Microsoft releases Blocker Toolkit for Chromium-based Microsoft Edge browser

Microsoft revealed some time ago that it plans to release the first Stable version of the company’s new Chromium-based Microsoft Edge web browser on January 15, 2020 (a day after end of support for Windows 7).

The company revealed this week how it plans to bring the new web browser to user systems that run the Windows 10 operating system. According to the information provided on the Microsoft Docs website, Microsoft will deploy the Chromium-based Microsoft Edge web browser automatically via Windows Update for all systems running Windows 10 RS4 or newer. For those who don’t know, RS4 is Windows 10 version 1803.

The Blocker Toolkit is designed for organizations to block the automatic deployment of the Chromium-based browser. While designed for organizations, it may also be run on Home systems by administrators.

The toolkit prevents the installation of the Chromium-based Microsoft Edge web browser via Windows Update, but it won’t prevent the manual installation of the web browser.

microsoft edge chromium blocker toolkit

Administrators may download the Blocker Toolkit from the linked Microsoft Docs support page. The blocker is provided as an executable file that administrators need to run on target machines. The executable is a self-extracting archive that extracts four files to the specified folder.

The command file sets a key in the Registry that prevents the downloading and installation of the Chromium-based Microsoft Edge browser; there are also policy templates and a help file.

The command script may be run with parameters, e.g. to block Edge on remote computers.

The default syntax is: EdgeChromium_Blocker.cmd [] [/B] [/U] [/H]

  • B — Blocks the distribution.
  • U — Unblocks the distribution.
  • H — Displays the help.

All it takes to block the deployment is the following:

  1. Use Windows-R to open the run box on the system.
  2. Type regedit.exe and hit Enter to load the Registry Editor.
  3. Go to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESOFTWAREMicrosoftEdgeUpdate.
  4. Right-click on EdgeUpdate and select New > Dword (32-bit) value.
  5. Name it DoNotUpdateToEdgeWithChromium.
    • A value of 0 means that Edge is not blocked on the system.
    • A value of 1 means that the deployment via Windows Update is blocked.

The new policy is found under /Computer Configuration /Administrative Templates/Windows Components/Windows Update /Microsoft Edge (Chromium-based) Blockers If the Group Policy Administrative Template is imported.

Closing Words

It is likely that the new Edge will be included eventually in new versions of Windows 10 and that the option to block it won’t work anymore at that point in time. For now, it is possible to block the browser from being deployed automatically via Windows Update.  Administrators who have disabled Windows Updates or use other means of update deployment don’t need to do anything at this point. (Via Deskmodder)

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Microsoft improves Tracking Prevention in the new Edge browser

Work on the new Chromium-based Edge continues as the first official Stable release will become available on January 15, 2020 (one day after end of support for Windows 7).

Microsoft implemented a tracking prevention system into the Edge browser that is powered by  Disconnect tracking protection lists.

Mozilla added a similar system to the organization’s Firefox browser and enabled it in mid-2019 by default.

Starting in Edge 79, that tracking prevention list is 25% more effective than previously thanks to implemented improvements.

Microsoft describes how it analyzed the tracking prevention effectiveness and experimented with improving the functionality. The company wanted to make sure that Edge was blocking more types of trackers without affecting web compatibility in a negative way.

Basically, what Microsoft did was enable new tracking protection categories in Edge to block more trackers. To avoid compatibility issues, Microsoft devised a system that relaxed tracking prevention based on engagement scores in balanced mode.

Balanced mode is one of the modes supported by Edge; it is an attempt to balance the blocking of trackers with maintaining compatibility on the Internet. Edge users may switch the blocking to strict mode which blocks trackers without taking engagement into account.

edge tracking prevention

Edge users may load edge://settings/privacy in the browser’s address bar to open the tracking prevention controls. There, it may be disabled entirely or switched between basic, balanced and strict modes.

Options to allow trackers on certain sites and to view all trackers that were blocked by Edge are available as well.

Tip: Microsoft added protection against potentially unwanted applications to the Edge browser recently as well.

