Which Web Browser Has the Edge?

I was intrigued when Microsoft announced that a brand new browser would be available with Windows 10, as I have extensively used all of the major browsers on Windows for years and none address my (apparently) stringent requirements.

I work in a fast-paced environment with frequent disruptions and constant deadlines. As a product manager in the tech industry, I perform a wide range of functions that demand enterprise-strength applications. Many applications are desktop-based; however, many have moved to the web over the years or involve the web in some manner.

While TCP/IP, HTML, and related standards have enabled browser makers to mostly deliver on the promise of the agnostic application platform, as well as work toward a platform for a consistent user experience, there’s still no one-size-fits-all browser.

Having worked with a wide array of web-based business applications, I’ve experienced applications that require specific browsers and versions from Internet Explorer (IE) version 6 and later versions of IE and various versions of Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox. None yet have required Apple Safari.

As the browser makers continue to address incompatibilities in their browsers, they’ve also attempted to address other lingering issues in how favorites/bookmarks are managed as well as a method for recovering multiple tabs that users have open and running on their desktops when the browser crashes or the machine locks and has to be rebooted (thus bringing down the browser with it).

The end-user experience in regards to these features and related use cases is the focus of this blog.

In the “old days” if you had 5 tabs open in a browser and then the browser crashed, the browser would not provide a method for recovering the lost tabs. The next time you’d launch the browser after a crash (or perhaps computer reboot), you’d be back to square one – with no simple way to get back to your 5 web pages.

Google addressed this issue in Chrome a few versions back. If you were to close the Google browser today with multiple tabs open, the next time you started the browser, you’d have the option of having it load the recently closed pages in tabs.

The “Continue where you left off” option allows you to close several browser tabs and then restart the browser and have all of these tab pages reload.

If you don’t see the previously opened tabs, then you simply go to Chrome’s Settings\Recent Tabs to recover your prior browser session.

If this doesn’t do what you need it to, you can use the Chrome History feature in Settings and crawl through a history of visited sites to recover your recent links. A little cumbersome, but works well in a pinch.

Google Chrome provides the option to open a set of tabs that have been recently closed.
Google Chrome provides the option to open a set of tabs that have been recently closed.

So why not just use the Bookmarks or Favorites feature available in every browser to save a page or a group of websites?

First, browser crashes happen randomly and the user often haven’t made a decision whether to save open pages as bookmarks before a crash happens.

Also, I’ve personally never been a fan of bookmarks because, in most cases, I don’t need to permanently save a link; I just want to save it long enough to read the content and then decide whether to save it or not. Sometimes I need to save a page as a bookmark – like the link to my company’s web-based expense reporting app, as any process of monetary reimbursement is important!

I did stumble upon a clever application called Pocket that takes a unique approach to addressing part of this problem. Pocket saves all of your web page articles to a portal page on the Internet, so you can create a “for later” reading list and backup your open pages at the same time. However, you have to remember to go back and check Pocket on occasion to review your unread pages. If you’re like me, you’ll soon find your Pocket page full with an overwhelming reading list. Notably, Firefox does come with Pocket as a standard feature, as opposed to a browser add-on or separate app.

Firefox has an option called “Show my windows and tabs from last time” that functions similar to options in Chrome and Edge. When I open a set of pages, close Firefox, and then reopen Firefox, these pages have been remembered and Firefox reconnects to all of them. Good show.

Firefox can load a set of tabs from a previous browsing session.

And Firefox’s Group Tabs feature almost looks like it could be the feature that would address my use case requirements, but it’s not intuitive so I can’t really make a determination without investing more time.

Microsoft’s new browser, Edge, has features to address some of the use cases described here. You can configure Edge at startup to open a set of previous pages OR a specific set of pages. This is effectively the same as the options we observed in Chrome noted earlier. But I want both of these capabilities at the same time.

That is, I want to shut down a set of pages and have Edge reload them next time I start Edge AND I want another set of pages that I always use to start at the same time.

What am I asking for, then, from my “dream” browser? It’s simple:

  • If I close a multiple-tab browser session on purpose or by accident (or by crash), I want the option to reload that set of pages next time I start the browser.
  • I also want to have the option to load a set of pre-defined pages unrelated to the multiple tabs session I had open.
  • I want both of these capabilities at the same time.

One way to address this would be to implement a feature that provided the ability to save browser sessions as themes. For example, I’d have a “Company Intranet” theme with tabs/pages to the sales portal, the development project portal, and the HR benefits page, I’d have a “Personal” theme with tabs to personal sites that I use on a regular basis, and perhaps a “Social Media” theme with Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and WordPress sessions.

With Edge, you can choose to start a set of previous pages OR a default set of pages.
With Edge, you can choose to start a set of previous pages OR a default set of pages.

None of the major browser makers provide this full functionality – or at least in a way that meet my specific (but reasonable) requirements. So today I’m using (or having to use!) all four to maximize my productivity.

A properly implemented themes capability could motivate me to settle on a single browser and not employ all major browsers to do my web work. Browser makers, can you feel me? [If so, feel free to contact me via Twitter!]