A guide to Microsoft Edge

How to master Microsoft's new Internet browser in Windows 10.

In Windows 10, Microsoft has replaced Internet Explorer 11 with Microsoft Edge, initially known as Project Spartan. (While IE 11 is no longer the default browser, it's still present in the background, because many applications still use parts of it, and it's deeply integrated into many business operations.) Edge is great but missing a couple pieces: it doesn't support Chrome and Firefox extensions yet (it will soon), and it has some limitations when compared to those browsers that you should be aware of. But Edge looks like the future of Microsoft's Web browser strategy, so get a head start on navigating it with our tips.

Edge's touch-friendly UI

While the UI elements in Internet Explorer were optimized for mouse and keyboard input, Edge's address bar and top buttons have been fattened up for touch navigation. These don't push down your webpage -- you still see about as much as before -- because Edge integrates its tabs into the title, where they operate above the address bar instead of next to it. Each tab has a large X to tap or click to close it, and there's a large plus sign to create a new tab. The Refresh button has been moved out of the address bar and put next to the Back and Forward buttons.

Making Web Notes

Click the Make a Web Note button in the upper right-hand corner to swap Edge's UI with buttons that enable pen-like input. When you click-and-drag with your mouse pointer in this mode, it will act like the paintbrush tool in Photoshop and draw a line that follows where you move your mouse pointer (or your fingertip, if you have a touch screen). The buttons in the upper left are fairly intuitive. Click the leftmost one to open your color picker and brush size selector. The button to the right of that switches the brush to a highlighter.

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The button to the left of the highlighter button switches to an eraser, but it will remove an entire stroke, rather than wiping away the part of the painted area that you're clicking. The next button in the series lets you add or remove text annotation. The Clip tool at the end of the series saves a selected area of the screen.

Oddly, none of your Web Notes results can be saved as an image file. You can only send them to OneNote or add them to your Favorites.

Using Favorites (bookmarks)

Pressing Ctrl-D in Edge gives you two ways of bookmarking a page. It defaults to creating a favorite, which is more or less a bookmark. The other option is Reading List. This works like Pocket -- this list is organized by thumbnails with captions. It's basically a more visual bookmark for quicker navigation. As with Internet Explorer, you access your bookmarks and reading list by pressing Ctrl-I. But unlike Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox, there is no search function here. And favorites and Reading List items are sorted only in reverse chronology (the most recent entries show up first). That will get unwieldy pretty quickly, so Edge would gain a lot from an add-on that sorts this out properly.

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You can right-click your favorites to do things like rename it or open it in a new tab. However, right-clicking a Reading List item only gives you the option to delete. Both of these context menus pale in comparison to the ones available in Internet Explorer 11, Chrome, and Firefox. For example, you cannot create a desktop shortcut of anything that you have favorited.

Setting a start page and tab behavior

Pretty much every browser defaults to opening a start page or a blank page. If you'd prefer that Edge open where you left off, you'll need to dig into your settings. Click the button with three dots in the upper right-hand corner -- it's labeled More Actions. Then click Settings at the bottom.

Be aware that there is no mechanism for returning your choices to default settings. So if you want to remember the original settings, take screenshots before you change anything.

With the Settings pane open, go to the Open With section and click Previous Pages. The next time you open Edge, it will reload the same tabs and pages you were looking at when you closed the program.

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While you're here, you can change what happens when you open a new tab. The default is Top Sites, a grid of your most-accessed websites. This is the most useful selection for many of us, but feel free to experiment. You can also clear your browser history here.

Bonus tip: If you've accidentally closed a single tab instead of the whole browser, get it back by pressing Crtl-Shift-T. This shortcut is actually common to most browsers, but it's not well-known.

Managing your browsing history

If you want to look at your browsing history, Edge unfortunately does nothing when you right-click the Back button. Press Ctrl-H instead, which is a nearly universal shortcut for accessing browser history. If you prefer navigating there with a mouse, click the Hub button in the upper right, which has three horizontal lines on it, and click the History button, which looks like an analog clock face with a circular arrow going around it. (The names of these buttons appear when you hover your mouse pointer over them for a couple seconds.)

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The X on the right-hand side deletes all history entries categorized under it, such as Last Hour, Last Day, and Older. Edge won't ask you to confirm this deletion, so be careful where you click. Choose Clear All History, however, and you'll see a menu of deletion choices. The Show More link reveals more clearing options, but most users don't need to mess with those.

When you want to close the History pane, click the Hub button above it or click an empty space on the webpage you're viewing. Ctrl-H does not close it. If you want to keep this pane open, click the thumbtack to "pin" it. Clicking the Hub button will still close the pane, even when it's pinned.

Advanced Settings: Home, forms, search, and more

Advanced Settings is the button at the bottom of the settings pane; you may have to scroll down to see it. But fear not, these "advanced" settings aren't really that technical. For example, you can toggle the presence of the Home button that you may have gotten used to in IE 11. You can also toggle pop-up blocking and the Adobe Flash player. If you have a third-party password manager, you can tell Edge to stop offering to remember your passwords. We do recommend using a password manager, because they can create strong passwords that you don't have to memorize.