The new tracking prevention balanced mode uses a site engagement score from the Chromium project to measure a user’s engagement with sites. The higher the score the higher is the engagement of the user with the site. The score increases when a user visits the site or interacts with it.

These scores are computed and kept on the user device according to Microsoft. Organizations that own multiple domains are grouped into a single entity when it comes to the computation of the score. If at least one of the domains reaches Microsoft’s threshold for engagement, tracking is relaxed on all of the organization’s sites.

Microsoft published a table on the official Microsoft Edge Dev blog that highlights tracking prevention changes in Edge 79. Basic mode has not changed but Balanced and Strict mode have. Both modes disallow storage access for content category sites now whereas that was not disallowed in Edge 78 and earlier versions.

Strict mode furthermore blocks storage access to sites from the advertising, social, and other categories, and it uses the engagement mitigations for compatibility purposes.

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Report: Microsoft to replace classic Edge with new Edge from early 2020 on

Microsoft revealed that the new Chromium-based Microsoft Edge web browser will be released on January 15, 2020 officially (and that it will come to Linux) this week. What the company did not reveal at the time was when it planned to replace the classic Edge browser on supported versions of Windows 10 with the new Microsoft Edge browser.

According to a Neowin report, the replacement starts at the day of general availability.  Neowin writer Rich Woods claims that Microsoft will start the roll out replacement of classic Edge on January 15, 2020.

microsoft edge release candidate

Only a small group of devices will receive the new version of Microsoft Edge in the beginning as Microsoft wants to monitor the deployment and user feedback. It will speed up throughout the year.

OEMs will receive the new Edge as soon as it is ready as well so that it may be integrated directly into new Windows installations.

One of the main advantages of the Chromium-based Microsoft Edge web browser is that it does not rely on the underlying operating system anymore. In other words, Microsoft does not have to wait for a new feature release to come along to push the new browser to Windows 10 systems.

It is unclear how the new Edge will be pushed to devices. Will Microsoft announce the change to users of the device or even give them a choice in this regard, or will the new Edge be placed on the system silently in the background? Will there be a notification for users who use Edge actively or for all users?

Considering that the general availability is just two months away, we will soon find out one way or the other.

Microsoft has yet to confirm the plan that Neowin revealed and it should be filed under rumor for the time being.

Closing Words

The replacement should not affect Windows 10 users who don’t use Microsoft Edge and have no intention to use it. Users who use it actively currently may notice changes, e.g. that some features are no longer supported or that web compatibility and speed improved.

Now you: Will the Chromium-based Edge do better than classic Edge?

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Microsoft plans to release the new Microsoft Edge on January 15, 2020

Microsoft revealed today that it plans to release the first Stable version of the new Chromium-based Microsoft Edge web browser on January 15, 2020.

The company released the first Release Candidate build today to the public. Windows and Mac users may download the new build from the Microsoft Edge Insider website.

Users who don’t run Microsoft Edge Beta already need to download the Beta version of the new browser from the Microsoft website to test the Release Candidate build. It is version 79.0.309.11 which you can verify by loading edge://settings/help in the browser’s address bar.

microsoft edge release candidate

Existing Microsoft Edge Beta installations should receive the new version as an automated update. The first stable version of the Chromium-based Microsoft Edge web browser will be released in January if things go according to plans.

Microsoft plans to release the browser for Windows and Mac OS X only at that point; the browser will support over 90 languages when it is released in January 2020. The, rather long-winded, post on the official MS Edge Dev blog provides little information in regards to the browser’s feature set. The post focuses on the Enterprise-exclusive Internet Explorer mode, the new Microsoft Edge logo that sets it apart from Internet Explorer, and automated testing options to test web applications and sites using the engine of the Edge browser.

Microsoft recommends that testing is done primarily using the Developer Channel version of Microsoft Edge as it offers “a good balance between Canary (which is essentially untested bits that are built every night) and Beta”.

Customers who are interested in the first stable version of Microsoft Edge may take a look at today’s Beta channel version of Microsoft Edge as it is very close to the first stable version that Microsoft plans to release in January 2020.

Closing Words

Classic Edge never managed to make a dent into the dominance of Google Chrome. While the browser benefited from its inclusion as the default browser on Windows 10 and several exclusive features such as support for 4K playback on Netflix, it never managed to get a strong enough foothold in the browser market.

