Microsoft rethinks the browser with Edge (hands-on)

/ Updated: July 28, 2015 5:04 PM PDT
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Microsoft Edgeis a fast, modern browser that's intended to replace Internet Explorer. It's bundled into Windows 10 , and packs a number of new features that hope to lure folks away from the likes of Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox.

But even though Windows 10 has finally arrived, Edge isn't quite ready for prime time. Many of the features you'd expect from a modern browser, including support for extensions or syncing tabs across devices, hasn't quite arrived. But it's still an interesting glimpse at what Microsoft has in store.

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James Martin/CNET

Edge is thus far primarily focused on showing us what could be next. There's a new rendering engine powering all of the browser's features, and it feels appreciably zippy. A reading mode akin to the one you'd see in Safari or apps like Pocket strips a Web page down to its bare essentials, and you can easily add Web pages and the like to a Reading list to read later across all of your Windows-powered devices.

What's proven to be the most useful addition is Microsoft's virtual assistant Cortana , which will ride along as you browse. Pop over to the website for a bar or restaurant, and she can pull together a sidebar with useful information, like directions or reviews. You can also type queries into the address bar -- "weather in Tokyo" -- and she'll insert the information right in front of you.

Annotate Web pages, then send them to OneNote or share them with your friends. James Martin/CNET

A Web Note button on the taskbar allows you to doodle onto snapshots of Web pages, annotate those pages with comments, and share your notes via email or through OneNote. It's interesting feature, though I'll admit I'm still not sure how useful this will be. That said, having the feature built into your browser, as opposed to relying on third-party apps like Evernote, could prove useful to some.

I can't remember the last time I purposefully used a Microsoft browser as my daily driver, though Cortana integration and the promise of extensions, which are due later this is, is certainly enticing. Microsoft's willingness to start entirely from scratch and build a new idea from the ground up with Edge is also encouraging. Internet Explorer will still live on, however: that browser will remain a part of Windows to ensure compatibility with older applications. But now that Windows 10 has made its debut Edge will be an important next step for Microsoft.

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