560 – Shopping in the Edge

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The pandemic has undoubtedly accelerated digital transformation and societal change in many ways, bringing years of progression into a few months to quite a few industries. That change felt revolutionary in some – working from home in organisations that previously would have thought it impossible – and in others, like retail, it may have brought forward things that were going to happen eventually.

Online retail has been a clear beneficiary of people spending more time at home (and possibly less time working), in some cases having more money (since they’re not travelling for fun, eating out less – if at all – and so on). One aspect of online shopping that has grown over the last few years has been the use of voucher codes – perhaps as a way of trying to award loyalty while combating the dominance of certain online behemoths.
(It’s a really compelling podcast, that one – well worth a listen).

Websites who offer vouchers will often target them to existing customers, possibly previous customers who haven’t been active for a while – they’d email a time-limited code that could get money off, or free delivery and so on, or add a “money off your next purchase” printed code, in the box with the thing you just bought. People will often share these codes with their family and friends, and inevitably a load of websites sprung up purporting to offer voucher codes, though quite a few seem to be a vector for spam and unwanted advertising.

clip_image004The Edge browser has recently added a feature which can help to discover active vouchers for a given site – with the idea that they are known to be good, active and not spammy. The idea is that when you go to a site that has current vouchers/coupons, then a little shopping label will clip_image006appear on the right clip_image008side of the address bar, with initial pop-out text which disappears after a few seconds, but the badge on the icon indicates how many vouchers are available. At the opposite end of the address bar, you’ll clip_image010probably see the handbag icon illustrating, on this site, that it’s safe to shop.

Click on the vouchers icon and a pop-up will show the list of coupons; clicking a coupon copies it to the clipboard, ready to paste into some box during the checkout process.

The Shopping feature in Edge has started rolling out, beginning with the various dev and beta channels. To check if it’s on your build, and to enable/disable it, look in edge://settings/privacy and look for the Save time and money… option as pictured above. Right now, the availability of sites with vouchers may seem thin on the ground, but that’s likely a regional thing (ie concentrating on US retailers for now).

An alternative that was previously being pushed somewhat by the Edge team, is Honey – a simple Edge addin which does much the same as the Shopping feature, but more widely supported. On the example given above (from US retailer www.target.com) the orange Honey icon found lots more coupons that had been submitted and supposedly verified by other users saying they worked, and when. As with any of these things, YMMV.

544 – Farewell, IE

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In 1998, when anti-trust hearings were perhaps more spiky and combative and certainly not delivered by a flaky Zoom connection, Microsoft was arguing that the free Internet Explorer web browser was so intrinsic to Windows that it could not be removed.

Ever since Windows 98, Internet Explorer 4 was built-in to Windows, though versions of IE were available for the Mac (Steve Jobs chose to use it!), Unix and even OS/2, through the mid 2000s, before it settled on being a PC-only thing. If IE4 was installed on other versions of Windows, it was basically not possible to remove it and revert back to an earlier version, without reinstalling the operating system.

Since 2014, when Microsoft announced Windows 10, it was clear that IE would not evolve beyond the latest release, version 11. IE11 is still included in Windows 10, and will continue to be so until the end of days – or the end of the support lifecycle, whichever comes sooner.

clip_image003You can still launch Internet Explorer in Windows 10 – just press Start and type internet – though the default page does leave you in no doubt that you’re better off elsewhere…

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If you want to remind yourself what it’s like to drive without a seatbelt, or go to the shops without wearing PPE, try using IE to browse the web for an hour.

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It was announced recently that – even if the IE11 browser is still included in Windows 10 and will still be technically supported for another while – “support” for using it will start to be removed from Microsoft 365 services from November 2020. Just as friends don’t let friends do crazy things – like virus scan the M: drive – it’s time to stop them using IE11 as their daily and default browser.

All paths lead to the new Edge browser, built on Chromium for added compatibility – though somewhat ironically, issues have cropped up when using Google as the default search engine, all since fixed. Additionally, some angry-from-Manchester types have complained you can’t uninstall Edge if it arrives via Windows Update or pre-installed. Tried uninstalling Safari on your iPhone or your Mac?

There’s been a subtle change in nomenclature, too – “Edge” is the new Edge, or Chromium Edge, or ChrEdge or whatever you want to call it. The old Edge – the one which shipped with Windows 10 as the successor to IE and as a whole new web experience – is now Microsoft Edge Legacy. LegEdge is not even visible on latest versions of Windows, but if you need it and are the type who likes to live dangerously, you can re-enable it by hacking around in the registry.

