What's in the latest Edge update? Vertical tabs for all, and faster start-ups

Version 89 of Microsoft's Edge browser kills off 33 security vulnerabilities and is supposed to boost startup times by up to 41%.

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Microsoft last week upgraded its Edge browser to version 89, delivering vertical tabs to all customers and improving startup times up to 41%. The Redmond, Wash. company also patched at least 33 security vulnerabilities before releasing Edge 89.

(Note: Starting Jan. 21, Microsoft began "...releasing the Chrome CVEs that are included in the new releases of Microsoft Edge (Chromium-based) directly in the Security Update Guide." For more information on what that meant, head to this explanation.)

Although Edge will update automatically in the background, to force an upgrade, select "About Microsoft Edge" from the Help and Feedback menu under the ellipsis at the upper right; the resulting tab shows that the browser has been updated or displays the download process before presenting a "Restart" button.

Users new to Edge can manually download version 89 for Windows or macOS. The Linux version is available as a Dev Channel build from the Insider website, while the Android and iOS browsers can be found in the Google Play and App Store markets, respectively.

Microsoft updates Edge on the same six-to-eight-week schedule as Chrome — although usually two days after Google refreshes its browser — and to the same version number as Chrome. The previous Edge upgrade, version 88, arrived on Jan. 21.

You get vertical tabs! So do you! And you!

Microsoft, like other browser makers, typically turns on a new feature for a subset of users to start, then gradually enables it for more customers as the weeks, or even months go by. So it was with the vertical tabs that debuted in January with Edge 88.

Vertical tabs are just that: Rather than plaster tab names across the top of the browser window, Edge 89 sticks them in a sidebar on the left, ranked, well, vertically. That style of display shows much more of the tab's title than can fit on tabs at the top (unless there are just a handful of tabs or the user owns an extremely wide monitor).

To bring up the vertical tab sidebar, click the icon in the upper left corner of the browser's frame. The sidebar can be pinned so that it always remains visible. If the sidebar is not pinned, it opens as soon as the mouse cursor is placed atop any of the tab icons that show in Edge's left-side edge.

To restore the traditional horizontal tab layout, simply click the vertical tab icon in the upper left corner.

Chrome lacks this — it's one of the few Edge-only features that Microsoft's crafted — but it can be duplicated, more or less, using a browser add-on, such as this one.

Edge 89 also comes with a new view of the browser's history, the recently-visited sites, which drops down from the top of the frame rather than appear in a full-page display. "This means that you can easily search, open and manage your history without navigating away ((from the current page," said Liat Ben-Zur, an executive in Microsoft's devices group, in a March 4 post to a company blog.

Edge fires up fast because it's always on

Other praise of Edge 89 by Ben-Zur was reserved for something called "Startup boost," which improves browser startup times between 29% and 41%, according to Microsoft.

As well it should.

That's because the feature insures that Edge runs continuously, from the moment a user logs in to when the browser is shut down. "Startup boost keeps the browser running in the background with minimal processes, so Microsoft Edge will start more quickly when launched," an FAQ from 2020 read. Edge starts up when the user signs into the device and remains run-in even after all its tabs and windows have been shut.

Microsoft has not provided details of Startup boost's impact on the system, such as how much memory is consumed by the feature or what percentage of the processor's cycles go towards keeping the browser ticking. That FAQ only admitted that Speed boost "has a limited impact on device resource usage."

Speed boost is currently available only on Windows; the Mac version of Edge does not offer the feature.

To enable or disable Speed boost, users can toggle the slider at the top of System pane of the Settings page.

IE mode manager now included in Edge

Elsewhere in Edge 89, Microsoft debuted an in-browser version of the Enterprise Mode Site List Manager tool for adding and editing the URLs which are to be opened by Edge's IE mode. The tool can be found by typing edge://compat in the address bar and hitting Return or Enter.

Microsoft has halted development on the stand-alone List Manager — that tool won't receive any future feature updates — and instead will focus on the in-browser version. When the appropriate policy is enabled — EnterpriseModeSiteListManagerAllowed — users of Edge on Windows will see the "Enterprise Site List Manager" option on the left-side pane in edge://compat, where they then can add and edit sites, export the complete list to XML or import one or more sites into the list.

Microsoft is slated to release the next upgrade, Edge 90, on April 15.

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