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At its Build 2020 developers conference today, Microsoft announced a slew of new features coming to Chromium Edge. Consumers can expect Pinterest suggestions and sidebar search. On top of that, businesses are getting new syncing and customization options, easier switching between work and personal profiles, and Windows Information Protection support.
After over a year of testing, Microsoft launched Chromium Edge for Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 10, and macOS in January 2020. That launch was largely targeted at businesses, but the company is now ramping up new features for consumers and businesses alike. Edge recently passed Firefox in market share to become the second most popular desktop browser, after Chrome, according to Net Applications. That’s not bad, given that Microsoft has yet to roll out the new browser as a Windows update (in addition to the standalone download). The company was planning to start last month, but it’s taking “a measured approach,” according to a person familiar with the matter.
Microsoft also shared today that the Edge team has made “over 3,000 commits” to the Chromium open source project since December. The improvements span accessibility, inking, scrolling, and localization. They impact all Chromium browsers on Windows, as well as frameworks like Electron.
Pinterest suggestions and sidebar search
Since the coronavirus crisis has taken hold, millions have found themselves spending more time in their browsers as they learn and work from home. But the pandemic is also impacting software developers. Google paused Chrome releases, which typically arrive every six weeks, and ultimately skipped Chrome 81, skipped Chrome 82 altogether, and moved Chrome 83 up a few weeks. Microsoft followed suit with Edge’s release schedule, consistent with Google’s open source Chromium project, which both Chrome and Edge are based on.
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Edge 81 shipped last month with the new Collections feature, which uses “cloud-powered intelligence” to collect, organize, share, and export content you find while browsing. It’s also integrated with Microsoft Office, including in apps like Word and Excel. (Microsoft said today that OneNote support is coming soon.)
Next week, Edge Insiders can try using Collections with Pinterest to find relevant content. Microsoft says people use Collections to capture design ideas, recipes, home improvement links, and even to research their next big purchase across multiple sites. Pinterest is thus a natural fit — Edge will serve up suggestions at the bottom based on what you have already collected. Clicking on a suggestion will open a board of similar, trending Pins. Of course, Pinterest benefits too. You can export Edge collections so saved webpages and images populate a new board in your Pinterest account.
In the coming weeks, Edge Insiders will also get a sidebar search option. The feature is a more contextual way to search — without opening a new window or tab. Sidebar search shows results in a side pane on the right so you don’t have to move away from what you’re doing. Highlight a word or phrase, right click, and select “search in sidebar” from the context menu. If you are signed in with your Azure Active Directory account, you will even see results from your company intranet.
Syncing, switching, and Windows Information Protection
That brings us to neatly to the new business features. Remember, Microsoft wants Edge to be “the browser for business.” In that vein, these new additions are supposed to help IT managers and information workers.
First up, syncing. If you use multiple devices you will be happy to know that installed extensions now sync in Edge. A new policy lets IT professionals manage the types of data sync for their users (like turning off syncing passwords). Still haven’t embraced the cloud? Sync will soon also extend to customers whose environments are still on-premises.
Next, if you use Edge for both work and personal life, you’ll like Automatic Profile Switching. The feature will detect if a link you’re trying to open needs work credentials and switch you to your work profile, where you’re already signed in, instead of forcing you to sign in again. This is particularly useful for the millions who are working from home nowadays. You can also set a default profile for any link, creating a consistent experience even if you’re switching between profiles throughout the day.
Finally, Edge now supports Windows Information Protection, which helps protect content in a web environment where users often share and distribute content. Windows Information Protection separates personal and corporate data, adds extra protection for line-of-business apps, and provides audit reporting for compliance.
If Edge is the browser for business, Microsoft also wants Bing to be “the search engine for business.” Bing’s Work page is now generally available for all Microsoft 365 customers. When signed into Bing with your business credentials, the Work page will appear right next to the Images, Shopping, and News pages. The Work results page shows you files, people, internal websites, Power BI dashboards, reports, and so on from across Microsoft 365 content.
Microsoft also briefly discussed Bing for Commerce‘s machine learning platform. Customers will be able to manually train search rankers that they believe will generate more optimal results for their business. Bing for Commerce is also getting more analytics, DevOps integration, and an SDK so developers can
Implement it in the programming language of their choice, including Java, C#, and Python.
Edge extensions, PWAs, and Origin Trials
Microsoft is planning “a significant update” to the Microsoft Edge Add-ons site this month. The site is getting a new layout, categories, and search capabilities to get Chrome extensions to Chromium Edge users.
Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) are still not ready to show up alongside other Windows apps. When they are, however, Microsoft is promising that PWAs installed from Edge on Windows 10 will be manageable from settings and show up in the Start Menu, plus support sharing and notifications. In the meantime, Microsoft is asking developers to check out a preview of PWAs by enabling the Web Apps Identity Proxy flag in Edge Canary on a Windows Insider build.
Speaking of early features, Microsoft is asking developers to join its new Origin Trials program. Like Google offers with Chrome, Origin Trials in Chromium Edge lets developers test out experimental web APIs on their websites to provide early feedback that can influence the final API.