No longer fudging it


I don’t go out of my way to find reasons to use the Microsoft Edge browser. I guess I’m hanging in because of grievances with Internet Explorer. But, last night as I was doing something else, a message popped up on my screen indicating that the Edge browser had been updated. Normally, I don’t give things like this a second thought but I thought I’d click through and see what was new.

So often, updates are bug fixes and things that would go unnoticed but the first of the “New” things got my attention. An “Edge bar”? Maybe Microsoft was going to sell me a beer? And it’s version 98; the latest Chrome is at 97.

I opened it and immediately got immersed. It was a solution for a problem that I’ve had with computers and the internet since I downloaded my first browser. I not only want what I am seeing in the current window but typically I want something else as well.

My solution typically has been the “Window Shuffle” to get both on the screen at the same time. I have an old external monitor that I got as payment for some custom work years ago and it is connected to the video out on my laptop so I do have two windows accessible that way. But, quite frankly, both of these solutions require a bit of planning and I don’t think about that sort of planning until I’m well into something. So, my typical solution is Alt-Tabbing through various windows to move information and/or my attention back and forth. The bottom line is that I’m always fudging around with things to get to the comfort level that I want.

Computers are pretty good at doing things well and quickly and all that but they typically work with whatever is on the top of the heap. The Edge Bar promises to have two active windows running on top of whatever screen that you’re using. No jostling back and forth.

I’ll confess right here; there are indeed times where I’ll switch to another window and then forget what I was doing in the other one. Maybe having them both up front and in my face will cut back on those moments!

I’m fortunate enough to have purchased a wide screen laptop when I updated my 2010 computer. So, I have a 17 inch screen which is really wide. The internet world, in particular, (and this blog too) like to only use part of the available screen real estate. So, while I have a good 17 inches, my normal routine uses 15 inches of it unless I do some work. I’ll be honest; my first look with the Edge Bar active was that the screen was too full and noisy and I gained a new appreciation for the borders around some screens but it did grow on me.

So, I open the Edge Bar (it has its own entry from the Settings Menu) and I try to activate it.

I say try because, when I read the fine print, my Password Manager is using a resource that it requires. So, I turn it off and active the Edge Bar. It shuffled my display off to the left to make room for it on the right. It comes with some pre-configured widgets but that’s all configurable.

There’s a search feature and, of course, it’s Bing but you have the opportunity to add other features so I wonder if I’ll still get recommendations when I add something else and you know that I will. Just because I can. But DuckDuckGo slid into place nicely.

I spent some time Sunday afternoon playing around with it. Pinning it, unpinning it, searching for things to add, web browsing, adding my interests, …

It’s the sort of thing that computers have always promised us – they’ll work for us instead of us working for them. The irony of me working my way through things is not lost on me!

When I need to go full screen, minimizing the Edge Bar is just a click away.

For right now, it’s an interesting new fascination. It will only get the true test when I try to do some work but I’m really intrigued. I like that I have that extra window of information and utility right there. With an external monitor it’s not immediately needed but there will come a time when we and our computers will be able to go on road trips and that just might be the real advantage for me for this functionality.

Getting it right and giving us choices


I’ve been using web browsers on my computer for such a long time. Things are more harmonious now but there was a time when a website was actually only guaranteed to work with a specific browser. If you’ve been around for a while online, you’ll absolutely remember the advice that “This site works better with …” or “This site requires …”

Things have change and moved on. These days, any web browser works with any web site. We’ve moved on to worry more about web browsers giving up our personal information to websites that exist to collect that information for customized advertising or worse things.

There really was a time when I was developing websites that I had to test to make sure that it worked with Internet Explorer or Netscape or Safari. As a result, I’ve got into the habit of having more than one web browser on my computer and I still mess around with different browsers for a week at a time or so. Generally, most of them do a good job but voicEd Radio, for one, specifically requires Google Chrome or Microsoft Edge. I just have to remember to use one of them before the Wednesday This Week in Ontario Edublogs show.

With the release of Windows 11, the rules had changed. Microsoft has redesigned its Edge browser from the ground up based upon open source Chromium code and feel that they’ve done a good enough job, I guess, to demand that we use it.

Now, in the strictest sense, you can change the default browser to others although it does take considerable effort. You have to change the default browser for each file type. That really defeats the purpose of the click to set as a default browser in all other browsers.

To make things worse, there is a new URL type that will only open in Edge no matter what you have set as a default browser. So, you could be in another browser and, should you click one of these links, Edge will open and display it.

But things look like they’re about to change.

Microsoft Makes It Easier to Change the Default Browser in Windows 11

Who knows what happened? It was on the design block? There are things that Edge can’t do? Were there threats of lawsuits about proprietory use? It’s just the right thing to do?

If you read the article, the change is still available only for developers so the rest of us will just have to wait. It might come soon; it might come later; it might not come at all. I’m hoping for the first open because I do have a few different browsers installed.

The real irony is that I have been using the Edge browser and I quite like it. It’s not the Internet Explorer of old – they’ve taken the Chromium code and made a terrific browser. I’m not quite ready yet to make it my sole browser though.

Dark, but not too dark


For the longest time, computer systems designers and website developers worked in a world that was largely dark text on a white background. I’ll admit that they’ve done a pretty good job at it.

Recently, we’re seeing a trend towards a “dark” setting in the operating system and applications. It’s a thing that I immediately jumped at. Maybe it’s because I like to work in a darkened room or late at night/early in the morning where the white background can, at times, blind a guy. I’ve also read that you can extend your battery life a bit on portables by not blasting out the bright background. Then, there’s that whole blue light thing that we’ve already seen workaround for.

