Microsoft Edge for Linux Preview


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Today we’ll be taking a first look at Microsoft’s Edge browser for Linux.
I went to Microsoft’s insider page for Edge, downloaded the developer RPM version and installed it on my fedora 32 system. The process went smooth all the way.

Microsoft Edge – First Run

Upon first launch we are asked how we want our front page to look like. There are three options: Informational, Inspirational and Focused.
“Informational” gives us a large amount of news feed cards that can be customized to show anything from general news, to sports to weather and finance. A bit like a msn home page. “Inspirational” displays a changing background photo while moving the news feed out of sight. It is still there but you’d need to scroll further down. “Focused” is the same just without the background photo.

Three basic theme options

I tried to personalize the news feed but quickly noticed it’s limitations. First of all it is very US focused and even when I chose to see only soccer and racing from the sports’ section my feed was still filled with NFL news. The “information cards” like the one showing some stock market news are not modifiable. For example: I would have liked to have the USD-MXN exchange rate displayed but I could not find a way to do so. Keep in mind this is still pre-beta so a lot could change.
The general appearance of Edge is quite minimal. It has a clean boxy look with a slight curve around the edges. The settings’ page let’s us choose between a light (default) and dark theme. One can also choose the default zoom level and the font size from “Very Small” to “Very Large”, “Medium” being the default. I felt the default settings were very good right out of the box.

Data Collection

Microsoft’s Edge browser collects data on 3 levels. The first level is not optional and is used to keep the browser “secure, up to date and performing as expected”.
The second level is on by default but can be disabled. It sends data home on how the user interacts with the browser so Microsoft can improve on the user experience.
The third level would have access to the user’s browsing history in order to personalize the user’s experience with ads and other Microsoft products. This one is disabled by default.

“Required diagnostic data” cannot be disabled
Search Engines

Bing is the default search engine in Edge. No surprise here. We can however change to Yahoo!, Google or DuckDuckGo or even add other options. Of course there is a banner reminding us there are benefits only to be had using Bing!
I gave Bing a quick try and I must say I was not impressed. I searched for “fedora” and while the result was there: “getfedora.org”, clicking on it resulted in a long waiting time with a spinning icon suggesting it was rerouting or gathering information before opening the site. Entering “getfedora.org” directly opened the site with no delay. This needs improvement.

Other Settings & Tools

Edge covers a whole range of other settings from languages to family safety. It looks like a complete set and I didn’t feel I was missing anything for my daily workflow.
A nice touch is found in the “About” section: Microsoft acknowledges that Edge was made possible thanks to Chromium and open source software! Cheers to that!

Edge comes with a neat and useful tool called “Collections”. It lets you drop anything, like YouTube videos or photos or any regular site into a “collection”. This comes in handy if you are working on a project and want to collect as much info as possible without using bookmarks or screen shots. Once the project is done you can simply delete it. Genius really.

We also get a tool called “Web Capture” which lets us take screen shots of any size and do some simple drawing based annotations. A very useful tool but a bit slow to respond. I’d expect it to get more feature rich and more responsive in the release version.

Final Thoughts

The browser behaved nicely during my time testing it. Scrolling was smooth enough and pinch to zoom worked well. I tested Netflix and am happy to report it worked out of the box. I believe Microsoft Edge is well on it’s way to become a perfectly serviceable browser for Linux. The fact that we cannot completely turn off telemetry will certainly rob many Linux users the wrong way. Since it does all the basics well and supports streaming services with DRM content it is a viable alternative to Google’s Chrome and Mozilla’s Firefox. With Firefox’s uncertain road ahead and it’s disappointing touch functionality, I’m glad we have another option coming our way. I could see myself using it solely for sites like Netflix while sticking with Chromium for everything else.

What are your thoughts on Microsoft’s ever increasing incursion into the Linux world? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below.

Cheers!

Mike


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Mike

Chief geek (editor) and maintainer of distrocrunch.com
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