Office Insiders in the beta channel has a new feature to explore as Microsoft rolls out Microsoft Edge build 104.0.1293.63. The main highlight of the update comes in the form of a new in-browser sidebar, which should allow you to access various Microsoft products without leaving Edge or opening a new window. It’s being released gradually, so it’s worth noting that some insiders might not get it yet, but many testers are now reporting the feature’s arrival.
We’ve experienced the feature on Edge Canary before, where the experience is almost the same. On a Reddit post shared by a user named u/TheSiZaReddit four months ago we saw the feature work by consuming the good part of the Edge when you click on one of the sidebar icons (like what happens when you summon Chrome Side Panel Feature). As Microsoft describes the new feature, it works “side by side” with the browser window already launched, allowing you to easily multitask.
In the update that started shipping on August 19, we see the Edge sidebar with Discover, Bing search, Outlook, Office, Games, and Tools. Discover is a handy feature to find more relevant information about the topic on the page you are already browsing (e.g. summaries, source information, etc.), while Bing Search will work as expected. Meanwhile, professionals who rely primarily on Microsoft products will find Office and Outlook added to the sidebar. By clicking on their respective icons, Outlook Mail and Calendar can be launched, as well as various Microsoft Office documents and applications, such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneDrive, etc. It’s important to note, however, that Edge users with access to the new sidebar must be signed into their Microsoft accounts for a seamless experience of said Office apps.
On the other hand, unlike other applications included in the sidebar that opens in the Edge window, the games will be launched separately, which makes sense to avoid spoiling the gaming experience. The Tools icon, as for it gives you access to Edge’s built-in calculator, internet speed test, and unit converter.
Although the feature sounds amazing, note that Microsoft is not the first to introduce it. We already have it on Opera and Vivaldi, although the shortcuts and functions they offer are far from what we see in this Microsoft sidebar. And as someone who also explores opera, I can say there is a big difference. For example, on Opera, social media and messaging apps (which are an integral part of our daily lives) are given a high profile by integrating them directly into the sidebar shortcut settings. Vivaldi, on the other hand, lets you open internal browser pages like downloads and history and even external pages like mail. However, in this new Edge update, Microsoft is kind of pushing us to do everything in its own environment. Although it is rational for it to promote its own products, Microsoft is probably missing the fact that what users are looking for is a versatile browser. Edge’s little fix for this is its ability to add websites to the sidebar, though this might be handier if its settings already have the most popular app and website icons you can enable and deactivate at any time.
That said, some might find the sidebar insane since you can’t fully customize it, unlike Opera’s or Vivaldi’s sidebar. The bar itself may even be nothing but an eyesore, especially if you don’t use any of its tools and apps frequently. Fortunately, it can be disabled by going to browser settings (three dots icon at the top right of the window and below the close button) and selecting “Hide sidebar”.