Microsoft’s all-new browser, codenamed Project Spartan, made its first public appearance this week in the number 10049 technical preview of the Windows 10 operating system.
The company describes Spartan as “a browser that is designed for the modern Web” built especially for people who grew up with the Internet have integrated it into their lives. As the heralded replacement for Internet Explorer, which was released back in 1995, Spartan was designed to be much faster than its 19-year-old predecessor.
All the features of Spartan, however, are still in an “early, incomplete state,” according to Microsoft.
Windows 10 is set to ship with both Spartan and IE11. IE is included in the package primarily for “legacy” Web sites. It will eventually fade away.
Spartan is also designed to work effectively on desktops, as well as smaller mobile devices.
Another major goal of Microsoft was to create a browser that would convince people they didn’t need to open up Google’s Chrome browser to obtain better Web performance.
As its name suggests, Spartan, is austere.
Among the marked improvements Spartan has over IE, according to Mark Hachman, senior editor of PCWorld.com, are its ability to provide lightweight browsing; support for plugs; the ability to mark up Web pages with digital ink; a new reading mode; and integration with Cortana (Microsoft’s personal assistant app).
Hachman describes Spartan as “sparse, no muss, no fuss” only there to “get the job done.” The top of the browser is just a monochromatic array of icons and text.
Although IE11’s benchmark scores were better than Spartan, Hachman, found Spartan’s performance “impressive.” IE11 starts in about 0.8 seconds, but Spartan is slightly slower at 1.5 seconds
David Cardinal, of ExtremeTech.com, found Spartan’s markup function very helpful especially when used on a tablet with an active stylus although he doubts if the feature will see much action in the real world.
He also favours the default interface which consists of a “multi-purpose address-and-search bar combined with glyphs for command commands.”
Cardinal said the feature delivers on an earlier Microsoft promise that the browser would feature the Wed content and not the browser user interface.
“This is particularly helpful in low-resolution screens- which makes sense since Sparta is designed to run on all Windows 10 devices,” he said.
Here’s a quick look at what to expect in the most recent Spartan build:
- Cortana is built-in: Cortana in Project Spartan is a personal assistant that helps make Web browsing easier for users. Cortana in Spartan will be available in the US versions of this build, and available more broadly later.
- Inking and sharing: New inking capabilities in Spartan enables users write or type directly on the page, comment on what’s interesting or clip what you want – then easily share this “Web Note” via mail, or a social network. Users can save your notes directly to OneNote.
- Distraction-free reading with Reading List and Reading View: Spartan’s new Reading List helps users collect content and has the ability to save any Web page or PDF for convenient access later, and an integrated, distraction-free Reading View.
- A new engine for the modern Web: Spartan’s new rendering engine is built around the idea that the Web “just works,” while being fast, more secure and more reliable.
All these features, however, are still in an “early, incomplete state,” according to Microsoft.