How to install Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) in the new Microsoft Edge

Microsoft’s new Chromium-based web browser Microsoft Edge supports progressive web apps (PWAs) that users can install in the browser.

A Progressive Web Application more or less offers features of native applications and web applications. The apps are designed to work on any platform provided that these platforms or programs that run on these platform support PWAs.

Progressive Web Applications may support a number of extra features such as offline capabilities or better performance when compared to standard web services.

Whenever the new Microsoft Edge detects the availability of a Progressive Web Application, it displays an install icon in the browser’s address bar next to the favorites icon.

microsoft edge-progressive web applications install

If you visit the Twitter website, you will get the install icon and may activate it to install the Twitter PWA on the system. Just click on the install icon to display the installation prompt.

Options to install the application or to cancel the operation are provided.

install app

Another option to install a PWA is to click on Menu > Apps > Install this site as an application. Doing so displays a slightly different prompt to install the application or cancel the process.

install site as app

Installation of a Progressive Web Application is usually very fast. The new Progressive Web Application is launched in its own window after installation; ready for use.

One of the core features of PWAs is that they run in their own windows and not as a tab in the browser (even if you only have one tab open it is still loaded in a tab in a browser window).

twitter pwa

PRogressive Web Applications come without browser chrome. While they do have a titlebar, they lack other interface elements such as tabs, an address bar, or other controls such as bookmarks.

They do have a simple menu attached to the window controls that you may activate to control some functionality; among the options are to open the site in the browser and to uninstall the application.

progressive web app uninstall

Options to print, search, zoom, copy the URL, and cast are also available. Progressive Web Applications are added to the list of installed programs on the operating system just like any other program that is installed natively on the system.

How to launch the apps?

launch pwa

Multiple options are available to launch installed Progressive Web Applications. You find the installed listed on the “manage apps” page of the Edge browser that you may load using the edge://apps/ URL. Edge lists them under Menu > Apps as well so that you may launch these directly from there.

Last but not least, any installed PWA is also added to the operating system’s Start menu from where they may be launched just like any other program.

How to uninstall PWAs?

remove pwa

Uninstallation is straightforward. You may open the edge://apps/ page and click on the x-icon next to any installed application to remove it from the system.

Edge displays a verification prompt; select remove to uninstall the application. You may check the “also clear data from Microsoft Edge” option to clear data associated with the PWA.

PWAs may also be uninstalled from the operating system’s Settings application or application management interface.

Now You: What is your take on Progressive Web Apps?

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The Microsoft Edge extension store is finally getting some traction

microsoft edge add-ons

Microsoft released the new Chromium-based web browser on January 15, 2020 officially. With the new browser came a new add-ons store for it that Microsoft launched as a beta. While still in beta, it appears that the new store is much more successful than the old as the extension count crossed the 1000 mark recently while the old store never managed to come even close to that number.

Microsoft launched the new Microsoft Edge Addons store with about 100 extensions. Now, with the Chromium-based Microsoft Edge browser available for about 2 months as a stable version, that number increased to well over 1000 extensions.

Note: Microsoft lists wallpaper add-ons for the new tab page of the browser among extensions. These make up a sizable number.

microsoft edge add-ons

The increase in extensions should not come as a surprise considering that the new Edge browser is based on Chromium which means that porting extensions is a simple process. Edge had only a few unique extensions when Microsoft launched the Store and the situation has not changed much.

Microsoft maintains a handful of exclusive extensions and there is a handful (or two) non-Microsoft extensions as well that are exclusive at the time of writing. The vast majority of extensions however are cross-browser extensions such as uBlock Origin, Reddit Enhancement Suite, Adblock Plus, Evernote Web Clipper, Dashlane Password Manager, or Norton Safe Web.

Microsoft integrated functionality to install Chrome extensions into Edge. Google added a notification to the company’s Chrome Web Store that informs Edge users that it is more secure to use Chrome with the hosted extensions. Google’s store hosts a multitude more add-ons than Microsoft’s store.

