This week, Microsoft announced several more features leaking down to Edge Stable from its Beta insider channel. These features include Startup Boost, Sleeping Tabs, Vertical Tabs and a more navigable history dialog. The company also announced some welcome interface tweaks to Bing ̵
If you are unfamiliar with Microsoft Edge’s release and download system, there are three Insider channels (Canary, Dev, and Beta) that represent daily, weekly, and six-weekly updates in increasing order of stability. New features debut there before they finally find their way into Stabil, where normal users encounter them.
If you are a Windows user, you can not actually download new builds in the stable channel directly. Instead, either look for them in Windows Update or navigate to
edge://settings/help in the browser and ask Edge to check for updates for himself. If you also want to check out the Edge Insider builds, you can do it safely – they do not replace your Edge Stable; they are installed side by side with separate icons on the taskbar that make them easy to distinguish.
Edge’s new Startup Boost feature is pretty simple. Instead of killing all processes when you close the browser, it leaves a minimal set open and running. Microsoft says that these always-on background processes reduce Edge startup times – whether opened from an Edge icon or automatically opened as a link to hyperlinks from other applications – by 29% to 41%.
Microsoft also says that the background processes have very little impact on the CPU and memory footprint of the system as a whole. The new feature is enabled by default in Edge Stable Build 89, but if you do not like it, you can disable it on your system – go to
edge://settings/system and disable
Continue running background apps when Microsoft Edge is closed.
Edge’s new Sleeping Tabs feature automatically puts tabs to sleep – based on Chromium’s “tab freeze” feature – after two hours of uninterrupted background status. You can adjust this timeout period manually if it does not suit you, and Edge also uses heuristics to detect instances where sleep may be inappropriate (for example, tabs streaming music in the background).
You can see which tabs have gone dormant due to their faded appearance in the tab bar; by clicking on a sleeping tab it wakes up and brings it back to the foreground. To our disappointment, there is no way to right-click on a tab and put it to sleep manually yet – all you can do is wait for the browser to do it for you after a sufficiently long period of inactivity.
Vertical tabs – a feature we first reported almost a year ago – finally got it released this week in Edge Stable 89.
Modern monitors generally have almost twice as much horizontal screen real estate as vertical, and by arranging tabs, application icons, and so on across the horizontal axis of the monitor rather than its vertical, it makes more efficient use of the workspace you have.
Edge is certainly not the first application to notice this fact – Ubuntu started using a vertical application launcher (similar to the Windows taskbar) by default almost 10 years ago, for example. We have found that the more efficient use of screen properties is a good idea, but many users have an immediate, strong negative reaction to such a fundamental change in their navigation concepts.
Probably a factor as to why they’re doing so poorly. If you want to search as if it were 2021, the new vertical tab is a single click away – like putting it back as you found it.
Edge’s new History Hub is another welcome UX update, and it’s easier to use than it is to describe. Navigating to History from the hamburger menu (or by pressing the Ctrl + H shortcut key) opens your browser history as a drop-down menu rather than an entire page.
The History drop-down menu also has a stickpin icon at the top right – clicking on the pin changes the browser window dynamically, leaving room for a persistent, pinned history pane on the right. The History pane stays in place and is visible when you navigate the web, whether it is through links on the pages or by clicking on the history links themselves. This makes it much easier to find what you are looking for lately.
Rounding off the goodies this week, Microsoft announced some updates to how it displays search results. These updates were also billed as Edge enhancements, but when we checked bing.com in Google Chrome on a Linux workstation, we saw the same results there.
Local search results in Bing begin to show stickpins on a map, updated dynamically as you search them. This makes it easier to sort your search results by geographic area – which is not always as simple as “what’s closest” or “what’s farthest away.” This feature is not fully implemented yet; Microsoft says it will be fully available in the US in the coming weeks.
The search engine also adjusts its search results coherently when it first understands the broad category of what you are looking for. Carousel results for recipes now include dynamically updated panes that display calorie information along with the image and meta text of the recipe, for example. Documentary film search results are another great showcase for this update. They show up in tiles showing box art, title and a little more; hovering over each tile screen opens additional detailed information about the movie.
Finally, educational searches can provide more easily digestible returns in infographic style instead of the simple output with dense text we have become familiar with over the past two decades. It is not clear exactly which items receive infographic returns or not, or how these are generated, but Microsoft shows the result of a Bing search for “giraffe animals” as an example.