Project Spartan – The Infamous Son of Sparta

Spartans were the machismo of ancient Greece. Their preemptive military prowess made them the overall leader of Greek forces in the Greco-Persian Wars that forged demi-gods off mortal men.

This is what we expect Microsoft’s replacement for Internet Explorer, Project Spartan, to be. A juggernaut that redefines browsers as we know them. After a couple of days on Project Spartan’s Microsoft Edge (that’s the name they’ve given it), I am afraid that it is not much of a Spartan – unless the Spartans were overrated.

The design

If you don’t like the entire metro look and feel, you might have to stick with your Google Chrome or Firefox. Microsoft sticks to the metro/modern style with minimal icons and little or no borders. Despite this, the interface is still all over the place. Spartan’s default toolbar, for instance, will eat up more space than that of Internet Explorer 11.

This persists everywhere; drop-down menus have huge white spaces in-between. This padding translates to bigger menus than in other browsers meaning that web designers will still have to specify paddings for Spartan to keep things harmonious and tidy. This is not quite different from what Internet Explorer did.

Settings are weaker

The settings menu is surprisingly weaker. This could be an effort to implement the minimalistic approach or just the shortcomings of the beta version. A couple of things you cannot toy with include Geo-location (I don’t know why people are so obsessed with my location nowadays), security features and the auto-complete options.

In browser highlights

Microsoft’s idea to let me doodle and copy or highlight sections of what I am reading is pure genius. Though not a unique idea (there is a handful of Google Chrome and Firefox plugins that let you do this), Microsoft can boast of being the first browser to offer this natively.

Does it work?

It does, to some extent. A simple click on a button will bring up the highlight interface. Your tools of choice will be a small marker, a big highlight tool and text boxes. These work perfectly. The cut and erase feature seems to only work when you talk to it nicely. Up to now, am yet to learn its definition of ‘nicely.’ I’d say sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. The current build won’t save your notes to OneNote but you can save them locally for future use.

Cortana could be a shy one

When I first heard of Cortana, I fell in love with her. A couple of preview builds down the line, am beginning to believe that she is the shy or hard-to-get type. She will only appear in a couple of selected results. Activating her through Windows search doesn’t guarantee her presence in Spartan.

Right clicking on words and asking her what they might mean will prompt her to say something. Her intellect, however, is wanting. A simple transposition of letter in a word will throw her offbeat resulting into zero search results. If she decides to merge with Spartan, her results are in a sidebar that consumes a greater portion of the browser’s right-hand side regardless of how short the results are. What do you know? Perhaps she loves her space.

Reading mode

The reading mode strips your web pages of irrelevant content like sidebars, menus and a clatter of images giving you the article you are reading and its most relevant images. This simple and effective feature actually works. If you read a lot, you will find this quite handy.

Performance

Spartan uses a new browser engine, Edge. This is why some people would call the new browser Edge. This engine is an improvement of Internet Explorer’s Trident. The improvements aim at complying with modern day web standards performance. It’s effectiveness will grow over time, definitely, but for the time being, its rendering capabilities, speed and 3D prowess is barely at par with what leaders like Chrome and Firefox have on offer.

Bottom line

The entire design and powers of Spartan is fueled by the touch screen revolution and the universal app development. The design would be a darling to touchscreen, preferably tablet, users. It is however is, and will be a nightmare to desktop users. This could be a rerun of what made Windows 8.* so infamous.

Sometimes, in Sparta, unexpected wars forced young boys to don armour, wield their grandfather’s spear or sword and defend a legacy. Their youth would be no excuse for any shortcomings on the battlefield.

In my opinion, Microsoft’s Project Spartan doesn’t live this. The browser is promising but half-baked. Either they chose too ambitious a name or we just aren’t on the same page when it comes to Spartan values.

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