Microsoft has added a new sidebar to its Edge browser with buttons that let you see information about a site, check email, access Microsoft Office, and even remove recipe essentials from an overly long message (Going through Windows Central). The new feature appears to build on the “Search in Sidebar” feature added to Edge in 2020, but it adds even more multitasking capabilities.
The sidebar includes small but useful panes, like one that lets you search the web and quickly read articles, or one that includes a variety of widgets, such as a calculator, dictionary, internet speed test and a unit converter. Some of the sections are more comprehensive; Outlook’s, for example, lets you read and send emails, as well as view your calendar (as long as you’re signed in to your Microsoft account, of course).
Unfortunately, the Microsoft task pane isn’t as useful. It gives you quick shortcuts to recent documents, as well as apps like Word, PowerPoint, and Excel, but clicking them just opens them in a new tab. While it might help some people work a little faster, I personally was hoping I could open a mini spreadsheet next to the site I was browsing. The games sidebar is similar – they’re just shortcuts to web games.
Then there’s the “Discover” sidebar pane, which promises to add “contextual information relevant to any page.” From my testing, this can include information about a news site that ranks its reliability and accuracy and displays information about the countries people visit it from. It also does its best to add context to specific articles on those sites, or other things you read, usually with information from Wikipedia (oddly enough, this is sometimes the case even when reading an article from Wikipedia).
However, perhaps one of the most useful tricks of the Discover pane is when you’re on a recipe site, where the sidebar automatically pulls up the list of ingredients, so you don’t have to scroll through paragraphs on the writer’s favorite singer. I will note that you may still need to do this if you want to read the actual instructions on what to do with these ingredients.
The sidebar itself is somewhat customizable. You can hide or show it using a keyboard shortcut (Ctrl + Shift + / by default), and choose the buttons you want to appear there. Microsoft says it plans to add “new features to the sidebar in the future,” but for now there’s enough that it’s probably worth a try if you’re a user. edge.
If the sidebar does not appear automatically, make sure you are on the latest version of the browser, then click on the “···” menu at the top right. You should see a “Show Sidebar” button. If you don’t, go to Settings > Appearance and scroll down to the Customize Toolbar section, where there’s a “Show sidebar” toggle.
PS: Here is the mandatory Opera / Vivaldi / [insert your browser of choice here] did it first.