Microsoft rolled out its new Project Spartan web browser for the first time publicly today, offering members of the Windows Insider Program early access to the product designed to revitalize the company’s position in the browser market.
Features of the new browser include support for annotating web pages. Users can either write or type notes on the page, which they can then share with other people. It’s an interesting move by the company to essentially take its collaboration features from Office and bring them to the web.
In addition, Spartan users will be able to get help from Cortana, Microsoft’s virtual assistant, which also appears on the Windows 10 desktop. According to Microsoft, Cortana be waiting in the background until users want a piece of contextual information that the assistant can bring up. Since Cortana is powered in part by Bing, it’s no surprise that she has found a home in Microsoft’s web browser.
People who do a lot of reading on their computer may get some mileage out of Spartan’s Reading List feature, which is similar to systems like Instapaper and Pocket. The browser allows people to save web pages for later, and read them in a simplified view that blocks out distractions. It’s similar to a feature that Apple offers in Safari, with the same name.
Spartan also features a new rendering engine that’s supposed to better support the modern web, something that may draw the support of web developers who dislike Internet Explorer.
All of this comes on the heels of an announcement last week that the browser received contributions from Adobe to help with Spartan’s handling of images. All of this adds up to a browser that’s a break from Internet Explorer at a time when Microsoft is trying to woo both users and developers to its platform. IE is still expected to ship with Windows 10.
Like the other components of the Windows 10 Technical Preview, Project Spartan is still a piece of pre-release software, which means it’s not right for everyone, and there are likely plenty of bugs lurking in its code. People who need their computers to perform reliably day in and day out should probably stay away for the time being.