Microsoft Edge: The New Windows 10 Web Browser
Introducing Edge: A New Browser for Windows 10
Windows 10 is the latest version of Microsoft's signature software. There are lots of fantastic features available in this free upgrade. These include Cortana, the new task view, and of course the return of the Start menu. However, one of the best features for students and educators is the new Microsoft Edge web browser. I have been using Edge for a while as part of the Windows Insider program, and I love it.
Microsoft Edge is the brand new Windows 10 browser and a long-term replacement for teh aging Internet Explorer. You can still use Explorer in Windows 10 if you want to, but Microsoft is concentrating on Edge as the platform of the future. Edge is fast, reliable, and won't slow down your computer like some other browsers can. Technically, Edge is still in development, so some features are not quite ready for release, (like browser extensions), but updates are already planned and will arrive soon to with additional functionality. What follows are some of the best features that you can use right now!
Web Notes for Annotation
Web Notes give you the ability to annotate over any web page with a variety of drawing tools. Obviously this works best on a touchscreen Windows device like a Surface, but it works with a mouse too, and will be perfect for interactive whiteboards! There is a pen, a highlighter, an eraser, a text tool, and a screenshot clipper. Better still, anything you annotate can be saved for later, sent to OneNote, or shared with others by email or social media. Just click the pencil icon in the top right-hand corner to get started. Web Notes are also a great feature for screencasts that students and teachers may make to explain or demonstrate a concept online.
An Optimized Reading View
The web is great, because for the most part it's free! Educators love free stuff, so they naturally love the web. However, that often means distracting ads, links to other websites, sidebar promotions and more. The new Reading View in Edge takes care of that. When activated, it cleans up a web page so you only get the text of an article. Ads, sidebars, and even site navigation are all removed to give you a distraction-free view of a website. You activate it by clicking or tapping on the open book in the address bar.
If you have used Safari on iOS or a Mac, will be familiar with this functionality. It is a great feature when you are showing an article to students on a big screen, or when they (and you) need a way to focus on exactly what is important on the web. Dive in to the Settings and you can adjust the font size and style for the Reading View. Take a look at the example below to see what the Reading View looks like. This is brand new for Windows 10.
Ask Cortana in Edge
If you are surfing the web and want some more information on a word or idea that you have read about, Cortana, (Microsoft's new Windows 10 virtual assistant), is on hand to help you out. Simply highlight the text in question and select Ask Cortana. A sidebar will open up on the right-hand side of your screen with more information on the text you chose.
In the example below, I highlighted the word Jamestown. The results in the sidebar included a map of where it was, a Wikipedia article summary, a weather forecast, and a list of things that people interested in Jamestown also searched for. There is even a link to do a Bing search for Jamestown if more information is required.
The data Cortana finds in the search bar will vary according to what you highlight and ask for more information on, but this contextual search is (potentially) a great research tool and a quick way to get information from reliable sources when working on the web. It will be useful for both students and teachers and is something I have become very fond of because you don't need to open any new tabs or navigate away from the page you are looking at. Cortana also makes an appearance in the address bar at the top of your screen when you perform searches.
The Best of the Rest
What remains is pretty much what you would expect from a modern browser these days, however, they are all nice options to have. There is a reading list which you can add to when you don't have time to finish reading an article you just found on the web. There are also some nice sharing options that integrate with other Windows apps installed on your device. For instance, adding articles to Flipboard is quick and easy through the Share menu, (just like in iOS). There is even a dark theme for those who find the default grey a little passé. You can turn that on in the Settings.
It's worth noting that Edge does not support webpages that are powered by Silverlight, Java, or other ActiveX controls. If you run into a website like that, you will be prompted to open it in Internet Explorer. This is not, however, a reflection of how new the Edge browser is. These plugins are now well-known for security exploits and other browsers are now adopting the same approach. Firefox blocks Java, as does Apple with its Macbooks. Chrome is in the process of phasing out support for Silverlight. Flash might be next on everyone's list, but for now at least, it is supported by Edge.
Meet the New Windows 10 Browser: Microsoft Edge
Looking to the Future
Edge might not be as versatile as Chrome or Firefox yet, but the recent addition of Edge browser extensions was a great move to help redress that balance. It's a new browser for Windows 10 and it faces a lot of competition, but if Microsoft keeps adding innovative features like the ones listed above, it is sure to be a hit in schools and everywhere else!
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© 2015 Jonathan Wylie
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