Microsoft Edge just got a killer upgrade Chrome can’t match

Microsoft Edge
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Microsoft’s Edge browser just got a whole lot more appealing. After entering preview four months ago, Microsoft will roll out vertical tabs to all users this month.

Web browser designers have coalesced around the idea that tabs belong in a horizontal bar along the top, reducing the amount of space for a site to appear in, and increasing the need for scrolling. With ultra-wide monitors becoming increasingly popular, Microsoft believes there’s a better way. 

As demonstrated in the animation below, the new Edge feature lets you keep tabs in a vertical pane on the left side. To prevent obscuring too much of a website, the UI change lets you reduce the text to a simple logo at the click of a button.

How vertical tabs in Microsoft Edge will work

(Image credit: Microsoft)

Chrome can mimic this functionality to a degree with extensions like this, but as far as we can tell developers aren’t able to hide the original tabs, meaning you end up with even less space for the actual website.

Interestingly, vertical tabs was a feature in Chrome a decade ago, but the company killed it due to a lack of uptake. “As an experiment, side tabs weren't a success - a small number of people really passionately loved them, but they ended up not being compelling enough to make the cut,” a developer wrote back in 2011

Expressing regret that the company “let the experiment linger too long” given the attachment to the feature that so many users subsequently developed, the developer explained that such tough decisions were vital in the goal of keeping the browser as simple as possible.

“We torture ourselves over stuff like this - it comes down to painful decisions about keeping Chrome lightweight,” the developer continued.  “We know that a feature like this is really important to some number of users (and Chrome developers!), but at the same time we have to continually cut and trim things, knowing that those cuts will annoy people, so that Chrome doesn't turn into bloatware that satisfies no-one.”

But a decade is a long time in tech, and ultra-wide monitor adoption is higher in 2021 than it was in 2011. Microsoft clearly believes that the time is right to revive vertical tabs – and if the company’s instinct is correct, it would be hugely surprising if the likes of Chrome, Firefox and Safari didn’t follow suit for fear of losing wide screened users to a rival.

Vertical tabs isn’t the only upgrade Edge is getting this month. Microsoft is also bringing along “startup boost”, which launches the browser in the background when users turn on their device. The company reckons this will reduce Edge’s startup time by 29% to 41% – though of course this is something of an illusion if it’s using system resources by running silently in the background.

Browser history is also getting reworked. Rather than taking up a whole page, it’ll now appear as a drop-down menu on the toolbar, and it can be pinned to the side for convenience’s sake.   

Alan Martin

Freelance contributor Alan has been writing about tech for over a decade, covering phones, drones and everything in between. Previously Deputy Editor of tech site Alphr, his words are found all over the web and in the occasional magazine too. When not weighing up the pros and cons of the latest smartwatch, you'll probably find him tackling his ever-growing games backlog. Or, more likely, playing Spelunky for the millionth time.

  • Toddicus
    First off, edge is based on chromium (the open source base to chrome). So the edge team just added the feature into their version of browser. Edge is not really that "special" for doing this as there are other browsers based on the chromium engine that do this already!! Not worth the hype of the article title. Sorry.

    Take a look at Vivaldi. It has tabs that you can place on the left, right, bottom or top. You can also group your tabs for better organization.
    Other features include setting auto refresh on individual tabs, pinning, tab stacking, etc., just to name a few. There are many other tweaks available to Vivaldi as well. Check them out. Vivaldi also has built in security for privacy when dealing with tracking, data collection etc (much better than chrome). Many of the extensions available for chrome work under Vivaldi as well. Just down load it and check it out.

    And no, I am in no way affiliated with Vivaldi and get no kick back from them.

    I have been using Vivaldi as my go to browser for for a few years now and it has just gotten better. There is a version for Linux, Microsoft, MacOS. A version is also available for android and one due to come out for Ios.

    Please do a little research before tossing out an article like this. You might be surprised in what you find!!
  • intellimoo
    Toddicus said:
    ... Please do a little research before tossing out an article like this.

    The title and article don't suggest MS invented the new feature and Edge is the only one to have it. It's simply stating Edge now has a feature that Chrome (that browser, not all chromium-based ones) does not. Research is amazing, yes. 😝
  • iiwaasnet
    Vivaldi, Edge... Inbox.... Who else does better, than Chrome/Google? These guys come up with good ideas, but seem to fail gradually in their wish to stay simple. Since when settings become difficult for a user when properly done? Or they wanted to keep the code base simple? But users don't care about how the code looks! This is the part of the game.
  • zodiacfml
    How can one fail this so bad?! So I tried it. .. It turns out that the space used by traditional Tabs now becomes one wide window TITLE BAR !!!😂

    admin said:
    Ultra wide screen users rejoice: Microsoft Edge is getting vertical tabs, a decade after Chrome killed the feature.

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