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Microsoft reveals new browser features coming to Edge — rolling out in 2021

Microsoft Edge update
(Image credit: Microsoft)

Windows 11 is on everyone's lips, but that's not all Microsoft has planned. Microsoft Edge will be rolling out a variety of new web browser features in 2021, as the company updates its feature roadmap to showcase what's next for the Chromium-based browser.

While Microsoft frequently updates its browser, recently adding powerful hacking protection in version 94, Edge is expected to receive a number of features and additional updates. This includes everything from Tab Groups to tweaks to the title bar. 

The roadmap (via XDA Developers) shows the status of the new features Microsoft is working on, whether a feature has launched on the stable channel a majority of users are on, is rolling out soon, or is still in development. Fortunately, a Reddit post outlines all the new features added to the company's roadmap.

While some a minor, there are many that will improve the accessibility and user experience when navigating through Microsoft Edge. As listed on the What's Next page, check out the updates expected to arrive sometime in 2021: 

  • Free form text boxes added to PDF documents: Starting with version 94, we are adding support for free form text boxes to PDF documents that you can use to fill in forms and add visible notes.
  • Launch PWA instead of browser with URL links: Starting in Microsoft Edge version 97, you can opt into launching the browser in a PWA rather than the full native browser.
  • Tab Groups: The ability to categorize tabs into user-defined groups helps you more effectively find, switch and manage tabs across multiple workstreams. To enable this, we are turning on tab grouping beginning with Microsoft Edge version 93.
  • Citation support added to Collections: Starting with Microsoft Edge version 95, we have improved the Collections experience, especially for students and researchers. Collections will start supporting citations and reading lists.
  • New policy to support more flexibility in Microsoft Edge startup: Beginning with Microsoft Edge version 94, enterprise administrators will have more flexibility in the options they choose in their startup policy. This will include the ability to specify the start page, add/remove additional pages, and Continue where you left off”, while ensuring that the set of pages specified by policy are also opened.
  • Video Picture in Picture (PiP) from hover toolbar: Beginning in Edge version 93, it will become even easier to enter Picture in Picture (PiP) mode. When you hover over a supported video, a toolbar will appear that allows you to view that video in a PiP window.
  • Free form highlighting on PDFs: Starting in Microsoft Edge version 94, the PDF viewing and markup experience will be improved with the addition of freeform highlighters. This will allow you to highlight sections on PDFs that you may not have access to comment on as well as scanned documents.
  • Notification from web apps show as coming from the PWA: Beginning with Microsoft Edge version 94, notifications from progressive web applications PWAs will no longer show as coming from Microsoft Edge, but rather will display the name of the web app instead.
  • Hide the title bar while using Vertical Tabs: Get the extra few pixels back by hiding the browser’s title bar, while in Vertical Tabs. Starting with Microsoft Edge version 93, you can go to edge://settings/appearance and under the Customize Toolbar section select the option to hide the title bar while in Vertical Tab mode.
  • Automatic translation for unknown languages: Starting in Microsoft Edge version 94, when you navigate to a page that displays in a language that is not one that you have set up as known, Microsoft Edge will automatically translate the content of the page to your primary language. We will then give you the option to return to the original page or disable further automatic translations.
  • Initial Preferences in Microsoft Edge: Deploying Microsoft Edge to your enterprise will become easier starting in version 93, with the addition of Initial preferences.
  • Improved handoff between IE mode and the modern browser: Starting with Microsoft Edge version 95, the transition between the modern browser experience and the IE mode experience will improve. Referrer headers, post data, forms data and request methods will now be forwarded properly across the two experiences.
  • Control-flow Enforcement Technology (CET): Microsoft Edge will begin supporting an even safer browsing mode that uses hardware-dependent control flow for browser processes on supported hardware (Intel 11th Gen. or AMD Zen 3). You can disable CET by manipulating Image File Execution Options (IFEO) using group policy.
  • Family Safety: Improved protection on sites such as youtube.com: Families using Microsoft Family Safety will soon see improvements to Content filters. Parents will also have more peace of mind knowing filtering settings for Allowed sites and Blocked sites will be improved for sites such as youtube.com to prevent children from navigating to videos that aren’t allowed.
  • Family Safety: Allow many EDU sites with a single click: Families using Microsoft Family Safety will soon see improvements to Content filters. When using “Only use allowed websites” mode, parents will see an option to add a list of educational sites to the allow list with one click.

The new features have different target dates, but a few have already passed the expected release. It may take a while for these features to roll out or come out of the beta channel.

As you'll find in our Microsoft Edge review, there are plenty of reasons that put the browser in the same league as its competitors, including the widely used Google Chrome and Safari. Whether even more updates are on the way once Windows 11 is officially released, only time will tell.