Gather Research in a Structured Format with Microsoft Edge Collections
During the conference keynote at Build earlier this year, Microsoft talked about a feature coming to its new Chromium-based Edge browser called Collections. It’s been a bit of a wait but a few weeks ago the feature debuted in the Canary channel. And last week, Microsoft updated the Dev channel with Collections. While still in an early preview form, the functionality we have right now seems to work reliably if you want to try it out for yourself.
What is Collections?
Much like Pocket and Pinterest, Collections is a tool for gathering and collating information on a topic. But it is more than a simple reading list. This is what Microsoft says about Collections:
We’ve heard a consistent problem from our customers in user studies, interviews, and feedback: The web can be overwhelming. It’s easy to lose track of where you are, and too difficult to turn the chaos of your tabs and windows into actionable information.
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We designed Collections based on what you do on the web. It’s a general-purpose tool that adapts to the many roles that you all fill. If you’re a shopper, it will help you collect and compare items. If you’re an event or trip organizer, Collections will help pull together all your trip or event information as well as ideas to make your event or trip a success. If you’re a teacher or student, it will help you organize your web research and create your lesson plans or reports. Whatever your role, Collections can help.
In short, you can add webpages or parts of webpages to a Collection. Not only that, you can reorder information and add your own notes wherever you like. As it stands at the time of writing this piece, you can export a Collection to Excel and Word, with Edge preserving the order of items. Microsoft says that you can collate ‘a loose collection of paragraphs into a handout with citations, or turn a shopping list into a spreadsheet sortable by price.’
Webpages can be added to a Collection by simply clicking + Add current page on the Collections pane, or you can drag and drop elements, like text and pictures, from a webpage onto the Collections pane.
How to Enable Microsoft Edge Collections
Collections is not enabled by default in current Dev and Canary builds of Edge. To turn Collections on, you need to enable a flag. That’s easy to do. Just paste edge://flags#edge-collections into the browser address bar and then set the highlighted Experimental Collections feature flag to Enabled using the dropdown menu.
Once you’ve enabled Collections in Edge, you should see a new button near to the address bar. Clicking it opens the Collections pane. From here, you can access existing Collections or start new Collections.
Adding Content to Collections
Simply drag and drop selected text or images to your Collection. Content will be added where you drop it. If you want to add a whole webpage, just click + Add current page in the Collections pane. Adding notes is as simple as place the mouse pointer between items in the Collection and you just start typing. There are also basic formatting options like bold, italic, underline, and paragraph headings. You can reorder items by dragging and dropping them in the Collections pane.
As it stands, the export options are limited to Word and Excel. When you choose to export a Collection, the exported document opens in Word or Excel Online.
More Export Options, Synchronization, and Support for Android and iOS
In its current form, Collections is an interesting feature that holds promise. While the version of Edge that currently ships in Windows 10 supports the creation of OneNote web notes, where you can annotate webpages and send them to OneNote, it is not clear whether that feature will make it to Chromium-based Edge. So, the new Edge could do with a tool to help people gather and organize information and I think that Collections would reach a wider audience than annotated web notes.
There are some features missing from Collections that are key to it being widely adopted. There needs to be more export options, like the ability to export to email, OneNote, and To-Do. Microsoft is going to add export to email. SetAside Tabs is missing in Chromium-based Edge but apparently Microsoft is planning to add this feature. If integrated with Collections, you could add all open tabs to a Collection without needing to manually add individual pages.
Finally, Edge on non-Windows platforms must also support Collections with synchronization. If Collections are captive on a device and can’t be synced to other devices and platforms, it’s dead on arrival. The good news is that sync is apparently on the to-do list.