Project Spartan. Sounds awesome (sic). It was the codename for Microsoft’s successor to Internet Explorer; the new browser: Edge.
So is it cutting edge, leading edge or trailing edge? Is it finished? Is it fast? And is it the first properly functional Modern UI application? After all, we’re all going to spend a lot of time using it in future. Like it or not, Microsoft Edge is going to replace Internet Explorer as the default browser on desktop, mobile and tablet devices.
There is no firm plan as to how and when this is going to happen, but Edge is already the default browser in Windows 10.
On launch, you get a completely stripped down Modern UI layout with no chrome and no clutter. In fact the interface is rather blocky and rather bland.
The rendering engine and complete lack of baggage re. plugins – there aren’t any – means Edge is fast. Perhaps not as blisteringly fast as the pundits make out, but still a worthy competitor to Chrome. Most of us won’t be able to measure exactly how fast, and the ‘benchmark’ results span from 10% to 110% (not sure I believe that one). Browse sites with good clean code and CSS, you will notice a difference.
There really are no plugins – Edge doesn’t support them, so no Java, Silverlight, Active X or Browser Helper Objects. There is a built in PDF Reader, and built-in Flash support.
Cortana, the digital assistant, is integrated into the browser, with or without voice control. Cortana will volunteer information in a sidebar related to pages and searches. Highlighting content on a page, right-click, select ‘Ask Cortana’ it will fire off a web search for you.
Web Notes is another new feature of Edge: the ability to annotate and share information from the browser. Hit the ‘Make a Web Note’ icon in the top right of the browser to activate a tool bar and you can highlight areas of the web page, draw, doodle and write notes. Selections from a page can be copied using the Clip icon and shared out to either One Note, messaging or via email.
Reading view is the even-less-cluttered way to render content in a clean reading layout designed for tablet or mobile devices with limited screen sizes. Edge looks through the page content and CSS to determine when content can be viewed in reading view, in which case the Reading View icon in the browser will light up. While the results are good for the pages that can be rendered in Reading view, you may have trouble finding any; I went through my whole favourites list and found two out of twenty.
Other than that, Edge is a web browser. It’s clean, its efficient, it’s a ground-up rebuild that is quick and simple. There are no plugins, so far fewer security holes, which makes it Microsoft’s most secure browser in years. Best of all, Edge isn’t Internet Explorer. I like it already. AJS