The new Microsoft Edge – all new or just another Chrome?

Being a web developer, I was curious about the new version of Microsoft Edge, which is built on top of Chromium and is going to be released in Fall 2019. Fortunately, Microsoft has put up so called “Microsoft Edge Insider Channels” at https://www.microsoftedgeinsider.com/en-us/ for all interested people to follow the development of their new browser. Unsurprisingly, they’re putting a lot of effort into presenting their new version and bringing it to the interested users by offering preview versions. After I have used it for almost a week now, I am going to share my thoughts and talk about similarities to Google Chrome.

Different release channels for the new Microsoft Edge.

The first thing that is pretty cool, is the possibility to follow different release channels for the preview versions, which are updated daily, weekly or every 6 weeks. The installation works smoothly and the browser fires right up with the possibility to import your data from other browsers. One thing that’s worth to notice, is the starting page, that is presented when a new tab opens. It is customizable with different layouts and several topics for the news feed. I felt very comfortable with the “Informational” layout, which includes a search bar, recently visited sites and a news feed.

The starting page is customizable with different layouts.

Another thing that is noticeable, is that the menu layout looks very similar to Google Chrome’s menu. A reason might be, that it is based on the same open-source project, namely Chromium. Chromium is the open source browser project behind Google Chrome, which utilizes the Blink rendering engine and the V8 JavaScript engine. With the new Microsoft Edge coming in Fall 2019, Microsoft is going to adapt this browser project for Edge. Nonetheless, the menu layout is the only similarity here, since the settings look completely different. Speaking of Chrome, you can also log in to Microsoft Edge with a Profile, as known from Chrome but with a Microsoft account (of course). By pressing F12, the developer tools show up, which will look familiar for all web developers using Chrome. Me being a Chrome user, I instantly felt comfortable and used Microsoft Edge for Angular development three days straight without any discomfort.

The developer tools known from Google Chrome are now available in Microsoft Edge.

A few things that are also outstanding is the possibility to install extensions not only from the Microsoft Store (which offers Addons for Microsoft Edge), but also from the Chrome Web Store. The only thing you need to do, is to give Edge permissions to install extensions from other stores. In fact, this option seems pretty obvious since they share the same underlying browser implementation. What’s also special, is the possibility to install web apps on your system by selecting “Apps” -> “Install this site as an app” in the menu. The installed web app now opens as a native-feeling app in a separate window and is installed on you local machine. While any website can be installed as an app, the intention is to drive the development of Progressive Web Apps, which I think is a great move of Microsoft. I believe that Progressive Web Apps are still not at their height, but once they are, a big change in the development of both desktop and mobile apps is going to happen.

Websites can be installed on your local machine, which is useful for Progressive Web Apps.

In conclusion I have to say that Microsoft is doing a great job with their new Edge browser. The browser felt very familiar from the first moment on. I really like the starting page and also the fact that the development tools are the same as in Chrome. With regards to usual browsing, I couldn’t really feel a difference yet. While I’ve read some criticism about its PDF capabilities (compared to the current Edge), I can’t really judge here, since I usually use other software for PDF reading and editing. From my point of view, it is not very different from Chrome in terms of functionality (at the moment), but looking at the “What’s next” page at https://www.microsoftedgeinsider.com/en-us/whats-next, I have to admit, that I am looking forward to a final release. There are still cool things to come until Fall, like Collections (help organizing contents from multiple tabs) and an Internet Explorer compatibility mode, which is surely a great idea, thinking of all the legacy apps out there. I am personally looking forward to new releases and continue using Microsoft Edge, even if it is a preview right now.

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