5 Microsoft Edge features that might make it my new favorite Linux browser


The Microsoft Edge browser.

The Open in Sidebar feature found in Edge is just one thing that makes it a viable Linux browser.

Jack Wallen/ZDNET

A Microsoft piece of software on Linux? Who would have thought?

I certainly didn’t.

Back in those early days of using Linux, you’d have heard me screaming at the top of my lungs from any given mountaintop that I’d never use a piece of software from MS. That was then, this is now.

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My take on software at this point is whatever tool does the job is the tool I’ll use. That’s why I’ve adopted MacOS for video editing and even installed proprietary software on Linux without thinking about it. But Microsoft Edge? Are you serious?

Yes, I am.

I’m not saying I’ve already adopted Edge as my default browser, as that title still belongs to Opera. Of course, if The Browser Company ever ports Arc to Linux, I’ll make that switch in a heartbeat.

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But the only Edge I ever thought I’d have on my computer was the guitarist from U2. Lo and behold, I’ve changed my tune and there are some very specific reasons why. 

Let me explain.

1. The Start Page

Most people take their browser’s Start Page for granted. Not me. I want that Start Page to not only make it easy for me to open a new webpage but to also keep me informed and make it easy to find information, or quickly jump to a specific page. The thing I appreciate about MS Edge is that you can customize the Start Page on a level most browsers cannot match. You can choose a layout from Focused, Inspirational, Informational, or Custom. 

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You can configure how many rows of Quick Linux, add a theme, decide if you want content visible or not, and add/remove channels as news sources. Some might view the Edge Start Page as a bit overkill but if you want to stay up-to-date on news and information, without having to open tab after tab of different news sites to stay in the know.

2. Optimize performance

This feature (which opens as a pop-out sidebar) gives you a heads-up on your browser performance/security and views recommendations on how you can improve those features. From within Browser Essentials, you can first check how much memory Sleeping Tabs saves you (which is enabled by default), view statistics on how Edge has protected users worldwide, and even enable the free VPN. 

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The most important thing about the Browser Essentials feature, however, is that from the three-dot menu button, it will take you to the Edge Optimize Performance page, where you can enable Efficiency Mode, manage Sleeping Tabs, enable the Performance Detector, and more. Another nice feature that can be accessed via this page is the whitelist for sleeping tabs. If you use the sleeping tabs feature (which can improve performance by sleeping inactive tabs), you create a whitelist of sites that will never be put to sleep. This is great for those sites that you need instant access to at all times.

3. Apps

Like Chrome, you can “install” sites and have them run in their own isolated window, without all the usual Edge bells and whistles. This is a feature I believe all web browsers should have this feature because it makes it possible to use certain sites as though they are apps unto themselves. 

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The difference between how Edge and Chrome handles this feature is striking, as with Edge all you have to do is click the browser menu and then click Apps > Install this site as an app. With Chrome you go to the browser menu, click Save & Share > Create Shortcut, and ensure that you enable Open As Window. Edge does this right and Google should take notice.

4. Side Tabs and open in sidebar

Sometimes, it’s the simple things that make life easier. Although users have been working with tabs at the top of their browsers for decades, the side tab layout is simply superior. With Chrome, you have to install an extension to get vertical tabs and even then it’s not nearly as well laid out as it is on Edge. Edge also has a really handy feature that opens tabs in a sidebar. 

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With this feature, you can have one site open in the primary pane and another open in the sidebar, so you can view two sites at once in the same window. This is great for sites like X, where you only need to view a narrow feed. The only downfall is that like Chrome, Edge doesn’t have anything near what Arc or Opera has for tab management. But both Arc and Opera have set the bar very high in that regard.

5. Tracking prevention

What I like about Edge is that they’ve seemed to take queues from both Firefox and Chrome to create the best of both worlds with regard to tracking prevention. Not only can you select your level of tracking prevention (from Basic, Balanced, and Strict), but you also can add exceptions and even set Strict mode for when you’re in a Private window. 

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You also get quick access to see what trackers have been blocked (and how many times each has been blocked). This sort of information makes it easy for users to better understand how many trackers have been blocked, which sites have used the trackers, and a quick means of clearing the data. As far as I’m concerned, every browser should make managing tracking prevention this easy.

These aren’t the only reasons why Edge could become my browser of the future on Linux. But I will say the only thing holding me back from doing so right now is that Opera has the superior tab management feature and I work with way too many tabs to settle for less. Even so, Microsoft Edge has impressed me and will become my secondary browser on Linux… until it gets the clue and beefs up its tab management options.

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