509 – Edge Beta profiles & sync

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If you haven’t tried out the new Edge Browser beta yet (go to microsoftedgeinsider.com to have a look), here’s another reason to give it a go – the ability to have multiple Profiles set up, and to sync various contents across several machines / phones.

At a simple level, Profiles lets you specify your work account and personal account(s) separately, and you can switch between them quickly. Look under Settings or go straight to edge://settings/profiles in the browser if you already have it.

For anyone who’s ever had to sign into a work-related website but using their Microsoft Account (eg Outlook.com / Hotmail / MSN / Zune etc credentials), this can be handy as you do it without resorting to an InPrivate tab.

clip_image004Once you’ve set up profiles, you can individually enable Sync, Password retention etc, for each, though you will see that only some of the options are lit up in the current version of the Beta. More to come soon – ahead of the expected January 15th release. Probably.

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To change profiles, just click on the associated picture on the browser toolbar and if you like, you can even pin the clip_image008individual profiles to your taskbar so you can quickly jump into each one, rather than having to clip_image010launch the browser and do the switcheroo.

You may want to import and export favourites between profiles – like Chrome, Edge no longer stores these as shortcut files that can be simply moved around, instead holding the favourites to a “bookmarks” file.

If you want to see where Edge Beta is saving your profile info, go to edge://version in the browser and check out the Profile Path. Mind how you go if you decide to start editing stuff directly.

To read more about profiles and the new Edge, see here.

505 – Edge closer to release

clip_image002At the Ignite conference, the roadmap for Microsoft Edge was confirmed – the beta effectively moved to Release Candidate level, and a new logo was unveiled.

clip_image004Not without comment, the new logo maybe stylises the old “e” logo while evoking surfing a wave, perhaps, and putting clear blue water between the Internet Explorer and previous Edge logos.

clip_image006If you’re using a preview of the new Edge, you may spot an update icon in the top right – click to get the latest.

The Beta has been bumped to version 79 of the Chromium engine, and is expected to release in mid-January. The Dev channel will soon jump to the version 80, being more experimental and potentially less stable.

clip_image008There are plenty features in Edge which are in development and may or may not make it into the first released version – they can typically be played with by typing edge://flags/ into the address bar.

One experimental feature is Collections. Currently only in the Dev channel but sure to arrive in Beta at some point, it’s a way of grouping sites and content together, like a smart Favourites; it’s been in test for a while, with the dev team trying out a number of approaches and responding to user feedback. To enable it, go to edge://flags/#edge-collections.

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If you’re already on the Dev channel, try enabling Collections, create a new one called Microsoft Edge and then add 4 shortcuts to it, renaming each one S U R and F (it doesn’t matter what the underlying site is).

Now if you drag one of the shortcuts to reorder them – eg move R after F, and then put it back, you’ll get a link to a hidden “Easter Egg” game that brings back memories of the early 1990s.

If you know any company who still has intranet sites also rooted in the 1990s, they might like the Internet Explorer mode, which will effectively allow IE to be a tab in Edge, so the users can enjoy a single browser while retaining compatibility.

Tip o’ the Week 494 – Edge Beta breaks cover

clip_image002Much has been written about Microsoft’s effort to replace the underlying web page rendering engine in the Edge browser with a version based on the open-source Chromium project.

The plan is to produce a cross-platform browser, available on older versions of Windows too, which implements a lot of the innovative features that first appeared with the Edge browser in Windows 10, but by using the Chromium engine, improve compatibility with web sites that perhaps didn’t work as well on Edge as they did on other browsers; notably Google’s Chrome, which shares a lot of the same underlying technology as Chromium.

Microsoft has put over 1,300 contributions back into the Chromium open source project over the last 5 years, with 1,100 in the last year, so the effort isn’t just to take Chromium and use it, but to help improve it for everyone.

Early adopters have had the ability to run a fairly stable Dev Channel build for a while, but now the Beta Channel is available, it’s open for anyone to have a look. Read more, and download the Beta version from here.

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It’s possible to run all 3 versions of the browser side-by-side if you really want, and they co-exist with the regular Edge browser and Google Chrome as well, so it’s worth giving it a try. You’ll quickly find that the new Edge is notably quicker and is already slicker than old Edge, and some people consider it superior to Chrome.

