Edge Browser Gets Improvements in Windows 10 Anniversary Update
Microsoft is touting its Edge browser improvements with the release this week of the Windows 10 "anniversary update" version 1607 (build 14393.10).
The improvements range from easier extensions access to security improvements and beefed-up standards support. Microsoft uses the term, "EdgeHTML 14," to describe this edge release, a reference to the browser's engine.
Organizations using Enterprise Mode to manage the use of the Edge browser and Internet Explorer now have a faster switching capability. Microsoft removed an "interstitial page" telling users about the switch. The swap from one browser to the next now happens directly for users. Microsoft had indicated in May that this approach would be the default one with the Windows 10 anniversary update release.
The new Edge browser has a few security additions. A Kernel Attack Protection capability reduces kernel component exposure. It uses a list of kernel calls from "Flash and the content process" to reduce exposure, a Microsoft Edge dev blog explained. Flash now runs in an isolated "AppContainer" sandbox, which is a 64-bit process by default. The browser's Flash isolation protects against crashes while also blocking "non-essential Flash content like advertisements" from running, Microsoft's experience blog explained.
Microsoft is repeating its power-savings claims with the new Edge browser. It had profiled them in June, when it claimed superior test results vs. Chrome, Firefox and Opera browsers. The Edge dev blog also claimed that Edge is a faster browser than Chrome on commonly used speed benchmarks.
Microsoft also outlined where its future browser development will be headed. It's working on Web apps that will function offline using new APIs such as Fetch and Web Notifications. It's also working on cache and push technologies for Web apps via a Service Worker feature. Service Worker (formerly called "Navigation Controllers") "provides event-driven scripts that run independent of web pages," per Microsoft's Edge platform status page.
Accessing Edge extensions is now easier through the browser, but the extension options are still limited. There are a total of 13 extensions available through the Windows Store, which is where Edge browser extensions are housed. Windows 10 version 1607 users can access them more quickly now through an Extensions selection in the browser's "More" menu (that's the menu item indicated by three dots in the top right corner).
Users of the prior Windows 10 version 1511 (build 10586) apparently still have to get extensions through Microsoft's developer page here. Their Edge browsers lack an Extensions selection in the More menu.
The available extensions include AdBlock, Microsoft Translator, Evernote, the Reddit Enhancement Suite and Office Online, among others. The Office Online extension lets users access and edit Office documents in the Edge browser. It's a new feature for the Edge browser with the anniversary update, but it was already available for Google Chrome browser users. An Office Online icon appears in the top right corner of the browser, providing document access. Documents can be accessed from a PC or from online storage (such as OneDrive and OneDrive for Business).
Microsoft now lets users import Favorites (also known as "bookmarks") from browsers other than Internet Explorer. Edge now can import from Chrome and Firefox browsers, too. Microsoft is also saying that it's easier to rearrange Favorites folders and move their contents using drag and drop.
Similarly, the new Edge browser lets users drag and drop folders to cloud-based storage, such as Dropbox, Google Drive and OneDrive.
Swipe navigation for viewing pages is now possible on touchscreen PCs or on Windows 10 Mobile devices. A right finger swipe is a page-forward command, while a left finger swipe goes back.
Microsoft now lets Web sites send messages, called "notifications," if wanted, to Edge users. The notifications show up via Windows 10's Action Center. Management of this feature is available through Edge's Settings menu or by right clicking on a notification.
Accessibility is improved in the new Edge browser. Microsoft claimed a "perfect score" on the HTML5 accessibility benchmark.
Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.