Microsoft is seriously improving this love-or-hate Edge browser feature

Person using a Windows computer with Microsoft Edge
(Image credit: Microsoft)

Microsoft has announced that developers can now build extensions for the Edge browser’s sidebar.

For the uninitiated, the sidebar is a panel that pops up alongside the web page the user is currently browsing to offer various features or tools in a side-by-side fashion so they can be conveniently accessed.

To pick a few examples, those capabilities include the ability to use Outlook and compose an email, right there in the web browser, or avail yourself of other tools (such as a dictionary) - and of course, the Bing AI chatbot is right here too.

Windows Central spotted Microsoft’s blog post introducing the ability for devs to get their extensions in the sidebar, and this comes with some neat potential tricks for developers.

Devs will be able to implement their extension in the sidebar so that it appears across all websites and tabs in Edge, or alternatively, the extension can enable itself only with specific sites. Developers can also make it so that the sidebar seamlessly reverts to the default panel when you click on another tab and shift away from that specific site.

Analysis: A more personalized browsing experience

In short, these web extensions can operate as you’d normally expect within a browser, it’s just that they’ll be present in the side panel, with the ability to tailor them to only appear when visiting specific websites as mentioned.

As Microsoft tells developers: “Note that your sidebar page offers the same level of flexibility as other extension pages. You can load scripts, call APIs from your sidebar page and unleash the full potential of your creativity.”

There’s a considerable dollop of potential here, then, in offering a more personalized browsing experience overall.

Microsoft also reminds us about sidebar apps, and the company says it plans to help users discover and install these apps as they’re browsing the web. So Edge users will get extensions and apps flagged up to them when visiting websites that offer these perks.

All that said, the sidebar is not everyone’s beverage of choice, but it can be disabled in that case. We may also see the ability to detach the sidebar from Edge, eventually, and drop it on the desktop as a kind of second taskbar, if you’re a real fan of this feature.

Darren is a freelancer writing news and features for TechRadar (and occasionally T3) across a broad range of computing topics including CPUs, GPUs, various other hardware, VPNs, antivirus and more. He has written about tech for the best part of three decades, and writes books in his spare time (his debut novel - 'I Know What You Did Last Supper' - was published by Hachette UK in 2013).