Find out what’s new and what’s coming next.

Tip o’ the Week 492 – TAB and Search

clip_image002The Tab key on your computer has its roots in the Tabulate typewriter function, which let you align type to defined (even modifiable) stops, so you could easily type tables of text and numbers, like invoices and so on.

In short, Tab could be used to left-align text, and is still used in modern typing, especially in word processing and in writing code. People who type space-space-space-space rather than a single TAB press still exist, though.

As well as the many features invoked by the Tab key in modern Windows, though – like WindowsKey-Tab to look at the timeline or the more common ALT-Tab to switch between programs – there’s a new capability for Edge browser users that might be worth looking out for.

If you’re using the Edge Preview – the Chromium-based version that has recently been pitched as Enterprise-Ready (for testing at least) – there’s a feature that has been enabled, which lets you search within a website rather than going straight to your clip_image004favourite search engine and without needing to go to the site’s homepage and perform a search within.

clip_image006Start by typing the site’s URL in the browser address bar, and you may well see a prompt to press Tab to search within that site.

clip_image008This is a feature that has existed in Chrome for a while, but now appears more prevalent in the new Edge. The prompt showing up depends on the website implementing an OpenSearch capability, which is used to plug some query into the search engine behind the site, and how well it performs depends on whether that site search is any good.

Try Microsoft.com TAB search term ENTER and you might just see how many apps that match your word in the Microsoft Store there aren’t, but try Amazon.co.uk TAB Surface ENTER and you’ll have the opportunity to buy Surfaces and many things associated with them. Try maps.google.co.uk | RG6 1WG (what? No Street View?)

Perhaps most useful is when you want to try something in a search engine other than your default; so if you normally use Bing, you’ll know that typing a phrase in the address bar on its own will cause the browser to search if it can’t resolve your term to being a URL. Well, if you type google.com TAB term ENTER then it’ll try that same search over there, rather than you needing to go to the search engine homepage first.

Tip o’ the Week 481 – Lost in Translation

clip_image002Bill Gates had a vision of the future, set out in his 1995 tome, “The Road Ahead(and later in “Business @ The Speed of Thought”) which included computers performing seamless speech and handwriting recognition, and language understanding (even to the extent of lip reading). Many of his predictions have come true yet it’s easy to forget what the world was like before the advent of technology we now take for granted.

In the not-too distant future, we may have the ability, babel fish-like, to automatically hear in our own language, regardless of what is spoken. Institutions like the EU have thousands of translators and interpreters, who provide written, spoken and signed interpretation between different languages. There are rigorous checks in place when trying to get work in these areas (though not everywhere), as we all know what can happen when wrong grammar is used, the words are unsuitable, or punctuation is in the incorrect place.

clip_image004Computerised language translation has come a long way, and though it may still a way off replacing real translators, it’s good enough for most people to get the gist of a foreign document or website – so while you might not rely on it to turn a contract from French to English, it’s fine to figure out what’s on a menu or read some instructions.

There are plenty of mobile apps and websites like Bing Translator, and the cloud-powered translation service is built-into Word (just right-click and Translate on any text).

Microsoft Research Asia recently won a competition for the best machine translation between a host of languages, and the growing fidelity of AI models is helping to improve the quality – a year previously, the Chinese-English translation was adjudged to be at human conversation level already, so it might not be too long before machine translation gets good enough that it’s hard to tell the difference between that and humans.

A practical tip for users of the new Chromium-based “Edge Dev” browser; you can enable on-the-fly clip_image006webpage translation by going to edge://flags/, search for trans to find the translation flag, then switch it on and restart the browser. It is an experimental feature, technically, so YMMV for now.

clip_image008Now, when you browse to a foreign-language site, you’ll be prompted if you’d like to translate (or you can invoke the function using the Bing Translator icon to the right of the address in the toolbar).

Legacy Edge users can install the Translator extension.

As they say in translation circles, Yandelvayasna grldenwi stravenka!

Tip o’ the Week 480 – Installing Apps in New Edge

Whatever you call it – New Edge, Edge Dev, Edgemium, Chromdge etclip_image002[4]c – the new Windows browser called Edge but with its rendering gubbins based on Chromium is making progress with regular updates and has quite a following already.

ToW 476 covered some of the articles that were written when it first came out, but buried within was a slew of interesting features that merit their own mention.

clip_image004[4]Such a capability is being able to install a web page as an App, making it look a lot like a normal Windows app to some degree. In older Edge browser, this was known as pinning a site.