Typically, you go into your settings or control panel or equivalent and look for display and, if that option is available, it’s just a quick switch and you’ve gone dark.

In Windows, the setting can be found under personalization…

You can also change the accent colour – I love green.

In the Brave browser, it’s under Appearance…

In Twitter, it looks like this…

I can’t decide, in my mind, whether or not I want “Dim” or “Lights out” but I know for sure that I don’t want the default which makes so much of the screen white.

Of course, these are all personal preferences and so you customize as you wish and at your own risk.

Like many settings that end up being part of the final product, dark default settings weren’t always the norm. Sometimes you had to download a Theme to make it happen or go into Advanced settings that are hidden in Experiments on Chromium based browsers. (like Brave)

Recently, I got excited about a new Experiment. Instead of dickering around with application after application, why not do them all at once. Yes, there’s an Experiment for that.

It’s called “Force Dark Mode for Web Contents”. I kind of liked the concept. There were a number of different ways to enable it that forced me to do some additional learning.

And, you know what, I didn’t like what I saw. Right now, the setting makes some decisions that I couldn’t live with. In particular, when I was working with documents, it made more intuitive sense to work with dark type of a light background (like this blog post). It didn’t seem right to be using bright white on a dark background. The worse part happened in WordPress and a few other applications.

Some of the utilities are coded to be black on white. So, when I did the switcheroo, it ended up being black on black. Or, minimally functional as dark grey on black.

As a result, I switched this Experiment back to the Default. It’s not ready for prime time around here. The fact that it’s an Experiment means that there are some pretty smart people working on it.

Maybe eventually it will work out. At the moment, it’s not for me.

What are your thoughts about a dark desktop? Are you a purist or are you looking at ways to make some changes?

Tidying up


Logging in to my computer this morning was my inspiration for finally getting serious about groups in my browser. Everything that I had done yesterday was open and spread across the two monitors that form my desktop setup. Where does one start?

Staying organized and yet neat has long been a challenge around here. I’ve tried various things like bookmarks, multiple windows, etc. All seemed like the solution at the time and I manage to mess it up as I go.

When Grouping came out for browsers based on Chromium, I tried it just to see if it flipped a switch for me and it didn’t. This morning, I made more of a commitment and I think I might have a workable solution.

My first group

This was actually quite easy to do. I just selected one of the tabs that I wanted in a group and right clicked on it. The second item from the top lets you add a tab to a group or to create a new group.

Of course, you can add colour to your group. I’m torn whether it looks nicer with different colours or if it looks better with them all having the same colour. It’s a nice problem to solve.

If one group is good, a bunch is better so I created a few more groups based upon the type of page it might be.

My groups

Using them is dead simple. If I want something to do with my blog, I just click the “My Blog” group and it flies open in the browser.

Inside a group

When I’m done and it’s time to move on, clicking on the group title again collapses it and I move on.

It’s very fast and does seem to give me a tidier look to my desktop. It’s possible to drag the entire group to a second monitor should I feel the need. An immediate distraction-saving feature is that I’m no longer distracted by notifications from an application. Since it’s inside a group, it isn’t there to bug me.

Anyway, I’ve configured it here – on my incidence of Brave – and it seems to be working nicely. I hope that it continues and that I have the strength to keep things in check.

I’m always looking for tips to make things better. If you’ve gone the route with groups and have some to share, please do so.

Efficiency and whitespace


I probably never really paid much attention until I purchased my recent computer. From my perspective, it comes with a crazy wide display screen. It’s 15.6 inches wide and has a resolution of 1920×1080. It was kind of neat when I first turned it on. Look at them pixels.

The problem (or issue, it’s not really a problem) comes when you start poking around on the internet. Particularly with blogs and webpages with white backgrounds. The output is typically formatted for the lowest reasonable format which I’m guess is 1024×768. There was a time when that resolution was highly sought after. But no longer.

Now, I think we all know that you can blow up the size of your screen. If you’ve ever been in the audience of a presentation, it’s a technique that’s often done so the people in the cheap seats can see the screen. So, I figured that if it’s good enough for that purpose, why not for me?

It actually looked great. Bigger text — but it came with another problem (or, again, issue). I ended up scrolling more to read everything because while the width is nicer, the height takes a hit. So, CTRL+0 and I’m back to the default.

Every now and again, you’ll see a feature that’s included by developers that give you hope that they’re human and experiencing the same issues that you are.

Bookmarks

Every web browser that I can think of has this feature. It’s one of the first things that I turn on. I’ll tell the browser to only display bookmarks on a new tab. Otherwise, turn it off. It only makes sense. Why would I want to click on a bookmark when I’ve got an active screen and am working on it? It only makes sense to choose a bookmark in a new tab when I’m going somewhere.

Tabs

So, this was a feature from a browser a long time ago that has now emerged in Microsoft Edge. It’s yet another reason to try out this new browser.

The tab bar takes up a lot of room at the top (or bottom) of the screen. The new Edge browser addresses that and it’s perfect for those wide screens with all that wide space. Turn on vertical tabs. Instead of having your tabs across the top of the screen, put them on the left side of your display. That opens up just a little more usable room. Unless you’re a fan of staring at tabs that are open.

Most browsers have an extension to kind of do this but you end up having tabs at the top and on the side. That’s really not a solution for me. It lets you know that tabs are hard coded and can’t be played around with — unless you’re the developer.

Sometimes, it’s the little things … but if you start to accumulate little things, they turn into big things. And that can be a good thing.