Turning off Save Form Entries is usually a good idea if you're using the browser to send credit card information, home addresses, and other sensitive personal data. If an unauthorized user gains control of your device, they'll be able to dig that data up. The Do Not Track system is only moderately useful, because websites must agree not to track you. The dangerous websites are the ones that are least likely to accept this request.

By default, Microsoft Edge uses Bing when you search in the address bar. If you prefer Google, you must go to Google's website, then open Edge's settings pane again, scroll down to View Advanced Settings, click it, scroll down to the "Search in the address bar with" drop-down menu, click Bing to open the menu, click the choice labeled "<Add new>," click www.google.com, and select "Add as default." Like fish in a barrel, right? Also, the "Show search suggestions as I type" toggle only works when Bing is the default search engine.

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The last four options in Advanced Settings are probably fine with their default selections. If you start blocking cookies, websites may have trouble remembering your settings. Page prediction can improve browsing, but Edge has to send info about your browsing habits to Microsoft for that to work correctly. This info is more or less anonymous, as far as we know, but the privacy implications are enough to leave that toggle in the off position.

Sharing links

As a rule, mobile browsers have a sharing function so you can send a text message or email with the URL of what you're looking at on the Web. Oddly, desktop browsers usually don't have a sharing function. Edge is the exception, putting a share button in the upper-right corner, though you may not recognize it at first. Instead of the branching dot style adopted by most of the Internet, Edge's share button depicts dots connected in a circle.

In a fresh installation of Windows 10, you are limited to three sharing options: Twitter, the Mail app, and Microsoft OneNote. OneNote is digital journal that works like Google Keep. When you use OneNote with a Microsoft account, you can access your entries on other devices that use a Microsoft account and have OneNote installed. (Find out more about the difference between local and Microsoft accounts in the next section.)

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To expand your Edge sharing options, fire up the Windows 10 app. There's no function in the sharing tool to do that. Instead, you press the Windows key or click the Start button in the lower left-hand corner of the screen and click the Store icon, which looks like a shopping bag. Unfortunately, you'll have some trial and error finding apps to add to Edge sharing, because Edge doesn't integrate search for Windows Store apps it can share with, and the Windows Store does not tag an app for compatibility with this function. For example, we found success with the Windows Store versions of Facebook and Poki for Pocket, but not with Viber, Line, or QQ. Right now there's not a Windows Store version of Skype for Windows 10, so it won't show up in Edge's list of apps it can use to share. On the bright side, when there is a Windows Store version of an app and it has a sharing function, it will show up in the sharing list immediately after it's installed -- no need to restart Edge or Windows 10.

The Windows Store and local accounts

Since Edge has some integration with the Windows Store, and this store may be the delivery mechanism for addons, there's a few things you should know about it. There are two ways to log in to a Windows 10 device: a local account and a Microsoft account. A Microsoft account logs you in automatically to Microsoft services like OneDrive, OneNote, and the Xbox Live app. And when you log in to your Microsoft account on another Windows 10 device, that device can automatically download all Windows Store apps associated with the account, making it easier for you to get up to speed. However, some users may not want to be logged in to a Microsoft data center for the duration of their session, despite the convenience.

Now when you download an app from the Windows Store, it will ask you to log in to your Microsoft account. If you are logging in to Windows with a local account, confirming your identity during the installation of a Windows Store app will switch your login from a local account to an Microsoft account. You can prevent this behavior and keep logging in locally, but it's a little tricky.

After you've logged into your Microsoft account as requested by the Windows Store, you'll see a window labeled "Make it yours," where you are prompted to enter your local account password to confirm your identity. This is where you make the switch. Click instead on "Sign in to just this app instead." This will allow you to use the Windows Store app in the future without having to log in to a Microsoft account, unless the app is owned by Microsoft (OneDrive, Skype, and so on). And you can keep using your local account to log in to Windows 10.

Managing your downloads

Ctrl-J opens the pane that shows what you've downloaded with Edge -- again, a shortcut that performs the same function in Firefox and Chrome. Unlike the latter two browsers, Edge does not allow you to change your download destination from the Downloads folder on the C: drive. So you'll have to make sure that the size of your download does not exceed the available space on your C: drive. As with Edge's Favorites pane, there is no search function here or any sorting options. You get only reverse chronology. There is also no mechanism to open the destination folder with a specific file preselected for easy interaction. You can only open the Downloads folder. So if you have a lot of files in there, you'll have to use Windows 10's file browser functions to find it yourself.

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If you click the X next to the download, that will remove the entry from the list, but the file will still be present in the Downloads folder. This is actually conventional behavior, but it's something to be aware of.

Do you think we missed something important? Let us know in the comments below, or email us.

More resources

Windows 10 review

Windows 10 tips and tricks

A guide to Windows 10 security settings

Windows 10 privacy settings guide

About Tom McNamara

Tom is the senior editor covering Windows at Download.com.