The new Microsoft Edge browser that is based on Chromium will be faster and better than the old in many regards. Whether that is enough to convince Chrome users to switch to it remains to be seen.

Now you: What is your take on the new Microsoft Edge browser? Will you give it a try?

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How to enforce dark mode on sites in Microsoft Edge

Microsoft implemented a new experimental flag to the most recent version of the Chromium version of  Microsoft Edge that users may set to enforce dark mode on visited sites.

The web browser honors the dark mode setting of the Windows 10 operating system already but that changes the interface of Microsoft Edge only. Websites may still display in light colors.

The latest Canary version of Microsoft Edge includes an option to enforce a dark mode so that sites, most of them at the very least, are displayed in darker colors automatically. Google launched the option earlier this year in Chrome.

Tip: if you run Android 10, you may also enforce dark mode in many apps that don’t support it officially.

The following screenshot shows how that may look like on sites. Note that Edge’s interface depends on the dark mode setting of the operating system and not the experimental flag that Microsoft added to the browser.

To switch to Dark Mode on Windows 10, go to Settings > Personalization > Colors and switch from Light to Dark there.

edge force dark

Here is what you need to do to enable it:

  1. The feature is only available in Edge Canary at the time of writing (version 80.0.317.1). It will, likely, become available in Edge Beta and Stable at one point in time.
  2. Load edge://flags in the browser’s address bar.
  3. Search for dark; this should return the flag Force Dark Mode for Web Contents.
  4. Set the flag to Enabled. Note that Enabled sets the feature to the default. You may pick any of the other dark mode algorithms provided to test which one works best for you.
  5. Restart the Microsoft Edge web browser.

The change should be visible immediately on sites you visit. I tested the feature on a number of sites including Ghacks, YouTube, eBay, Facebook and Wikipedia, and it worked fine on all of these sites.

edge enforce dark mode

Some page elements may still show up in light colors. The ads you see on the screenshot above still use white colors and so does the Ghacks logo.

Closing Words

The feature works as advertised in the latest Microsoft Edge Canary version. It needs to be noted that the feature is experimental and that it may be removed from Edge before it ever lands in the Stable version of the browser (which has not been released yet officially).

The setting gives Edge users who prefer dark themes an option to get rid of the majority of light themed sites by turning them into darker themed sites automatically.

Now You: Light or dark, what is your preference and why? (via Deskmodder)

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How to use multiple Microsoft Accounts in the new Microsoft Edge browser

The Chromium-based Microsoft Edge web browser that Microsoft is working on currently supports a number of features that the classic Edge browser does not support.

One of these is the ability to add multiple Microsoft Accounts and non-Microsoft accounts to the browser to switch between them.

Each profile comes with its own set of personal data and saved data, e.g. passwords or browsing data, and if a Microsoft Account is used, may use synchronization to sync the data between devices.

Using multiple profiles in Microsoft Edge

microsoft edge multiple profiles

Microsoft Edge displays a profile icon in the top toolbar; a click on the icon displays information about the current profile. If you did not sign in to a Microsoft Account previously, you will find that a local profile is used.

The core difference between local and Microsoft Accounts in Edge is that the former don’t support syncing while the latter do.

The option to sign in to a Microsoft Account is provided in the popup that opens when you click on the profile icon.

microsoft edge local account

All existing profiles are listed in the popup as well as options to start a guest browsing session, add a new profile, or open the profile settings.

A click on “add profile” displays options to create a new user profile in Microsoft Edge right then and there. You may pick a different profile icon and select a name for the profile. Options to sign-in using a Microsoft Account are not provided in the menu; this needs to be done in the settings or when you switch to the profile.

The best way to manage profiles is to either click on the “manage profile settings” link or load edge://settings/people directly in Microsoft Edge.

All profiles that exist on the local machine are displayed on the page that opens. One is expanded and you get options to edit or remove it, and to sign in to a Microsoft account or sign out.

Options to manage passwords, payment information, addresses, and to import browser data are provided regardless of account type. Sync is only activated for Microsoft Accounts.

