Switching back to Microsoft Edge this Christmas

Early last week, I reviewed Microsoft Edge for iOS and Android, thinking about how the new mobile app would change the way Edge was viewed. I reasoned while writing the article, that Microsoft Edge would, for instance, now become something which was more palatable to users. Instead of having to rely on clunky extensions or hacky means of syncing between different platforms, users could now make use of Edge on both their PC and platform.

Of course, it occurred to me somewhere along the way that I actually wanted to use Edge now. It wasn’t so long ago that I saw Edge as something to be avoided if one wanted to be productive, and let’s be clear. It was. Web extension support for the browser was anemic. The stability of the browser was dubious, with crashes and freezes never being far away.

With the Windows 10 FCU, that calculus changed. Microsoft Edge had been steadily getting better over the past year, I highlighted its reading mode and research features in two separate articles this past summer. Microsoft has improved those in the Fall Creator’s Update. You can now annotate on your e-books and PDFs with Edge if you have a pen equipped device like the Surface, and hands-free working is now easier with read-aloud support. I’m not sure any other mainstream browser has that out of the box without downloading extensions, so that’s something to keep in mind.

Microsoft has also gifted Edge users with a slight Fluent Design makeover. Yes, it’s a minor change, but I’m a sucker for visual updates. It reminds you that Microsoft is committed to keeping this browser up to date, especially as it is now coming from a position of weakness and not one of strength as an incumbent.

Support for extensions is greatly also improved with AdBlock Plus, Grammarly, 1Password making their debut on the Microsoft Store in the years since Edge debuted. As Windows blogger Thurrott noted in reaction to the release of the Grammarly extension : “this [was] such an important milestone that it may be the tipping point for those who can’t otherwise use Microsoft Edge for whatever reasons”. For me, it was the moment Edge became usable. I could now use Edge for my primary occupation , writing, which of course made the browser immensely more useful to me.

In the past month, support for iOS and Android has appeared. Cross-platform support has been praised as a selling point, with Microsoft now supporting iOS and Android both with specialised apps that connect to your desktop. This has had a strong start with Edge being rapidly adopted by Android users, hitting 1 million users just over a week after release.

In my article, “This web page is not responding“, I came down heavily on Microsoft Edge as it stood the time of writing, noting:

Edge is a decent browser like I said above. It is the only one so far to offer 4K Netflix streaming, is very light on battery and – when it works as it should – light on RAM and the processor as well. However, reliability issues make it very hard to trust, and consequently to work with.

To its credit, Edge keeps getting better and better, with Microsoft adding support for more and more extensions and features in addition to constant bug fixes in newer builds of Windows 10. Hopefully, it won’t be long now till Edge is as stable and useful as any modern browser ought to be. On the other hand, If Microsoft can’t even keep someone who is actively trying to use its Edge browser hooked, how can it hope to appeal to sceptics.”

With the Fall Creator’s Update, Edge just works. I’ve had no complaints about stability, reliability, or random freezing errors. I have no problem recommending Edge to anyone as their main browser, and with their mobile apps, it’s easier to just stick to Edge everywhere.

Microsoft turned me into a skeptic, and now, I’ve been turned back into a believer once more. To be clear, there’s still room for Edge to grow, and browsers like Firefox Quantum and Google Chrome are still — strictly speaking — better than Edge.
But for an average, everyday user, there should not be a noticeable difference. Edge is a universal Windows app, built for Windows 10, which inherently saves you battery life, and works with all your devices. Whether that will have any effect on the uptake of Edge is yet to be seen.

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