Over the past 20 years, Microsoft’s Internet Explorer has gone through a progression from newcomer to monopoly to bloated security nightmare to steadily improving. Even though it was getting better in the last few years, however, it had too much negative history and built-in bloat.
That’s why for Windows 10, Microsoft decided to replace Internet Explorer with the brand new Microsoft Edge. The idea was that it would be redone from the ground up with solid security and lightning performance. The time has come to ask: Did it work?
Right away, we’ll tell you that Edge is nicer to use than Internet Explorer. It’s more secure and runs the latest websites better. The interface is more modern, although things like the disappearing address bar do take some getting used to.
However, it isn’t going up against Internet Explorer, it’s facing off with rival browsers like Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox and the speedy but little-used Opera. These are all solid long-standing options and available for free, so is there any reason to use Edge instead?
We’ve been giving Edge and its new features a test drive for you. Here are a few things we like about Edge, and a few that we don’t.
Microsoft stuck on so many add-ons, features and security patches to Internet Explorer that the once-speedy Web browser became seriously slow. With Edge, Microsoft blew away everything that wasn’t essential and has been adding features back in sparingly. It’s also added some features IE didn’t have.
For starters, Edge’s best new tool, hands down, is Web Note. Web Note lets you write on websites with a virtual pen, or a yellow highlighter pen. Unlike every dried-up highlighter in your desk drawer, though, this one never runs out of ink.
If you’ve used Paint to draw pictures or cut and crop photos, Web Note is reminiscent of that. For example, you can use it to highlight something, like the Aug. 24 New York Times headline about the stock market plunging 1,000 points.
Then, add a Note to say, “Did you see this?” and use the pen to sign your name. Cut and paste the story, then click on the Share button to email it to a family member, or coworker who would be interested. This feature is unique to Edge.
Edge’s Reading List is quite cool, too. It lets you save an interesting Web page so you can go back hours or days later to read it. To jog your memory, each saved Reading List page has a helpful photo from the article and its headline, which puts it a step above bookmarks and favorites.
However, the latest version of Firefox has something similar thanks to the integrated Pocket service, and you can add other services through extensions. Chrome and Opera can add this type of convenience as well through extensions.
Firefox, Chrome and Opera do keep the edge in their many extensions that can make the browser do just about anything. Edge is expected to get extensions later this year, but it’s still a work in progress.
Speaking of works in progress, there is an area Edge needs a bit more polishing.
Do you remember back in the 1990s when you had to dial into a modem to get onto the Internet? A page with little more than words and a picture could take several minutes to load.
Today, it’s hard to imagine sitting in front of a Web page for more than a second or two before we’re groaning, “Ugh. Hurry up!” So you want your browser fast and snappy, or at least one that doesn’t make you feel like you’re waiting.
That’s exactly where Microsoft Edge falls short of its competitors. Despite being slimmed down and sleek, Edge is still slow. Unbelievably, it’s slower than Internet Explorer, according to PC Magazine, and we confirmed that in our test drive.
It takes Edge an average 3.24 seconds to open a Web page. That’s a full second longer than it takes Internet Explorer to open a page! Of course, it’s good to keep in mind that Edge has the potential to be much faster than IE ever could be.
Of course, speed needs to be balanced with security.
At Komando.com, we’re always telling you about Web browser bugs, and fixes. Just about all the browsers do a good job finding vulnerabilities that hackers can exploit, then fixing them.
In 2014 alone, Google issued an estimated 500 security patches for its Chrome browser; Microsoft issued 249 patches for Internet Explorer. It might not seem like it at first, but that’s actually good because it means those companies are finding problems and fixing them.
Of course, you need to keep your browser up to date to get the security and performance benefits. Fortunately, every browser now grabs updates automatically and you just have to restart it for them to install. Click here to double-check that you really have the latest version of your browser.
Internet Explorer had security problems thanks to old code, such as ActiveX, or third-party plug-ins that weren’t automatically updated, such as Adobe Flash or Java, and it was too easy to install sketchy toolbars. Edge does away with the old bug-ridden code, integrates plug-ins like Flash so they’re always up to date, and it ignores most third-party toolbars.
Much of that is the same approach Chrome takes to security, and it works well. Firefox is still working on that, but in the meantime it has taken other steps such as disabling potentially dangerous plug-ins like Flash entirely.
Prior to Edge’s release this summer, users overwhelmingly felt that Firefox and Chrome were the most secure Web browsers. But the new reality is, when you look at every nook and cranny for Web browser vulnerabilities, Edge and Chrome are the two most secure browsers.
When it comes to evaluating Web browsers, speed and safety are the obvious features to consider first. Thankfully, both are easy to measure. You can tell how fast or slow a browser is, just read Happening Now every day to make sure you’re up to date on security fixes.
Ultimately, though, choosing the browser that’s right for you comes down to your user experience. In other words, is one browser nicer to look at, and easier to use than another one?
Two of the most popular browsers, Chrome and Firefox, lead the pack in their look, feel and how fast they seem to run. They have easy-to-use, drop-down menus with options to print and to find add-ons.
Firefox is a little richer in its menu features, and its menu is easier to use than Chrome’s. Opera is based on Chrome, so it has similar pros and cons. By comparison, Internet Explorer always felt clunky and cluttered.
Edge’s user experience is much better. Everything is clean, well-labeled and more space is devoted to Web pages. Of course, there are some things you’ll need to get used to, like the disappearing address bar. It’s hard sometimes to know where to click to get it back so you can type in a new address.
Also, a few times in testing, there were Web pages that wouldn’t open. Some of these required older code that was in Internet Explorer but not Edge. For those, Windows 10 does include IE 11 so you can still use them. Others that wouldn’t load are the result of Edge needing a bit more tweaking, and shouldn’t be a problem after updates in the near future.
In conclusion, if you can look past its couple of wobbles, speed and pages that don’t open, you may find yourself longing for Edge’s best features. Once you use Web Note to write on Web pages, and Reading List to save Web pages for later, you may just find yourself comparing those other browsers to your new favorite, Edge.
What has your experience with Microsoft Edge been like? Do you love it or hate it? Let us know in the comments.