Synchronization

syncing options edge

A click on Sync displays the syncing preferences. You may use these to select the types of data that you want to synchronize. Note that syncing means that that data is stored in the cloud.

The following information may be synced using Microsoft Accounts in the new Microsoft Edge:

  • Favorites — The browser bookmarks.
  • Extensions — Browser extensions.
  • History — The browsing history, e.g. visited pages.
  • Settings — The preferences.
  • Open tabs — All open webpages.
  • Addresses, phone numbers, and more — form data.
  • Passwords — Saved passwords for online services.

Using multiple profiles in Edge

The main benefit of running multiple profiles in a browser is that you may use it to separate data. You could create a work and home account and use them accordingly. Doing so would isolate work-related data, e.g. favorites, browsing history, or passwords, when the home account is used and vice versa. Means, among other things, that you won’t get work related suggestions when you type in the address bar.

Local and Microsoft accounts can be mixed. You could use one Microsoft Account and a local account in Edge on a system, and two Microsoft Accounts on another.

Now You: do you use multiple profiles in your browser of choice?

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How to change the default search engine in Microsoft Edge (Chromium)

It should not come as a surprise that the default search engine of Microsoft Edge — regardless of whether it is the classic version or new Chromium version — is Microsoft’s Bing search engine.

Some people prefer Bing over Google and other search engines and that is perfectly fine; others may prefer to use a different search engine for their searches.

I never found Bing to be very good when it came to non-English queries as it seemed heavily focused on English regions and search results. If you are in the same boat, you may want to change the search engine to use it when you run searches from the address bar.

I suppose it is also possible to visit the search engine manually instead each time and run searches from the search engine’s website, but that is not the most comfortable of options.

Tip: you can download Edge preview builds from Microsoft.

Change search engine in Microsoft Edge Chromium

change search engine microsoft edge chromium

The quickest way to change the search engine in the new Microsoft Edge browser is the following one:

  1. Load edge://settings/search in the browser’s address bar; this should load the search settings.
  2. Click on the menu next to “search engine used in the address bar” to switch the search engine from Bing to another search engine. The new search engine is used from that moment on whenever you run searches.

Edge lists five different search engines there only, and one of the is YouTube. You can switch to Google, DuckDuckGo or Yahoo but that is about it; not the greatest of selections but it may be sufficient if your preferred search engine is on that list.

If it is not, my favorite Startpage is not, you have two options:

Option 1: Visit the search engine and run a search on it

microsoft edge chromium add search engine

  1. Open the Search Engine in Microsoft Edge.
  2. Run a search for TEST or something generic.
  3. Open the Search Engines page in the browser: edge://settings/searchEngines
  4. Select the three dots next to the search engine that you want to make the default in Microsoft Edge and pick “make default” from the menu.

That is all there is to it.

Some search engines may not be added automatically. If that is the case, you may use the second option to add them.

Option 2: Add the search engine manually

add search engine microsoft edge

  1. Select Manage search engines on the same page.
  2. Click on the Add button to add a new search engine to the list. You are asked to fill out the following three fields:
    1. Search Engine — Pick a name to identify the search engine.
    2. Keyword — Optional, may be used to run searches on that search engine if it is not the default.
    3. URL — The search URL that uses the variable %s in place of the query.
  3. Click on Add to add the search engine.

To get the URL, run a search for TEST or another term that is easily identifiable in the URL. Copy the full results URL into the URL field in Microsoft Edge and replace the search term with %s.

On Startpage, you get a search results URL such as https://www.startpage.com/do/search?lui=english&language=english&cat=web&query=TEST&nj=&anticache=502855 when you run such a search. Simply replace TEST with %s and you are done. You may also remove the parameters to streamline the URL so that you may end up with https://www.startpage.com/do/search?query=%s.

Now You: Which is your preferred search engine and why?

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Old Edge or IE may be best option to run Flash content until end of 2020

Adobe Flash will be retired at the end of 2020; Adobe announced that it won’t support Flash after 2020 anymore and major browser makers announced Flash shutdown timelines as well. While that won’t impact Flash content that is available on the Internet, it becomes difficult to run that content especially in 2021 and onward.

