Microsoft has added a new sidebar to its Edge browser with buttons that let you view information about a site, check your email, access Microsoft Office, and even extract the essentials of a recipe from a long post. Windows Central) The new feature appears to build on the “Search in Sidebar” function added to Edge in 2020, but adds more multitasking capabilities.
The sidebar consists of a few small but useful panes that let you search the web and quickly read articles, or contain a variety of widgets such as a calculator, dictionary, internet speed test, and unit converter. Some panes are more fully featured; Outlook one, for example, lets you read and send emails, as well as view your calendar (as long as you’re logged into your Microsoft account).
Unfortunately, the Microsoft Office pane isn’t that useful. It gives you quick shortcuts to recent documents, as well as apps like Word, PowerPoint, and Excel, but clicking on them opens them in a new tab. While this might help some people work a little faster, I personally was hoping to be able to open a mini spreadsheet next to whatever site I was browsing. The Games sidebar is similar — it’s just shortcuts to web games.
And then there’s the “Discover” sidebar pane, which adds “contextually relevant information to any page.” From my testing, it includes information that ranks how reliable and accurate a news site is and shows information about which countries people are visiting it from. For specific articles on those sites, or for other things you read, it’s also usually best to add context with information from Wikipedia (ironically, this sometimes happens even when you’re reading a Wikipedia article).
Perhaps one of the most useful tricks of the Discover pane, however, is that when you’re on a recipe site, the sidebar automatically pulls up the ingredients list, saving you from scrolling through paragraphs about the author’s favorite singer. I note that if you want to read the original instructions on what to do with those ingredients you still have to do that.
The sidebar is somewhat customizable. You can hide or show using a keyboard shortcut (Control + Shift + / by default) and choose which buttons you want to appear on it. Microsoft says it plans to add “new features to the Sidebar in the future,” but for now there’s enough there that it’s worth giving it a shot if you’re an Edge user.
If the sidebar does not appear automatically, make sure you are on the latest version of the browser, then click the “···” menu on 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 is a “Show Sidebar” toggle.
PS: Mandatory here is Opera / Vivaldi / [insert your browser of choice here] Did it first.