Like many of you, I have been using the public preview builds of the new Edge Chromium browser for a little less than 24 hours now. 

Initial impressions are solid despite the lack of bells and whistles we are used to in original Edge. The Chromium version of Edge is very fast and has quickly become my default browser on Windows 10. 

As Microsoft mentioned across their announcement blog posts, etc. this is early stages in the process of building the Edge browser out with Chromium at its core so many features you are used to in original Edge are not yet available in Edge Chromium.

For me and my own personal workflow, the biggest UI element I am missing so far is the Share Icon which can be used to share browser content to various apps and services across Windows 10. In the interim, I am using the sharing aspect of NextGen Reader which I use for reviewing RSS feeds I aggregate with Feedly. That covers me for both pushing articles to OneNote for my weekly podcast show notes and for sharing content over to Twitter.

There are currently two channels available for Edge Chromium builds as things get started:

  • Edge Canary is updated daily and is the bleeding edge, pun intended, of the development process.
  • Edge Developer is updated weekly and provides access to new features so developers can test their sites, apps, etc.
  • Edge Beta, once it is made available, will be the most stable preview build. Releases in this channel are expected every six weeks or so.
  • Edge Stable will be the release channel for Edge Chromium.

Right now Edge Chromium is only available for 64-bit versions of Windows 10 however, Microsoft lists the new browser will be coming soon to Windows 7, 8.1 and MacOS. 

Note: You can run developer and canary builds of Edge Chromium right alongside each other and original Edge on Windows 10.

Just like with other Chromium-based browsers, there is a long list of flags that can be used to turn various functionality off and on within the browser. Just like Microsoft, I warn you against making a bunch of changes with these flags however, there are two that I feel OK recommending at this point.

  1. Enable using the Edge local NTP (New Tab Page)
    1. #use-edge-local-ntp
  2. Microsoft Edge theme – Use a light or dark theme (based on OS preferences) in your browser
    1. #edge-follow-os-theme

Right now Edge Chromium offers four New tab Page layouts:

  • Focused
  • Inspirational
  • Informational
  • Custom

The problem is that the Microsoft News Feeds cannot be completely turned off in any of these options. While they don’t bother me terribly because in Focused mode which I use they are off the bottom of the screen and only appear if you scroll the New Tab Page. However, if you prefer to not have them there at all then use the first flag to just use a local version of the New Tab Page. You will still have the logo, search box, and most visited sites but not the inspirational image that is part of that page.

The second flag toggles Edge Chromium’s Dark or Light theme based on what you have selected for the OS.

You access the entire list of Edge Chromium flags by entering edge://flags in the browsers address bar. When you see this page you will discover a lot of optional flags. Heed the warning at the top of the page from Microsoft:

“WARNING: EXPERIMENTAL FEATURES AHEAD! By enabling these features, you could lose browser data or compromise your security or privacy. Enabled features apply to all users of this browser.”

I will admit, there are some interesting ones on the list and I tried a few of them and I am sure some of you will as well. Just keep in mind the warning above and if all else fails you can get back to an original state by using the Reset all to default button at the top of the flags page.

Browser Extensions

Last month, a public page listing Microsoft Edge Insiders Addons appeared on the web. This will be the page where extensions are downloaded for Edge Chromium. If you go into the Microsoft Store on Windows 10, those extensions will install on original Edge even if you have selected Edge developer or canary channel as your default browser.

Since this new Edge is based on Chromium, that means you can also use the Chrome Web Store to install extensions. This is not turned on by default but you will get a prompt to allow extensions from other stores when you visit the site.

Edge Chromium also separates extensions you installed from the official add-ons page and those from the Chrome Web Store when you look at them in settings.

Microsoft Edge Chromium Extensions Settings Page
Edge Chromium Extensions Settings Page

Microsoft has listed some of the known issues for these early builds:

  • Browser data will only sync when using your Microsoft Account. Work and school accounts are coming.
  • Only Favorites will sync between devices. History, passwords, and form data come later.
  • There is no sync between these early builds of Edge Chromium and production releases of Edge on PC, iOS, and Android.
  • No media casting although the option is listed in the UI.
  • No spellcheck.

Of course, there are lots of other elements missing that we are used to in original Edge and while the team is not providing a specific roadmap of what they are working on, their goal is to deliver the best feature set based on user feedback. So that means you need to download Edge Chromium builds and provide feedback through the Microsoft Edge Insider website. They have three main areas on this site for information including articles, surveys, and discussions. 

You might have also seen the smiley face in the upper right corner of the Edge Chromium browser window. You can click on that and send a quick piece of feedback including an option to include a screenshot to the team. 

One last thing, the Feedback Hub in Windows 10 is for feedback on original Edge and not the new version based on Chromium. So be aware of that as you sort out and send feedback.

What do you think of Edge Chromium so far?

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