Microsoft announced a timeline to end support for Adobe Flash in 2017 at a time when the new Chromium-based Microsoft Edge was not a thing. The company published an update last week that includes information about the new Microsoft Edge web browser — still not available as a stable version — and Microsoft’s classic web browsers.

microsoft flash player internet explorer edge

It should not come as a surprise that Microsoft plans to follow Chromium and Google Chrome in regards to the termination of Adobe Flash in the browser. Google set Flash to click-to-play by default in Chrome in 2016 and made the use of Flash increasingly annoying in the Chrome browser since then.

Microsoft planned to disable Adobe Flash by default in Internet Explorer 11 and the classic Microsoft Edge web browser in 2019 and disable Flash completely at the end of 2020. The announcement reveals that the disabling of Flash won’t happen in 2019 after all.

For both the in-market version of Microsoft Edge (built on EdgeHTML) and Internet Explorer 11, the current experience will continue as-is through 2019. Specifically, we no longer intend to update either Microsoft Edge (built on EdgeHTML) or Internet Explorer 11 to disable Flash by default. We still plan to fully remove Flash from these browsers by December 2020, as originally communicated.

Both browsers will keep the current status quo in regards to Flash content which means that they may be the best options when it comes to playing Flash content in browsers until the end of 2020.

Take Google Chrome as an example. Google Chrome displays a “Flash will no longer be supported” message on start if Flash is not disabled. While you can allow Flash content on a page, it is no longer possible to permanently allow Flash content on a page or site.

With Internet Explorer, Flash content plays automatically when you open the page. With Edge, you get click-to-play options to play Flash content on a page.

There is another side to the story: security. Running Flash content automatically when sites are loaded in the browser is not a good idea from a security point of view.

internet explorer flash disallow

You may disallow Flash content on all sites — the default in Internet Explorer — so that the browser prompts you whenever Flash content is loaded. Here is how that is done:

  1. Select Menu > Manage Add-ons.
  2. Make sure Toolbars and Extensions is selected. If you don’t see Shockwave Flash Object listed, change the “show” menu to “all add-ons”.
  3. Right-click on Shockwave Flash Object and select “more information”.
  4. Select the “remove all sites” button to remove the wildcard. You may select “allow on all sites” at any time to restore the default status.

Internet Explorer prompts you when it encounters Flash content when you remove the global wildcard.

Microsoft Edge admins may check the following Group Policy options to manage Flash usage in the web browser.

Closing words

All browsers will support Flash until the end of 2020 and some will even do so beyond the end of the year. If you need to access Flash content on the Web, you need to pick one of these. Flash support won’t be changed in classic Edge and Internet Explorer while it may very well be made less usable in other browsers to further discourage usage.

Now you: do you access Flash content regularly or occasionally?

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How to add an extensions menu to Microsoft Edge (Chromium)

The latest Canary version of the upcoming Microsoft Edge browser that is based on Chromium supports an extensions menu to improve extension manageability; when enabled, it reduces space on the toolbar but still gives users options to display specific extension icons on the toolbar.

Microsoft Edge supports extension installations from the Microsoft Store and from the Chrome Web Store; this is one of the advantages that Edge has over Chrome as Microsoft’s extensions policy does not impose the same limitations as Google’s.

An icon is automatically placed in the Microsoft Edge toolbar when you install an extension. While you can move the extension icon to the Menu instead, you cannot remove it completely. Google Chrome has the same limitation whereas Vivaldi, another Chromium-based browser, does not.

microsoft edge extensions menu

What that means, essentially, is that you end up with extensions icon in one of the two places even if the extension icon does nothing. Google started to work on an Extension icon in Chrome to display all active extensions using a single icon when enabled.

Microsoft added a similar option to the Canary version of the Edge browser.  Edge moves all extension icons underneath the icon by default when the feature is enabled; specific extensions may be pinned so that their icons remain visible on the main toolbar.

The feature is not enabled by default and needs to be enabled by starting Microsoft Edge with a parameter. You need to launch Microsoft Edge with the parameter –enable-features=ExtensionsToolbarMenu.

