I made Microsoft Edge my default browser because of these three killer features

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After two decades of building Internet Explorer, the web browser everyone loves to hate, Microsoft finally threw in the towel four years ago and released an all-new browser, built on the same open-source Chromium engine that Google’s Chrome browser uses.

Also: Arc browser is now available for Windows and it’s so much better than Chrome

To its credit, Microsoft Edge is not a mere clone of Chrome. Using the same rendering engine means that Edge isn’t plagued by compatibility issues; in my experience virtually all websites and web-based services work as expected with Edge. But Microsoft’s developers have added some useful features to their browser that you won’t find in Chrome.

To be clear, my point in this post is not to convince anyone that they should switch browsers. If you’re happy with Chrome or Safari or Opera or Brave, carry on. But if you’ve already set Edge as your default browser, or if you’re contemplating whether you could switch, these three features are worth looking at.

1. Tracking Protection

Google’s business model is built on its personalized advertising, so you can safely bet that it will never add a feature that restricts its ability to monitor your activity inside the browser.

Microsoft has an online ad business of its own, but it also has a longstanding track record of building privacy features into its browsers. Way back in 2012, it was an avid supporter of the Do Not Track feature, before that effort was neutered by the online data-collection industry. And from Day 1, Edge has incorporated a feature called Tracking Protection, which is turned on by default.

Also: 5 Microsoft Edge settings to change for more secure browsing than Chrome offers

I wrote about Tracking Protection back in 2019, just before Edge was released to the general public. It still works the same way today, with a few minor refinements.

One of the first things I do when I set up a new PC or Mac is to change the Tracking Protection setting from the default Balanced setting to Strict. (From the Edge browser, go to edge://settings/privacy.) 

Bonus: It’s also a very effective ad blocker in Strict mode, with no third-party extensions required.

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In Strict mode, the Tracking Protection feature blocks some (but not all) ads

Ed Bott/ZDNET

One side effect of Tracking Protection is that it can prevent some advanced web features from working. If you find a webpage that doesn’t load properly, you can turn off Tracking Protection and reload the page to see if that resolves the problem. Click the lock icon in the address bar and then slide the “Tracking protection for this site” switch to the Off position to test.

2. Vertical tabs

When this feature debuted, I confess my first reaction was skeptical. The traditional tabs layout has been around for more than a decade, I said to myself; why change it? Then I tried it, and now it’s among the first settings I adjust when I set up an Edge profile on a new PC or Mac.

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

Why? Because it’s the cure for tab overload. I often have dozens of tabs open at once, and with the traditional tab layout, my browser window looks like this:

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Which webpage is which? It’s almost impossible to tell when you have this many tabs open.

Ed Bott/ZDNET

Unless you’ve memorized each site by its favicon, that layout is pretty much useless, especially if you have multiple pages from a single site open. With vertical tabs, you get a resizable pane on the left that contains the page title, making it easy (well, easier) to find a specific tab.

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With vertical tabs, you can see the title for each tab in a scrolling pane on the left.

Ed Bott/ZDNET

To turn on this feature, click the Tab Actions menu (just to the left of the first open tab) and then click “Turn on vertical tabs.”

3. Immersive Reader

We’ve all experienced the frustration of visiting a webpage that’s so poorly designed as to be unreadable. Maybe the type is too small, or the text is white on an orange background, or there are so many ads and cross-site promotions that you spend more time scrolling than reading.

That’s where Edge’s Immersive Reader (aka Reader Mode) comes in handy. When you click the Enter Immersive Reader button in the address bar (or press F9 on a Windows PC), Edge retrieves the page securely and reformats it, stripping away most of the clutter and displaying the text in a readable size on a calm background. Those settings are customizable, using the “Text preferences” menu shown here.

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In Reader Mode, the entire webpage is retrieved securely and reformatted to make it easier to read.

Ed Bott/ZDNET

I’ve found third-party extensions that can do the same for Google Chrome, but they’re not nearly as elegant. 

Also: How to use reading mode in every top web browser

As a bonus, switching into Reader Mode in Edge can sometimes help you work around paywalls. If you find a page that’s blocked by a “subscribers only” message, try switching to Reader Mode and see if the entire article loads. It works often enough, in my experience, to be worth trying.





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