Microsoft's Chromium-Based Edge Revamp Hits Beta Release Stage
- By Kurt Mackie
- August 20, 2019
The first beta release of Microsoft's Chromium-based Edge Web browser is now available to testers, the company announced Tuesday.
Open to participants in Microsoft's Edge Insider Program, this is the first so-called Beta Channel release since Microsoft shifted to using open source Chromium Project technologies (fostered by Google) in the Edge browser, as announced back in December. Beta Channel releases represent features that have matured under Microsoft's testing program, with software updates getting released every six months. Microsoft had suggested back in April that when the Beta Channel was released, it'd be the one recommended for organizations to follow.
A Beta Channel release is the most stable test version preceding a commercial Edge browser release. "While still in the preview stage, with this announcement the next version of Microsoft Edge is ready for everyday use," claimed Joe Belfiore, corporate vice president of Windows, in Microsoft's announcement.
Microsoft also has a Canary Channel under the Edge Insider Program, where software updates are released daily, but more software flaws get included. There's also a Dev Channel under the program, which represents weekly releases of the best features from the Canary Channel.
To get access to these releases, testers can simply download the latest Edge browser release, selecting from among the three channel options, via the Edge Insider Program landing page. Microsoft previously suggested that these test releases will work alongside the current flagship Edge browser on the same system without conflict.
New Beta Channel Features
The new Beta Channel release includes the following features, with some tailored for use by organizations:
- Internet Explorer Mode, which lets organizations access the Internet Explorer 11 browser right from a tab in Edge.
- Support for Windows Defender Application Guard for organizations, which lets them block access to untrusted sites.
- Integrated Microsoft Search with Bing search, which surfaces access to people, documents and locations within an organization.
- Dark theme, which displays a dark background with white text for end users.
- Tab page customizations, with "Focused, Inspirational or Informational" page layout options for newly opened Web pages.
- Access to the Edge Insider add-ons store to get browser extensions, including "Chromium-based web stores, such as the Chrome Web Store."
- Tracking protection.
- Support for 14 languages.
Microsoft explained that the tracking protection feature in the Beta Channel release of the Edge browser, which blocks tracking by third parties, has to be optionally enabled by turning on its "experiment flag." There are a number of features available like this using experiment flags. Getting access to them on depends on typing a URL segment into the Edge browser's address box, as described in this support article.
Microsoft this week also announced an extension to its regular Edge security bounty program to include software flaws found in the Beta and Dev channels of the Edge Insider Program. Monetary rewards, as well as restrictions, are described in this Microsoft Security Response Center announcement. The bounty rewards are segmented based on whether the vulnerability was associated with the Chromium or EdgeHTML engines used in the Edge browser.
Collections Feature in the Canary Channel
Microsoft also announced on Tuesday that its Collections feature for the Edge browser is now available for Canary Channel testers.
The Collections feature is somewhat like Microsoft's OneNote Office application, except that it gets accessed from within the browser. It lets users save graphics, text and hyperlinks within a so-called "Collections pane." Items can be added to the pane via a drag-and-drop action using a mouse, or by right-clicking on an item and selecting "Add to Collections." Saved collections look like card icons.
It's possible to export collections to the Excel spreadsheet program or copy and paste items to Excel, but it just works now for macOS and Windows 10 users. This capability will be available later for Windows 7 and Windows 8 users. Microsoft is planning such Collections export and copying functionality for use with Word, as well.
A Microsoft session to answer questions about the Edge browser is scheduled for Aug. 22 on Reddit, according to this Tweet.
Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.