In New Edge, just go to the … menu (top right) on any web page, and under Apps, you can Manage apps and install pages.

clip_image006[4]If the current site is a regular web page, you’ll see “Install this site…” but if the page is itself a Progressive Web App (PWA), like the Starbucks example above, then it will likely declare its name. There are lots of PWAs out there already – see here as an example – some are managed through the Windows Store, but since Google allowed Chrome / Chromium to install PWAs, many are published online and available directly.

Users don’t even need to know what a PWA is, for the most part – if a site looks and feels like an app, then that’s what it is. Some publishers report dramatic improvements in using PWA when compared to more traditional iOS/Android or UWP apps – Tinder, for example, found the PWA was 90% smaller than the regular app.

It seems that when Tindering, size really does matter.

Tip o’ the Week 477 – Grabbing pictures from websites – again

clip_image002Here’s a quick tip for getting the URL of a picture on a website you’re browsing – it’s a topic that’s been covered previously in ToW 458, but with a refinement for a more recent browser platform.

clip_image004Some pages will let you simply get the image URL from right-clicking on it, but lots of sites will prefer to hide direct access to their images.

Never fear, though, as described in #458, you can always use the Inspect feature (in both Chrome and Chromium Edge) or Inspect Element in classic Edge, though it might involve fishing about in the source HTML of the page to find the actual URL of the photo.

clip_image006In Chrom*, just go to the Sources tab in Inspect and you’ll be able to see many elements of the page, including the image files that form part of it, and helpfully, they are previewed if you select them. On busy pages, there could be hundreds of nodes, but you’ll soon figure out where to look and at least it’s likely to be consistent within that page in future. From there, you can open in another tab or just grab the URL.

Handy for pasting into online forums, Yammer, Facebook etc. In most cases, you’re just referencing – embedding, even –  a file that’s out there on some website or CDN, so you’re not even breaking copyright law. Probably.

Tip o’ the Week 476 – New Edge clickstorm

clip_image002After the first week or so with the New Edge browser, it feels grrrrrrrrrrreeeeat!

Paul Thurrott – a well known Microsoft commentator who’s branched out in recent years to cover lots of other tech too but is basically still a Microsoftie at heart, has published lots and lots of advice on www.Thurrott.com

If you haven’t tried the new Edge out yet, then give it a whirl – it’s not finished and it’s not perfect, but so far it feels fast and it’s (mostly) compatible…

These are the Features Microsoft Turned Off or Replaced in Chromium-Based Edge – lots of Google services built into Chrome have been switched off. Or replaced by Microsoft services doing much the same thing, only more trustworthily and less advertisingy…

Living on the (New) Edge: Getting Started

Living on the (New) Edge: What Syncs, What Doesn’t – though see we’ve already announced plans to update Android version of Edge to sync back with the new desktop Edge.

Living on the (New) Edge: Extensions – since there are some popular classic Edge extensions that aren’t yet showing up in the new Edge extension lists, you too can put Chrome ones in there. Like OneNote Web Clipper.

Living on the (New) Edge: Favorites – familiar if you already use Chrome

Living on the (New) Edge: On Startup and New Tab – one of the nicest features… you get the beautiful Bing image with your most-used tiles, and all the clickbait-infested Microsoft News content is a scroll away.

Living on the clip_image004(New) Edge: Web Apps – a nice feature that makes it easy to “install” web pages and/or PWAs just like proper apps.  You can pin apps to the start menu or task bar, you can jump straight to the others clip_image006you have by going to edge://apps.

And there are many more… but we’ll finish up with:

Everyone Needs the New Microsoft Edge (Premium)

Thurrot has a premium subscription service to get certain content, though you can read a couple of articles for free. In this one, he summarises why he thinks the new Edge will be good for all –

What if there were a version of Chrome that was literally stripped of all the Google tracking services, a browser that looked, worked, and performed exactly look Chrome, but didn’t follow you around the Internet like some lonely dog that’s been trapped in a house alone for the day?  What if there was a version of Chrome that provided the same benefits of Chrome—its stellar compatibility with web standards, its market-leading performance, its support for PWAs and other web apps, and its cross-platform sync of bookmarks, passwords, and other data—while actually respected your privacy? I mean. Can you even imagine such a thing?

The new Microsoft Edge is that browser.