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4 Useful Features That Are New in Microsoft Edge

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Microsoft began a phased rollout of the newest version of its Chromium-based web browser on January 21, 2021. Version 88 of Microsoft Edge offers many enhancements, including four new features that will likely prove useful no matter whether you are using the browser at work or at home. After your Edge browser is updated (it might a take several weeks since it is a phased rollout), you might want to give these four features a try: 

1. Password Monitor

The dark web has an enormous stockpile of leaked credentials for sale — more than 15 billion passwords and usernames, according to one 2020 report. Following in the footsteps of Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge now alerts you if any of your passwords have been compromised in data breaches. 

Edge’s new Password Monitor checks your stored passwords against a large database of known leaked passwords. If the Password Monitor finds one of your passwords in the cloud-based database, you will be notified and prompted to change it. 

This process is carried out without Microsoft finding out your passwords, thanks in part to a technology known as homomorphic encryption. It allows computations to be performed on encrypted data without having to decrypt the data first. “The underlying technology ensures privacy and security of the user’s passwords, which means that neither Microsoft nor any other party can learn the user’s passwords while they are being monitored,” states Microsoft. 

2. Password Generator

Using unique, strong passwords for online accounts is crucial if you want to protect those accounts. However, creating and remembering numerous strong passwords can be challenging. This often leads to people creating weak passwords as well as using the same password for multiple accounts. Both password practices put online accounts at risk. Cybercriminals can easily crack a weak password with a brute-force password-cracking tool. And once they have exposed the password, they often carry out password spraying attacks in which they try the victim’s password with possible user IDs on other popular online sites in hope that the victim reused the password. 

To help people avoid these risky password practices, Microsoft has added a built-in password generator to the Edge browser. When enabled, it automatically generates unique, strong passwords that you can use when you are signing up for new online accounts or changing the credentials for existing ones. Edge automatically encrypts and saves the credentials. The next time you need to access one of these accounts, Edge will automatically enter the saved credentials in the login fields. Thus, you do not have to try to memorize your strong passwords. 

3. Sleeping Tabs

Version 88 of Microsoft Edge includes the new Sleeping Tabs feature. It automatically puts idle tabs in sleep mode to improve the browser’s memory and central processing unit (CPU) utilization. On average, it reduces memory usage by 32% and CPU usage by 37%, according to Microsoft’s internal research. Freeing up resources improves the performance of the tabs you are actively using. 

When a tab is sleeping, it is greyed out. To wake it up, you simply select it. 

Tabs fall asleep after 2 hours of inactivity by default. However, you can change the inactivity threshold to a shorter or longer timespan, as Figure 1 shows. If you want certain sites to always stay awake, you just need to add them to the “Never put these sites to sleep” list. If you do not want any tabs to fall asleep, you can disable the feature. 

4. Search in Sidebar

Microsoft Edge is sporting a new “Search in Sidebar” feature that lets you perform a search without leaving the current tab. As a result, you can learn new information with minimal disruption, which can help you be more productive. 

For example, suppose you are reading an article and you come across the unfamiliar term “modicum”. To find out what “modicum” means, you simply need to highlight the word in the article, right-click it, and select the option “Search in Sidebar for modicum”. (If Bing is not your default search engine, the option will be “Search Bing in Sidebar for modicum”.) Note that you are not limited to searching for a single word. You can highlight and search on several words, a sentence, a paragraph. or even a page of text. 

The Bing search engine will perform the search and put the results in a vertical sidebar on the right side of the current tab. Figure 2 shows some of the “modicum” search results. You can choose the type of content you want to view (e.g., images, videos), scroll through the search results, and more. However, clicking a link in the sidebar search results will open that web page in a new tab even if Bing is configured to open search-result links in the same tab. As of this writing, there doesn’t seem to be a way to change this behavior. Perhaps Microsoft will eventually provide an option to open search-result links in the sidebar. This would make the feature even more useful because you wouldn’t have to leave the current tab to view the page.