When Windows 10 came out I found out I had a pretty healthy dislike for the Edge browser that came with it. My dislike turned into public mocking and shaming. I was a Chrome man, like my father before me, and Edge had no chance of supplanting it as my browser of choice. No one liked Edge, probably not even Edge’s mother, and we all got a good chuckle at its expense.
And then Edge didn’t suck anymore.
In December of 2018 Microsoft announced that it was going to move to the Chromium engine for Edge. I remembered being pretty “Meh” about the announcement. It was confirmation of what I had always said, Edge was a stinker, and I was already using Chrome which was built on top of the Chromium engine, obviously, so what on Earth could Edge possibly offer me? I was about to find out.
Last year at Ignite Marc was telling me how he was using the Chromium Edge (henceforth affectionately referred to as ChrEdge) and he liked it. I asked him what was so great about it, besides it not being the crappy Edge. He slow played it and said “nothing much,” but that he enjoyed it. I kept my eye on it though. Considering how much work I do with Microsoft web technologies I had to. Plus I really like making fun of stuff, and if the first Edge was any indication, this Edge was going to find itself in my crosshairs too.
Then it grew on me.
The first thing I really liked about ChrEdge was not only did it have the profiles that I used constantly in Chrome, it allowed me to set up the Sync for those profiles with Microsoft accounts. That made my ears perk up. Most of my work is with Microsoft accounts and this made things a lot easier. I started using ChrEdge more and more each day.
And then it did the undoable, it made me hate Microsoft Teams less!
If there’s one new Microsoft technology I would complain about more than legacy Edge, it was Teams. I don’t want to get into all of my grievances here (it’s a long, long list, and this is a family friendly site) but I will highlight two of them. The Windows Desktop client is excruciatingly slow to switch tenants or identities, and in some cases it will disconnect you from a meeting if you do. Not cool, Teams, not cool. The other thing I hated was if you wanted to do two things at once it was difficult to navigate the interface to do that. For instance two chats, or heaven forbid, a chat and a meeting. And like I mentioned before, if those things were in two different tenants you had to wait for the context switching and your call would get hung up if you were on one. Teams wouldn’t come right out and kick you in the shin when you did it, but I’m sure that’s on the Teams roadmap somewhere.
One day, after a full complement of coffee, I’m sure, I got the bright idea to make the Teams experience suck just a little bit less by opening up the web client. I pointed ChrEdge at https://teams.microsoft.com/ and was able to experience the bliss that is being in a video call with Person A while chatting with Person B. I wasn’t saying anything about about Person A to Person B, I swear.
While I was poking around in ChrEdge I saw this new menu option I had never seen before, Apps. What is this? Chrome doesn’t have this! I clicked it and saw the option, “Install this site as an app!”
I’m the curious sort, I clicked it. Some whirring happened and the next thing I know there’s a new icon in my Taskbar.
The outlined icon, on the left, is the app that ChrEdge installed. The icon next to it is the regular Windows Teams Desktop client. You can see this web app looks like the real app, not like ChrEdge in the Taskbar. The icon is cool and all, but how does the app itself compare? Here’s a side by side comparison.
The ChrEdge web app for Teams is pretty good. In Red I highlighted a couple of the differences between the two. In the lower left the web app has a link to download the full app. Obviously the full app doesn’t have that. The web app also has an extra title bar across the top, which honestly is usually the only way I can tell them apart during the day when I’m flittering about between them. That title bar has a three dot drop down menu that offers some browser specific goodies like printing, zooming, casting, and uinstalling. Nothing obvious is missing from the web app. In Green I highlighted a couple of pleasant similarities. In the upper right of the web app you can see that we can switch tenants just like the full app. This is handy if you are on a call in the full app and want to reply to an IM in another tenant. I also use this to maximize the video in a video call on one screen then have the chat window for that same video call in the web app on another screen. Finally, I was happy to see that the web client can also do audio and video calls just like the full app. Color me impressed Teams and ChrEdge, color me impressed. <slow clap>
Fresh off of this victorious life hack I started looking for that little “Apps” menu option in other Microsoft web apps. I found it in Outlook, OneNote, and OneDrive, among others. It popped up enough that I knew this wasn’t just a Teams or Office thing. Turns out it’s a web standard called Progressive Web Apps, PWAs. Many companies are taking part in this, not just Microsoft. Microsoft does, though, offer some guidance on making PWAs for Windows.
Since PWAs aren’t simply a Microsoft concoction you can find them all over the Internet. Wikipedia, Disney+, Amazon, and Slack among others have the option of installing a web based PWA.
You may be asking yourself why you’d want a PWA version of something that has a legit app. There are a few reasons. For one, you may be on a platform that doesn’t support the regular app, like a Chromebook or a machine running Windows S mode, like my Surface Go. Or, you just might not want to sully your machine with a big bulky download. Regardless of the reason, they’re worth a look. If you’re on Windows you can find the installed PWAs listed in the “Apps & Features” or at edge://apps in ChrEdge.
I indulged myself in a bit of a PWA sidetrack there. Thanks for sticking around. Long story short, the PWA version of Microsoft Teams in ChrEdge, was a game changer. It made me more productive and lowered my blood pressure by a considerable amount.