Microsoft's new Chromium-based Edge leaks as Insider rollout nears

More details emerge on Microsoft's new Chromium-based Edge, with Insider testing likely to start soon.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer

Microsoft is making progress rebuilding its Edge browser using Google's Chromium's rendering engine underneath and has launched a dedicated page explaining what it wants to bring to Chromium.

The latest leak of Chromium Edge follows Microsoft's quiet launch of a new extensions page and confirmation that the browser will allow users to install progressive web apps (PWAs) directly from the web as well as from the Microsoft Store

The company intends to release the new Edge in the early part of this year for Windows 10 as well as Windows 7, 8.1, and macOS, with Insider testing due soon.   

As noted by The Verge, the latest Chromium-based Edge experience is a blend of Chrome and classic Edge. As Edge will be linked to a Microsoft account rather than a Google account, users will be prompted to import favorites, passwords, and browsing history. 

One of the key improvements Microsoft wants to bring to the Chromium project is better accessibility. This build features Microsoft's existing functionality for reading out a webpage, but it's missing the ability to write on a webpage with a stylus, while dark mode is only available as an experimental flag. 

As previously reported, Microsoft is bringing Edge's smooth-scrolling feature to Chromium to improve the scrolling when using a mouse on the scrollbar, which could be helpful when scrolling an Excel page. 

The company has set up a dedicated page on GitHub for additional features it wants to bring from Edge to Chromium, including native caret browsing for navigating a webpage using keyboard keys and shortcuts. Currently this requires installing an extension on Chrome, but Microsoft contends this approach is inefficient.  

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Microsoft has also weighed in on how Chromium-based browsers should handle icons in dark mode and light mode, arguing that web app developers should have a way of automatically adjusting their branding and icons to suit each context based on operating system settings. 

"Many websites are beginning to look to the operating system for queues about how the user would prefer their apps be rendered (eg, 'dark mode')," Microsoft Edge developer Aaron Gustafson explains.

"There is a media query which allows them to toggle the color-related styles applied to their website (or PWA), but their app icon (referenced in the Web App Manifest) remains unaffected. In certain cases, it may make sense for an app's icon to adjust to match the user's chosen color scheme for maximum legibility."

And the company hopes to improve Chromium-based browsers' ability to use the Windows Text Services Framework, which allow what Microsoft calls smartphone-like 'text intelligence services', such as autocorrect, text suggestions, and gesture-based typing on a desktop PC.   

On the accessibility front, Microsoft hopes to bring to Chromium its Microsoft UI Automation application programming interfaces (APIs) to help web app developers support screen readers and other assistive features, such as the native Windows 10 Narrator. 

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