings and the bad reputation of their old browser.

But does Edge deliver?  I decided to put it to a test.

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(Bono’s favorite browser)

 

A Day on the Edge

Thanks to my lovely new HP Spectre x360 (which I strongly endorse) and a fresh copy of the all-new Windows 10, I was able to test drive Edge throughout a work day.  The goal: use Edge as my browser for all my work needs.

The good news?  The world did not end.  And I’m pretty sure it’s better than IE.  However, there’s still some wrinkles that need a little ironing.  But let’s start with the positives…

The Good:

From the first opening, Edge looks lovely.  A super clean interface that definitely seemed optimized for high resolutions (the framing and menus looked noticeably sharper than Chrome’s).  Edge provides simple options to change between a light or dark theme based on your preference.

Bookmarks and favorites can easily be copied over from your other browsers and you can choose whether or not a bookmark bar shows at the top.

Otherwise, the browser simply displays back, forward, refresh, your open tabs, and a few easy access tools to the far right.

One of those tools is the reading mode button.  What does it do?  Let’s say you’re on a blog post or article and you want to just read the post without the sidebar adds and links and everything else.  Simply click the button and all things disappear except the article and pictures.  It looks very similar to a Kindle book, and it is lovely.

You can even adjust the display settings for it similar to a Kindle, from font size to background color.

(a quick note: I realize Safari has this feature, and it can be added to other browsers as well, but Edge’s is the cleanest, most accessible version I’ve seen)

The two other buttons, which are useful in theory, are the Quick note button and the Share button.  The quick note allows you to screen draw, highlight, crop, and send notes for whatever you’re viewing in your browser.  Similarly, the share button let’s share the page as is.

It’s not as great as it sounds though.  But we’ll get to that in a second.

Using it throughout the day, the browser ran very fast and generally smooth.  However, I did run into a few random hitches and slowdowns.

Lastly, and I’m not sure how good of thing this is, but Edge allows you to access IE still.  Let’s say you need to check something in Internet Explorer or a page won’t work for you on Edge, simply go to the menu and click “open in Internet Explorer”.

It’s actually pretty great because A: they hide IE like they should, and B: if you absolutely need it for something, it’s still there.

Now then…

The Bad:

Sadly, though my Edge experience overall was pleasant, the browser has some issues to fix first.  Starting from the top, it was nice that I could carry over my favorites from another browser, it would have been better if I could carry over password/login data like you can with browsers like Firefox.

More concerning though, drag and drop functionality didn’t work for me on any site or web app I visited.  Anytime I tried to drag a file from my desktop onto the browser, it wouldn’t go.  Similarly, I couldn’t drag photos off the browser and onto my computer.

There were a few other strange things.  For example, when editing a Google Doc, I couldn’t paste something into the doc.  I also couldn’t activate offline mode on Google Docs (though that could be Google’s fault, I suppose).

After a while, some of my tabs in my browser went blank.  The window was still there, but rather than displaying the site title and favicon, it just showed a blank box.

The browser is also a bit of a resource hog.  When opened for a while, it was consuming a lot of my computer’s memory.  At one point, the browser actually froze up on me.

The biggest thing holding it back from being a true contender right now, however, is the lack of extensions.  Both Chrome and Firefox can be expanded to do some fantastic things thanks to their deep libraries of extensions.

Microsoft has said that extension support is coming soon for the browser, but currently, you’re stuck with Edge as is.  Speaking of, the share and quick note features are pretty limited.  I was only able to save to OneNote (which I don’t use), Evernote (which I also really don’t use) or send directly in an email.  Simply being able to download the image with notes would have been nice.  Social sharing wouldn’t be a bad idea either.

Lastly, Constant Contact doesn’t work with Edge (though it displayed a message letting me know that they’re working on it).  I’m sure they’re not the only site not working on Edge.  Netflix however, ran flawlessly.

Conclusion: The Edge of Glory

From my brief use, Edge seems to be a step in the right direction.  It’s fast, it looks nice, and it rendered websites properly.  Still, there’s some functionality issues to be worked out, and hopefully they can get down on the memory usage.

Ultimately, it’s just not a contender yet, and I don’t see any reason to switch from the browser you’re currently using…unless you’re using Internet Explorer.

Really, that’s the best part of Edge.  It signifies a long overdue end for a failing browser.  Hopefully it also marks the beginning of something much, much better.

Have you used Edge?  What do you think?  What’s your browser of choice?

Written by Timothy Snyder
on August 4, 2015