The Microsoft Edge Browser Features You Should Check Out First

This month, Microsoft finally released its new and improved Microsoft Edge browser, which the company rebuilt from scratch. If you’re in the market for break from Chrome, Edge has a few new features that are worth checking out.

Edge might look familiar if you’ve used Microsoft’s browser before, but it’s undergone major changes under the hood. It’s now built on the Chromium codebase and the Blink web engine, both of which also power Chrome. Previously, Redmond was relying on its own web engine. The switch should mean better compatibility with a broader range of sites, and improved performance.

To give it a whirl, you can download Edge for Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS right here. Once you do, these are the features you should try first.

Import Your Data

Courtesy of Microsoft

As soon as you start up the browser, Edge offers to import data from Chrome, Firefox, or Safari. Depending on where you’re coming from, that could include bookmarks, passwords, browsing history, settings, and even any tabs you’ve got open. In our experience, this data transfer process works very well, and takes some of the pain out of switching to a new browser.

If you don’t opt to import data from another browser when you launch Edge for the first time, you can do it later by opening the Edge menu and choosing Settings, Profiles, and Import browser data. Pick the browser you want to grab data from, then pick your categories; you don’t have to transfer every type of data over if you don’t want to.

Control Your Privacy

Courtesy of Microsoft

Staying private and protected while browsing the web is more of a concern than ever, and Microsoft has responded by building some comprehensive but easy-to-use privacy features into the new Edge. Open the browser menu, click Settings, then choose Privacy and Services to find the three levels of privacy Edge offers.

You can pick among Basic, Balanced, or Strict, which as you might have guessed take an increasingly aggressive approach to what websites can do on your computer. The Strict level makes it harder for sites and advertisers to build up a profile about you, but it’s so severe that you might notice some bugs and broken functions in the websites that you use.

Read Easier

Cut out the clutter and focus on what’s important by switching on Immersive Reader, a feature that cuts out just about everything except the text and the images of a page. It leaves out distractions like advertising or side panels. On pages where the view is available, you’ll see an icon that looks like a book in the address bar at the top of the Edge interface.

Hover the mouse over the icon and it’ll say Enter Immersive Reader; click on it, and you’ll get a simplified, stripped-down view of the page you were just viewing. You can adjust the colors of the page and the size of the text via the Text Preference box, and you can even have the text on the page read aloud to you by clicking on the Read Aloud button.

Fine-Tune Your Tabs

Courtesy of Microsoft

You’re going to be spending a lot of time looking at newly opened tabs, so it makes sense to get them set up the way you want. Edge asks you to make some customizations the first time you launch the browser, but you can always find these settings later via the cog icon—top right on the new tab page—or through Settings and New Tab Page on the Edge menu.

You have four options here. Pick Focused for simple, clutter-free access to your bookmarks and a web search; go with Inspirational to add a background image; choose Informational to add some feeds from Microsoft News. If you select Custom, you can tweak some of the elements on the page individually, like the background image.

Sync Your Devices

Courtesy of Microsoft

It’s likely that you browse the web on more than one device, and like other modern browsers Edge lets you sync data such as your bookmarks, passwords, and browsing history among them. To do so, you need to sign in everywhere with a Microsoft account—go to Settings and Profiles from the Edge menu to put in your credentials.

Once you’ve got one or more devices signed in, you can pick which data you want to sync. Open the Edge menu, choose Settings then Sync, and you can enable or disable the syncing of certain categories of browsing data. You can keep work bookmarks separate from your home bookmarks, for example.

Enter Dark Mode

Courtesy of Microsoft

Dark mode is having a moment, with all kinds of apps and operating systems adding a feature that lets you switch between light and dark looks. The new version of Microsoft Edge is no exception, and you can make the change by going to Settings then Appearance from the menu.

Choose Dark next to Theme and you’ll see the whole interface change, including the new tab page (though not, currently, the pages that you’re actually viewing). If you leave this setting as System Default, then Edge will take its cue from your current setting for Windows or macOS as a whole. You can also adjust font size and style from the same settings screen.

Try On Extensions

Courtesy of Microsoft

One bonus of Microsoft choosing the Chromium platform to undergird Edge is that the browser can now access all of the browser extensions available for Chrome. You can head to the Chrome Web Store to search for add-ons—just click Add to Chrome to install one—or go to Microsoft’s own Microsoft Edge Addons page instead, and click Get to install something.

If you’ve never previously delved into the world of third-party browser extensions, now might be the time. These extensions can change the look of webpages, speed up your browsing, make it easier to manage passwords across sites, give a new look to the new tab page, provide instant access to the web apps you use most often, and much more besides. Just make sure you only install extensions from a reputable developer, since they often involve handing over permissions that might rightly make you squeamish.

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