With the upcoming Windows 10 Spring Creators Update, Microsoft has yet again put a lot of effort into building out its Edge web browser for Windows 10. This upcoming release includes new performance improvements, stability enhancements, an updated UI with Fluent Design, and even PWA service worker support. Microsoft has been building up and improving Edge with every Windows 10 release since 2015, and the Spring Creators Update version is the best yet. But, is it ready for prime time?
I've been using Microsoft Edge as my default web browser since it first made its debut with the original release of Windows 10 back in 2015. Back then, Edge was really rough. It was, for lack of a better term, unfinished. It was missing lots of features that many expect to find in a modern browser, including extension support, and the ability to sync bookmarks and passwords between devices, including your phone. It was also rather unstable and slow.
In 2018, Edge has all of these things, but I personally think that shipping Microsoft Edge with the original Windows 10 launch edition was a bad idea. First impressions count, and it was evident that Microsoft Edge was not ready for public consumption when it launched. That bad first impression set Edge on the course that it is today; in use by basically no one. It's not like Edge hasn't improved since then, because it has, but has it improved enough? And if it has, will people even be willing to give it a second chance?
What's improved in Edge?
With the upcoming release of Windows 10, Microsoft Edge is a lot better. While still not featuring 'everything' the likes of Google Chrome might have feature wise, it has all the basics nailed. It has an excellent UI, one that I'd argue is better than what rivals have to offer, and is super fast to load up and open web pages. Extensions support is here and is working nicely albeit with a smaller marketplace of extensions to choose from.
Microsoft has spent a lot of time improving the performance and stability of Microsoft Edge. The browser doesn't crash nearly as often as it used to, at least for me. I'd say Edge and Chrome crash as often as each other now, often being "not very often at all." This is in stark contrast to how Edge used to behave, crashing or hanging at least once a day. Edge just feels lighter than Chrome or Firefox, and I really like that about the browser.
Microsoft has also redesigned the hub area now, making it way more approachable for those coming from other browsers. It slides out from the right, with a big pane that lets you see things like favorites, bookmarks, downloads, and reading list. It also now has an excellent EPUB/book reader and PDF reader, something that comes in handy more often than you'd think.
There's also "Set tabs aside," a feature I'm personally not a fan of. It works great, if it's something you'd find useful. You can save an entire browsing session for later, cleaning up your current open tabs and grouping them in a menu that you can resume at any time. This is great for students who might be working on an essay and doing research. Instead of bookmarking each tab for later, you can just save the entire session and restore it whenever needed.
Then there are the smaller improvements. Tabs now behave properly when you drag them in and out of windows. When you open a new tab, the bookmarks bar shows up just like it does in Google Chrome. You've also got all the under the hood improvements, allowing for Edge to support more web-based technologies. It's also faster, and an overall better experience to use. It's also really good for battery life.
What's hasn't improved in Edge?
While Edge has come a long way, it's still not perfect. For example, it's still missing little things that you just come to expect in a web browser these days, such as options. The Set tabs aside feature that I mentioned cannot be turned off or hidden, even if it's something you don't want or use. You also can't unpin some of the default icons in the navigation bar at the top, including Windows Ink and the Share icon. I don't use these icons, so why are they taking up space up there?
You also can't search through your browsing history from within Edge. You can do this in basically every other browser, but Edge seems to have this feature omitted. You can search your browsing history via Timeline, however, but if you're not using Timeline, then that's not going to be helpful to you. There's also no way to quickly launch a frequently visited website when right-clicking the Edge icon.
When it comes to PWA's and pinning websites, you can't yet pin websites without the Edge UI being present. In Chrome, for example, you can pin a PWA to the desktop, and have that PWA open in a window that doesn't include the Chrome UI, making for a seamless, native experience. With Edge, the Edge UI, with its address bar and tabs, still loads even if you pinned the PWA to your desktop. This is a super jarring experience for me.
Another oddity with Edge is, funnily enough, related to performance. While performance and stability have been much improved, there are still websites out there that simply grind Edge to a halt. A lot of those websites are Google related, such as YouTube or Gmail. For some reason, Edge performance is really bad when it comes to loading a YouTube webpage. Microsoft is aware of the issue and says it's on Google to get it fixed, which is unfortunate really.
Is Edge ready for prime time?
With all these improvements, is Microsoft Edge finally ready to be your next web browser? Well, it'll depend on who you are. For your average Joe, I think Edge is a more than capable browser now. It has all the basics covered and is super simple to use. The only problem is with the performance of Edge when it comes to loading some websites, specifically some Google sites. This is a serious problem that needs to be solved before people take Edge seriously.
If I'm honest, this issue alone is reason enough to not recommend Edge. A lot of people visit YouTube every day, and they likely won't want to do so on Edge because of how poorly that website performs. Microsoft needs to fix the issues it has with Google before Edge can be recommended as a default browser for most people.
If you're not someone who visits YouTube or other poorly optimized sites, then Edge is great, unless you're a power user of Chrome or another browser. Chrome has a lot of little things that you'd likely miss when switching to Edge. At that point, it comes down to breaking old habits. Each browser is slightly different, after all, so Edge is never going to be 1:1 to Chrome. Edge does need to add a few little things still, such as the ability to unpin icons from the navigation bar and search your history, but other than that, Edge is pretty good.
A the end of the day, I say give it a go. Close down your current default browser, head to Edge, and try it out for a week. I think a lot of people will be surprised at how much Edge has improved over the last few releases, especially with the upcoming Spring Creators Update.