If you compare both stores, you may notice a few differences. The Microsoft Edge Addons store lacks user reviews and comments, ratings, or the list of related extensions. Compared to Mozilla’s Firefox add-ons Store, both stores are lacking. Firefox users get the list of permissions, developer information, release notes, and other information on top of everything that the Chrome Web Store has to offer.

Closing Words

It is clear that the Chromium-based Microsoft Edge browser is doing better than the classic version. The rise of add-ons for the browser is just one indicator of that. Microsoft plans to push it via Windows Update in the coming months to recent versions of Windows 10 which should give it another boot when it comes to the number of users.

Now You: What is your take on the new Edge browser (Via Techdows)

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Microsoft improves Easter Egg Surf game in new Microsoft Edge browser

Did you know that Microsoft’s new Chromium-based Microsoft Edge browser has an Easter Egg? If you follow certain instructions to the letter, you will unlock a Surf game that is integrated in the browser.

The game is only available in Development and Canary versions of Microsoft Edge. As is the case for most Easter Eggs, it requires that you perform a number of actions in sequence before it becomes available.

Microsoft Edge Surf game

Here is how you enable the Surf game in Microsoft Edge (Chromium):

  1. Open any website in the browser.
  2. Click on the Collections button and select “Start new Collection”. Name it Microsoft Edge.
  3. Now add the active site to the Collection. Right-click on it and change the name to S.
  4. Repeat step 3 three times and rename the sites to U, then R, then F to end up with four sites in the collection spelling out SURF.
  5. For the last step, drag the F site and drop it after U so that you get SUFR. Once done, drag back the F to the last position so that SURF is again spelled correctly.
  6. Restart Microsoft Edge.

If you have done that correctly, a new entry should have been added to the Collection. This is the SURF game that you may launch with a click on the item. You may also load edge://surf to start the game right away.

edge surf game

Once you are in, you may use the left and right arrow keys and the Enter-key for selection to pick a surfer. Before you do that, you may want to open the menu of the game as it provides you with options to switch the game mode from the default “let’s surf” to time trial or zig zag, and to enable “high visibility mode” and “reduced speed mode”.

There is also a handy how to play link and an option to start a new game. You control the surfer with the left and right arrow keys and avoid most of the obstacles the game places randomly on the screen.

surf game

The default mode is an endless runner-like game mode in which you try to come as far as possible. You have three hearts and energy to start with; it is game over when your hearts reach zero.

Closing Words

Surf is a rather simplistic game that Microsoft added to its new browser. While you may have a bit of fun playing it, it is similar to other built-in browser games in that it is too simplistic to be entertaining for longer.

Why did Microsoft add the Surf game to Edge? The company does not tell but the most likely explanation is to create buzz.

Now You: What is your take on Easter Eggs in browsers?

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Study finds Brave to be the most private browser

Are you concerned about your web browser sending data back to the company that created it? A new study, Web Browser Privacy: What Do Browsers Say When They Phone Home?, looked at the six popular desktop web browsers Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Microsoft Edge (Chromium-based), Apple Safari, Brave, and Yandex, to uncover what these browsers send back to the mothership.

If you just want the result, the study found that used out of the box, Brave “is by far the most private of the browsers studied” followed by Chrome, Firefox and Safari. Brave is the only web browser that did not use identifiers that allowed tracking of the IP address over time and did not share details of web pages visited to backend servers.

brave browser privacy

Chrome, Firefox and Safari used identifiers that are linked to the browser instance that persist over sessions and all three share web page details with backend servers via the browser’s search autocomplete functionality.

The study found the Chromium-based Microsoft Edge web browser and Yandex to do worse than the other browsers of the test. Both send identifiers linked to the device hardware which means that the identifier persists even across installations. Edge sends the hardware UUID to Microsoft, and Yandex transmits a “hash of the hardware serial number and Mac address”. Both also appear to send web page information to servers that “appear unrelated to search autocomplete”.

The researcher logged all network connectivity on the devices the browsers ran on. Chrome connections using QUIC/UDP had to be blocked so that the browser would fall back to TCP. To inspect encrypted data, mitmdump was used and since leftovers can be an issue, extra care was used to delete all traces of previous installations from the systems.

