What's in the latest Edge update? Rollbacks and new browser telemetry policies
- 19 October, 2020 18:23
Microsoft earlier this month released Edge 86, adding a 'rollback' function that will let IT admins restore an earlier version of the browser and enhancing the built-in PDF viewer with support for document tables of content.
Redmond also patched at least 19 security vulnerabilities, the most serious marked as 'High', the second level, below 'Critical', in a four-step ranking system. Google's Chrome, which like Edge is built on the open-source Chromium project's code, included fixes for 35 flaws, 27 of which were enumerated when it was released 6 October.
Although Edge will update automatically in the background, to force an upgrade, select 'About Microsoft Edge' from the Help and Feedback menu under the ellipsis at the upper right; the resulting tab shows that the browser has been updated or displays the download process before presenting a 'Restart' button.
People new to Edge can manually download version 86 for Windows or macOS. The Android and iOS browsers can be found in the Google Play and App Store e-marts, respectively.
Microsoft updates Edge about every six weeks, typically a day or two after Google refreshes Chrome to the same version number. The previous Edge upgrade was released 27 August.
Rollin', rollin', rollin' (back)
Like Chrome, Edge now lets users — predominantly via IT — to downgrade to an earlier version through a rollback.
Chrome first allowed this earlier in the year (as of Chrome 84); Edge 86 supports rollback, although there's nothing for it to roll back to. "Stable version 86.0.622.38 is the first version you can roll back to, which means that Stable version 87 is the first version ready to roll back from," Microsoft clarified.
To assist in rollbacks, Edge, like Chrome, retains one or more "snapshots" of User Data, also called the user's profile, that contains information including browser history, saved bookmarks and stored cookies. In Edge 86 and later, administrators can call the UserDataSnapshotRetentionLimit Windows group policy to set the number of snapshots.
More information about Edge rollbacks can be found here.
PDF viewer, download deletes and telemetry settings
Edge 86 also got a beefed up PDF viewer; Microsoft added support for documents' tables of content.
Chrome and Edge have mixed it up over PDF viewers lately. Google, for example, has been working on a new user interface for its viewer and plans to debut the UI in version 87, currently slated for release on 17 November.
That UI will sport a toolbar, table of contents support and a two-page view. Edge already has all those elements, except for the two-page mode. Microsoft plans to add a two-page view but has not yet set a timetable for the feature.
In another addition, Edge 86 users can delete downloaded files from Edge's Download folder by choosing 'Delete file' after right-clicking the file from the browser's Download page. Chrome lacks comparable functionality.
And Microsoft also deprecated a pair of group policies — MetricsReportingEnabled and SendSiteInformationToImproveServices — in Edge 86 (and figures to make them obsolete entirely in Edge 89). Those policies have been used to turn Edge's diagnostic reporting on or off in Windows and macOS.
Like Windows 10, Edge collects a range of information, which in Microsoft's words, is "necessary to keep the product up to date, secure, and performing as expected," a phrase it uses over and over in describing the data harvesting. Edge then transmits this data to Microsoft.
MetricsReportingEnabled gathers crash data and configuration information about Edge, including the application's version. Meanwhile, SendSiteInformationToImproveServices harvests information about which websites Edge has visited.
A new group policy has been introduced to replace these on non-Windows 10 devices. The policy, DiagnosticData, can be set to off, so no data is collected, or to gather basic information only, or basic plus optional data. On Windows 10 PCs, admins use the the operating system's own diagnostic data settings to manage Edge.
Future watch: Focus on favourites
Microsoft occasionally also touts features for upcoming versions of Edge.
Last week, Microsoft spelled out how managing bookmarks — Edge dubs them 'favourites', as did Internet Explorer before it — will change in version 87, the upgrade due to release in November. "Your favourites are now displayed in a classic tree view, and you can edit, organise, and even search your favourites in-line without having to go to the full page," William Devereux, a senior program manager on the browser team, said in a post to a company blog.
That bookmark tree can be "pinned," Devereux said, as a sidebar to Edge so it's always visible. Other management chores can be accomplished while the favourites menu or sidebar is open, including deleting and renaming bookmarks, or creating or moving folders.
Computerworld found the new favourites manager as Devereux advertised in the Dev build of Edge 87. Although there's no guarantee it will appear in the Stable version next month — it has to first make it into the Beta build -— the implication was that it was scheduled for November.
Microsoft will release Edge 87 around 19 November.