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My Brief Affair With Microsoft Edge

Since the dawn of the internet, we have fought over which browser is “better”. I personally have gone from Internet Explorer, to Firefox (a long stopover for a few years), to Chrome for the last couple of years. Like with fashion, though, it seems I’m always a step behind - every time I mention these days that I use Chrome, I prepare myself for an onslaught of “oh that’s so last year”, “you mean the memory hog?”, and “why haven’t you switched to yet?"!

I’ve well and truly reached an age of not caring what others think when it comes to fashion. Similarly, I really couldn’t care less what “every else” is using in browsers, other than what my clients’ website users are using for testing and useability. I do, however, always like to listen to others’ experiences, investigate things myself and make informed decisions based on this.

Case in point, I had heard a few people recently saying they’d started using Microsoft Edge browser as their primary browser, even for development purposes. So throwing caution to the wind, I decided to go out on a limb and tried switching from Chrome as my main browser to Microsoft Edge.

Well it took less than 24 hours to realise….

I've made a huge mistake

That’s all it took, 24 hours and I was back on Chrome.

So here I present my list of “what went wrong”, which I would have to see resolved before I could seriously consider switching to Edge again as my primary browser.

General lack of extensions

We know extensions are coming (I’m on the Insider Program but in the Slow ring, because I’m a scardy cat, so don’t have them yet!), but for now it’s not here and that’s that. Further, the problem with being an earlier adopter is that even once extensions are added, the community is still going to be sparse for sometime, and so therefore is the extensions library content. On the flip side, when I switched back to Chrome at the end of the day and within 5 minutes was recommended a particular extension, grabbed it from the store and was off and away, I knew I’d made the right decision.

LastPass integration

Again I know it’s coming, but until it’s here I couldn’t take the pain of switching programs and copying/pasting password to get into most of my sites. Over the last year or so I’ve got to a point where the majority of my passwords are unique (and 12+ characters long), so this is an essential integration tool for me.

Keybooard shortcut for things like opening the “Hub”

I’m a keyboard user through-and-through (thanks to WordPerfect for that), so having keyboard shortcuts on things I use all the time is essential for productivity.

Improved bookmarks

Overall the Bookmarks “manager” (I use the term loosely) needs massive love. For example it at least needs

  • the ability to select multiple bookmarks in order to move them around in bulk
  • the ability to edit bookmarks in bulk
  • an option to open all bookmarks in a given folder
  • proper keyboard support

This last one is so important to me. Combining this with my last point, what I love about Chrome is that I can hit Ctrl-Shift-O and just start typing my search term, and only once I find my item do I need to reach for the mouse (and in fact I can tab a couple of times to get to the list and do it without the mouse at all). I like this, it’s how I like to work, hands on the home-keys at all times.

Ability to quickly pin tabs

I usually have 13 tabs pinned (including my Bookmarks Manager in Chrome), and I open them by having them in one folder in my favourites and just right clicking that folder and saying “Open all bookmarks”. So that for a start would be nice, but then more importantly once open I need to actually pin them all. A shortcut key for pinning a tab would be lovely, but as far as I know there’s not even a shortcut for this in Chrome. At least, though, the context menu (shown when I right-click on a tab) in Chrome allows me to hit the accelerator keys for the menu items (eg. the first letter of the item) to perform an action. At this stage, no accelerator keys seem to work in the context menu on tabs for Edge. I actually don’t understand how they could be missing for the sake of accessibility, anyway, and it needs to be resolved.

Improvements to Developer Tools

This is naturally very important to me as a developer, and actually the tool wasn’t TOO bad from what I saw in my brief experiences, but just a couple of things stood out in what I did on that one day of use:

  • it needs the ability to show/delete cookies, web storage objects etc for the current website (like in the Resources tab of the Chrome tools)
  • configurable keyboard shortcuts (for me, especially, the ability to change the Console shortcut as I use Ctrl-` for my ConEmu console program)

I really didn’t get a chance to use it much in my 24 hours romance, but in general it’s not bad and I can see they did spend a lot of time working on this to get the love of the developers. Ironically I do remember that these “developer tools” really started back in IE6 (or earlier, was it??) with Nikhil’s Web Dev Helper, but the other browser vendors really grabbed that and ran with it, and now Microsoft seem to be playing catch up, and much love to them for trying!

Issues with Twitter

I had issues with a few websites, but this one really hurt me - Twitter didn’t show the links of some (most?) tweets and had all sorts of random load issues. I have the Windows 10 Twitter app, but that also lacks certain features so I do have to switch back to the browser for it often.

Integration across devices

This is a pie in the sky, I know, since I’ve decided to split my love between Microsoft and Apple devices now, but I run with Windows 10 on my laptop, a Lumia 950XL which runs Windows 10, and an iPad. Before the phone switch, I was using an iPhone so I had device harmony with all three working beautifully with Chrome to pick up my browser sessions on a different device. I know we probably won’t get Chrome on the Lumia (at least not for some time), nor will I get Edge on my iPad, so I’ve probably severed my own toe here now. But still I can dream of a return to that day again…

Aside: I had hoped to replace the iPad with the “tablet” mode of my Surface Book for times where I needed that, but that’s really not a plausible reality when you take into consideration battery, size and heat (yep it’s a lap warmer!), so for now the iPad must stick around!

Nail in the coffin - pinned tabs breaking

After having to restart my computer at one point (this darling Surface Book needs restarts quite a bit still when I dock/undock it), I was devastated to find that all my pinned tabs BROKE. I just kept getting an error whenever I tried to reload them, though the same links were working if I opened them in new tabs. So I raised a feedback issue to Microsoft about this, cried over the time lost setting up the pinned tabs again and carried on. When it happened again a couple of hours later, that was the end of it for me, game over!

So there you have it, my run down of Microsoft Edge as it is now, and where I hope to see it move towards in the near future. If you ask my Apple-loving friends and colleagues they’ll tell you I’m a Microsoft Fangirl, and whilst I don’t like to label myself like that (I go wherever the tech is good!), I do hope for a day when I can genuinely say that Microsoft is all-round better 😉