Here is how you do that on Windows:

  1. Right-click on Microsoft Edge in the Start Menu or taskbar, and select Properties. You may right-click a second time on the taskbar on the Microsoft Edge entry in the menu that opens before you may select Properties.
  2. Switch to the Shortcut tab if it is not active by default.
  3. Append –enable-features=ExtensionsToolbarMenu after the path in the Target field, and make sure there is a space between the end of the path and the parameter. Here is a sample line to get a better idea how it looks like: “C:UsersMartinAppDataLocalMicrosoftEdge SxSApplicationmsedge.exe” –enable-features=ExtensionsToolbarMenu
  4. Select ok to save the selection.
  5. Restart Microsoft Edge.

Microsoft Edge should display the Extensions menu in the toolbar. A click on the icon displays the list of all extensions that are installed and active, and an option to manage extensions.

You may pin extensions to the main Edge toolbar by moving the mouse over the extension in the menu and selecting the pin option that is displayed. A click on menu next to an extension displays the usual extension options and the pin option as well.

Closing Words

The Extensions Toolbar Menu is a pre-release feature. While it is likely that it will find its way into Stable Microsoft Edge eventually, there is also a possibility of it being removed by Microsoft at any point in time.

I like the Menu as it brings order to the toolbar especially if you have installed more than one or two extensions.

Now You: Would you use the Extensions Menu? (via Winaero)

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How to remove the Microsoft Edge Feedback Smiley

Microsoft’s upcoming Chromium-based Microsoft Edge browser displays a smiley icon in the browser’s toolbar right now. A click on the icon opens the “send feedback” popup that you may use to provide feedback to Microsoft; the functionality makes sense considering that the browser is still in development and that bugs are to be expected in these pre-release builds.

Microsoft provided builds for Windows 10 first but Edge is now also available for Mac OS X and Windows 7 / Windows 8.1.

There is no option to hide the smiley icon from the Microsoft Edge toolbar, at least none that is attached to the button or Edge itself. Right-clicking on the button does nothing, and since it is not possible to modify icons placed on the toolbar at all in Edge, it is necessary to look elsewhere if you want to hide the icon in Edge.

The recently leaked Stable build of Microsoft Edge hides the icon and it is likely that it remains that way. A guide to remove the icon is still useful considering that Microsoft will continue to use development channels after Edge Stable has been released.

Tip: Microsoft released a preview of Edge policies recently.

Removing Feedback from Microsoft Edge

microsoft edge smiley feedback icon

A value in the Windows Registry determines whether Microsoft Edge displays the feedback icon or not. It is easy enough to modify the value to hide or show the icon. Please note that the change impacts the option to send feedback via the Edge Menu or the keyboard shortcut Alt-Shift-I as well. If you hide the icon, sending feedback is no longer possible using these options.

Here is how that is done:

  1. Open Start, type regedit.exe, and load the Windows Registry Editor from the list of search results.
  2. Navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESOFTWAREPoliciesMicrosoftEdge
  3. Check if the Dword UserFeedbackAllowed exists under Edge.
    1. if it does, go to 5.
    2. if it does not, right-click on Edge and select New > Dword (32-bit) Value. Name it UserFeedbackAllowed.
  4. Double-click on UserFeedbackAllowed and give it the value 0.

Restart Microsoft Edge if it was open; the Smiley icon should be gone from the toolbar. Just delete the Registry value if you want to restore the functionality.

Now Read: How successful will the Chromium-based Microsoft Edge browser be?

I have created a Registry file that you can run on your computer to make the change without having to edit the Registry manually. Just download the following file and run Edge Feedback Removed or Edge Feedback Restored to hide or show the icon in the Edge toolbar.

Note that you need to accept the UAC prompt and the warning prompt to make the change in the Registry.

Click on the following link to download an archive with the show and hide Registry scripts to your local system:
edge.remove.smiley.zip

Closing Words

I understand why Microsoft wants user feedback but I’d like to see an option to easily remove the feedback icon from the main toolbar for usability purposes.

Now You: Do you ever send feedback to companies? (via Deskmodder)

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