Microsoft has finally released the official, stable version of its Chromium-based Edge web browser. And while that doesn’t mean that your old-school Edge is going away today, Microsoft will start rolling out the Chromium browser in small batches before eventually replacing it via Windows Update this summer.
You can, of course, download it today, too. And I recommend doing it. It’s a great, speedy browser that’s a lot more pleasant to use than Microsoft’s now-oldschool Edge. You get more options for customising its look and feel. you can tap into all the fun extension Chrome users get at their Web Store, and you get plenty of extra features to play with.
Of course, this means you have to switch your browser from one to another, which can feel jarring. To help you out, we’ve created a quick guide to some of Edge Chromium’s need-to-knows.
Where do I get Edge Chromium?
If you don’t want to wait for Microsoft to dump its updated browser in your lap, you can download it for yourself right now. Visit this website, select the correct version of the browser for your operating system, and download it. Once you run the installer, you’ll be prompted to import data from your existing browser. I recommend doing that, to at least save you from having to set everything up from scratch. (Edge will even show you a preview of what that’s like if you click between the two “Import” and “Continue without importing” options.)
You’ll then be asked to customise how you want your new tab page to look, and you get three options to pick from: inspirational, informational, and focused. As before, clicking on any of these options will reconfigure the browser in real time to give you an example of what your change looks like—a feature I’m starting to love.
You’ll then be asked if you’d like to synchronise your passwords across signed-in devices, assuming you’ll be switching to Edge on other devices you possess. Finally, Edge will ask you if it can use your browsing history to improved personalised advertising, search results, and news items. And that’s it. With no extra fanfare, Edge is ready to go. Now let’s customise it.
The Edge Chromium settings worth caring about
Click on the triple-dot icon next to your name in the upper-right corner and click on Settings. If you’re a Chrome user, this next screen should look somewhat familiar.
First, I recommend visiting the “Sync” part of your Profiles section to make sure that everything you’re doing in Edge syncs up to your Microsoft account—in case you’re switching between different machines (or even using Edge on your Android or iPhone). You’ll notice that some data isn’t going to sync just yet: your browsing history, your open tabs, your extensions, et cetera. These options are coming soon, but Microsoft isn’t ready with them just yet.
In the Privacy and Services section of your left-hand sidebar, you’ll be able to pick from three different modes for how Edge should handle various browser trackers. Pick your poison, but I’ll have a few suggestions later for kicking this up an additional notch.
This is also where you’ll be able to tell Edge to clear out various bits of data every time you close the browser—another handy move for the privacy-conscious. Click on “Choose what to clear every time you close the browser,” and you’ll be able to pick from these options:
Back on the main “Privacy and service” screen, be sure to check the box for sending “Do not track” requests, even though it’s completely voluntary for a website to obey this designation.
All the way at the bottom, click on “Address Bar,” which allows you to turn away from Microsoft’s meh Bing search engine—Edge’s default, naturally—and switch it to something a little more useful (Google) or private (DuckDuckGo).
Now, click on over to the Appearance section of your left-hand sidebar. Here, you’ll be able to pick whether you want your browser to have a light or dark theme, or to just follow whatever Windows is doing at the time. You can also adjust your font size if you need it larger (or want it smaller), and have your favourites bar stick to every tab you have open (rather than just new tab pages).
The On startup Settings tab is simple, but important; it’s how you’ll pick what you want your browser to show you when it launches, which can be a new tab, everything you had open when you last left your browser, or a specific page (or pages). I’m a huge fan of the middle option, which is why I have an insane amount of browser tabs currently sitting in the background of Chrome. If you’d prefer a cleaner experience, the default option in Edge ditches every open tab every time you close your browser.
Similarly, the New tab page section will allow you to customise whatever New tab page you picked previously—or pick a new one, if you don’t like your selection. There’s not a lot you can customise if you select the “Custom” option, but you can at least give yourself access to the day’s news, for example, without having a ton of stories blow up all over your browser’s new tab page. And if you hate the daily image you get in Edge, because you don’t like fun, you can also turn that off.
Skipping over to the System section your settings, I wanted to call to your attention the “Continue running background apps when Microsoft Edge is closed” option. I’m a purist, and I don’t like apps running in the background if they really don’t need to be there, so I switched this off. I doubt I’ll notice an increase in my Edge loading times, nor will my extensions nor day-to-day use likely be impacted. Additionally, uncheck “Use hardware acceleration where available” if you’re experiencing quirky issues with your extensions—in my case, this has been the only way to get my “create a PDF out of a webpage” extensions to work.
Finally, be sure to take note of the “About Microsoft Edge” section. Like Chrome, this is the section you’ll want to visit whenever you want to manually check for a browser update.
Are there flags in Microsoft Edge, too?
Yes. Like Chrome, you can type “edge://flags/” into your browser’s address bar, hit Enter, and load up a number of advanced and/or preview features that may or may not be enabled. The one that comes to mind right now that might be worth checking out is “Tab Freeze,” or the Chrome feature that automatically suspends your background tabs after five minutes of inactivity—saving you precious system resources.
I also like “Sound content setting,” which allows you to mute entire websites, not just individual tabs, via the right-click context menu.
What are some useful Edge extensions worth installing?
Where to begin. How you customise your browser with add-ons and extensions is up to you, but there are a handful that I recommend for everyone. If you want a decent, bullshit-free browsing experience, I urge you to install the following (via the Microsoft Store or the Chrome Web Store, after you agree to allow extensions from it):
Ublock Origin (avoid shitty advertising, malware, scripts, and other website issues)
Privacy Badger (for everything Ublock Origin doesn’t catch)
Chrome Remote Desktop (if this works in Edge Chromium; I haven’t tested it yet, but will shortly)
Enhancer for YouTube (make YouTube videos expand to whatever size you want by default, along with a host of other incredibly useful playback options)
OneTab (keep your incredible amount of open tabs in check)
Session Buddy (for those rare moments when you can’t restore your open tabs after a crash / strange issue)
Smile Always (feel slightly better about your Amazon addiction)
Reddit Enhancement Suite (a must-have for Reddit fans)
The Great Suspender (I’m not sure this is completely necessary if you’re using your browser’s Tab Freezing option, but I don’t see any reason to get rid of it)