Microsoft has added a new sidebar to its Edge browser with buttons that let you see information about a site, check your email, access Microsoft Office, and even strip the essential elements of a recipe out of an overly long post (via Windows Central). The new feature seems to build on the “Search in sidebar” function added to Edge in 2020, but it adds even more multitasking abilities.
The sidebar includes some small but useful panes, like the one that lets you search the web and quickly read articles, or the one that includes a variety of widgets, such as a calculator, dictionary, internet speed test, and unit convertor. Some of the panes are more fully featured; the Outlook one, for example, lets you read and send emails, as well as see your calendar (as long as you’re logged into your Microsoft account, of course).
Unfortunately, the Microsoft Office pane isn’t as useful. It does give you quick shortcuts to recent documents, as well as to apps like Word, PowerPoint, and Excel, but clicking on them just opens them in a new tab. While that could help some people work a tiny bit faster, I was personally hoping I’d 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.
Then there’s the “Discover” sidebar pane, which promises to add “contextually relevant info for any page.” From my testing, that can include information about a news site that ranks how reliable and accurate it is and shows info on what countries people visit it from. It also does its best to add context for specific articles on those sites, or for other things you’re reading, usually with information from Wikipedia (funnily enough, that’s sometimes the case even when you’re reading a Wikipedia article).
Perhaps one of the Discover pane’s most useful tricks, though, is when you’re on a recipe site, where the sidebar will automatically pull out the list of ingredients, potentially saving you from having to scroll through paragraphs about the writer’s favorite singer — though I will note that you may still have to do that if you want to read the actual instructions on what to do with those ingredients.
The sidebar itself is somewhat customizable. You can hide or show it using a keyboard shortcut (Control + Shift + / by default), and can choose which buttons you want to appear on it. Microsoft says it plans on adding “new features to the sidebar in the future,” but for now there’s enough there that it’s probably worth giving it a shot if you’re an Edge user.
If the sidebar doesn’t show up automatically, make sure you’re on the latest version of the browser, and then click the “···” menu in 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’s a “Show sidebar” toggle.