The test design was repeated multiple times for each browser.

  1. Start the browser from a fresh install/new user profile.
  2. Paste a URL into the address bar, press Enter, and record the user activity.
  3. Close the browser and restart, record network activity.
  4. Start the browser from a fresh install/new user profile and monitor network activity for 24 hours.
  5. Start the browser from a fresh install/new user profile, type a URL and monitor traffic.

The conclusion

For Brave with its default settings we did not find any use of identifiers allowing tracking of IP address over time, and no sharing of the details of web pages visited with backend servers. Chrome, Firefox and Safari all share details of web pages visited with backend servers. For all three this happens via the search autocomplete feature, which sends web addresses to backend servers in realtime as they are typed. In addition, Firefox includes identifiers in its telemetry transmissions that can potentially be used to link these over time. Telemetry can be disabled, but again is silently enabled by default. Firefox also maintains an open websocket for push notifications that is linked to a unique identifier and so potentially can also be used for tracking and which cannot be easily disabled. Safari defaults to a poor choice of start page that leaks information to multiple third parties and allows them to set cookies without any user consent. Safari otherwise  made no extraneous network connections and transmitted no persistent identifiers, but allied iCloud processes did make connections containing identifiers.

From a privacy perspective Microsoft Edge and Yandex are qualitatively different from the other browsers studied. Both send persistent identifiers than can be used to link requests (and associated IP address/location) to back end servers. Edge also sends the hardware UUID of the device to Microsoft and Yandex similarly transmits a hashed hardware identifier to back end servers. As far as we can tell this behaviour cannot be disabled by users. In addition to the search autocomplete functionality that shares details of web pages visited, both transmit web page information to servers that appear unrelated to search autocomplete.

Closing Words

The researcher analyzed the default state of the browsers and found that Brave had the most privacy friendly settings. At least some of the browsers may be configured to improve privacy by changing the default configuration, e.g. disabling autocomplete functionality.

Now You: what is your take on the study?

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How to add a Menu Bar to Microsoft Edge

The Menu Bar, once a given for any desktop web browser, has been removed from the majority of web browsers. Some, Firefox or Vivaldi, still support a menu bar but even these need to be configured to display the toolbar permanently in the browser. Firefox users may use the Alt-key to display the menu bar at any time.

Microsoft’s new Edge web browser does not support a menu bar at all; that is no surprise as Chromium does not come with a menu bar.

If you like to use a menu bar in your browser, you may install a browser extension in Microsoft Edge to restore it (also available for Google Chrome).

All you need to do is install the Proper Menubar for Microsoft Edge extension from the official Microsoft Edge Addons website to add it to the browser. The extension requires no special permissions which is always good.

Note that the extension does not alter the browser’s user interface but adds a row underneath the address bar of the browser that acts as a menu bar.

microsoft edge menu bar

The menu bar displays the usual entry points such as File, Edit, View, or Bookmarks. Its nature limits some of its functionality as the extension does not display browser-specific data such as the last visited pages or bookmarks.

While that is limiting, users who like to work with menu bars do find some useful options attached to it. Here is a short list of useful options:

  • Open or close Tabs or Windows.
  • Zoom in or out.
  • View Source
  • Enter Full Screen mode.
  • Minimize or maximize windows.
  • Mute Tabs.
  • Jump to different internal pages, e.g. downloads, bookmarks, history, flags, or the settings.

Obviously, there is a bit missing when you compare it to native implementations. If you take Vivaldi’s for example, the browser is also based on Chromium, you find the missing data entries for the history and bookmarks, as well as options to hide or show panels or toolbars, import options, and more.

Closing Words

Proper Menubar for Microsoft Edge adds a limited menu bar to the Edge web browser. Some users may like the functionality that it adds, others may dislike its limitations when compared to native solutions.

The extension could be improved by allowing it to access the history and bookmarks, as these could then be displayed in the history and bookmark menus.

Now You: Do you prefer to use a menu bar? (via Bleeping Computer)

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