This week, Microsoft announced several more new features trickling down to Edge Stable from the beta insider channel. These features include Startup Boost, Sleeping Tabs, Vertical Tabs, and a more navigable History dialog. The company also announced some welcome interface tweaks for Bing – which Microsoft insists on categorizing as Edge features, but these items seem to apply equally to Bing in any browser so far.
If you’re unfamiliar with Microsoft Edge’s release and download system, there are three Insider channels (Canary, Dev, and Beta) that represent daily, weekly, and six-week updates in ascending order of stability. New features debut there before finally making their way to Stable where normal users will encounter them.
If you are a Windows user, you cannot download new builds directly in the stable channel. Instead, you need to search for it in Windows Update or navigate to
edge://settings/help in-browser and ask Edge to check for updates for itself. If you also want to check out the Edge Insider builds, you can safely do so – they won’t replace your Edge Stable; they install side by side, with separate icons on your taskbar making them easy to distinguish.
Edge’s new Startup Boost feature is pretty straightforward. Instead of killing all processes when you close the browser, a minimal set remains open and running. Microsoft says these always-on background processes reduce Edge’s startup time — whether opened from an Edge icon or opened automatically as a link to hyperlinks from other applications — by 29% to 41%.
Microsoft also says that the background processes have very little impact on the CPU and memory footprint of the system as a whole. The new feature is enabled by default in Edge Stable Build 89, but if you don’t like it, you can disable it on your system – go to
edge://settings/system and turn off
Continue running background apps when Microsoft Edge is closed.
Edge’s new Sleeping Tabs feature automatically puts tabs to sleep — building on Chromium’s “tabfreeze” feature — after two hours of background state with no interaction. You can manually adjust this timeout period if it’s not right for you, and Edge also uses heuristics to detect instances where sleep might be inappropriate (for example, tabs streaming music in the background).
In the tab bar you can see which tabs have gone to sleep due to their faded appearance; clicking a sleep tab wakes it up and brings it back to the foreground. To our disappointment, there isn’t yet an option to right-click on a tab and manually put it to sleep – you can only wait for the browser to do it for you after a long enough inactivity.
Vertical tabs — a feature we first reported almost a year ago — were finally released this week in Edge Stable 89.
Modern screens generally have almost twice as much horizontal screen space as vertical ones, and placing tabs, application icons, etc. across the horizontal axis of the screen instead of vertically makes more efficient use of the workspace you have.
Edge is certainly not the first application to notice this fact – Ubuntu, for example, started using a vertical application launcher (the equivalent of the Windows taskbar) by default almost 10 years ago. We’ve found that using screen space more efficiently is a great idea, but many users have an immediate, strong negative reaction to such a fundamental change to their navigation concepts.
Probably for that reason, Microsoft has left the default orientation of the tab bar horizontal. If you want to browse like it’s 2021, the new vertical tab bar is just a click away, as is putting it back as you found it.
Edge’s new History Hub is another welcome UX update and is easier to use than to describe. Navigating to History from the hamburger menu (or by pressing the Ctrl+H keyboard shortcut) opens your browsing history as a drop-down menu rather than a full page.
The History drop-down menu also has a pin icon in the top right corner. Clicking the pin dynamically expands the browser window, making room for a permanent, pinned history window to the right. The History pane remains in place and is visible as you navigate the web, either through links on pages or by clicking the history links themselves. This makes it much easier to find what you’re looking for in the recent past.
To round out the goodies this week, Microsoft has announced some updates to the way search results are displayed. These updates were also billed as Edge improvements, but when we checked bing.com in Google Chrome on a Linux workstation, we saw the same results there.
Local search results in Bing will display stickpins on a map, dynamically updated as you browse them. This makes it easier to sort your search results by geographic area, which isn’t always as simple as ‘closest to’ or ‘farthest away’. This feature is not fully implemented yet; Microsoft says it will be fully available in the US in the coming weeks.
The search engine also contextually adapts its search results when it primarily understands the broad category of what you are looking for. Recipe carousel results now include dynamically updated windows with calorie information next to the recipe image and metatext, for example. Search results for documentary films are another great example for this update. They appear in tiles with box art, title and little else; hovering over each tile slides open further detailed information about the movie.
Finally, educational searches may yield more easily digestible, infographic-like results rather than the simple dense text-based output we’ve become familiar with over the past two decades. It’s not exactly clear which topics will or will not receive the infographic results or how they will be generated, but Microsoft is showing the result of a Bing search for “giraffe animal” as an example.