This is Microsoft's new browser Spartan

Martin Brinkmann
Mar 31, 2015
Updated • Apr 23, 2019
Internet Explorer

Microsoft pushed out a new build to all Windows 10 Technical Preview users which includes the first official snapshot of the company's new browser Spartan.

You may have read about Spartan before on various sites as leaks of the browser were circulating in the darker corners of the web.

Update: Project Spartan launched in the Windows 10 operating system, and it was renamed to Microsoft Edge. End

Project Spartan marks the beginning of something new as it is not just an iteration of Internet Explorer. In fact, Microsoft will ship Internet Explorer 11 with Windows 10 as well to provide legacy support as Spartan won't.

One of the most exciting new features of Spartan is extension support which Microsoft plans to ship the browser with. While it is not clear currently how that will look like -- some sites suggested that Microsoft would adopt Chrome's way of supporting extension to be compatible with the majority of extensions for the browser -- it is a feature to look forward to.

project spartan The Spartan version released with build 10049 of Windows 10 is bare bones currently. It is not really clear if that is by design or because lots of features are missing from it.

The current version can be best compared to many tablet or mobile browsers more than it can be compared to powerful browsers such as Mozilla Firefox or even Chrome when it comes to the functionality it provides.

If you check the settings for instance, you will notice that there are only a handful right now. While you can change the home page, enable or disable plugins, and modify a couple of other features such as cookie handling or reading mode settings, that's about it that you modify right now in Spartan.

spartan settings

The browser interface is minimalistic. There is no title bar or status bar anymore, and tabs are displayed at the top of the window next to the window controls.

The address bare displays back, forward and reload buttons on the left side of the address and a bunch of icons on the right. These icons include reading mode, bookmarking, an option to display the favorites and reading list, and the new web note feature which shines when you connect a pen to the system. It is possible however to use it with the mouse instead.

As far as web notes are concerned, you can highlight elements on web pages, add text to them, cut them or draw directly on the page. There is no undo feature right now it seems.

Notes can be saved directly or shared using the operating system's share options listing all program's supporting that.

When you open https websites you will notice that they are not highlighted except for an icon in the address bar that does not stick out at all.

Microsoft added Cortana to Spartan in this release. The personal assistant is limited to the US version currently though. According to the company Cortana "remains in the background but provides additional information when you need it".  There is no option to turn off Cortana in Spartan right now. If you don't want to use it there, you can only disable Cortana system-wide for now.

Spartan seems to do a bit better than Internet Explorer in benchmarks and support tests. You should not expect it to reach Chrome or Firefox levels just yet though.

One interesting observation is that it uses less memory than Internet Explorer. A quick test on the system revealed that it used just over 24 Megabytes on a system whereas Internet Explorer used on the same more than 104 Megabyte.

Closing Words

Project Spartan has been designed with simplicity and efficiency (in regards to memory usage) in mind. While Microsoft managed to deliver just that, it is almost certain that the browser won't appeal to the majority of tech-savvy users.

Core reasons for that are lack of control over features and lack of preferences and customization options in general. While this may change before the final release, it is unlikely that Spartan will match Chrome or Firefox in this regard.

For now, it looks like a solid mobile browser more than one for desktop systems. With that said, if you like simplicity and don't need customization options, then Spartan may be right for you.

This is Microsoft's new browser Spartan
Article Name
This is Microsoft's new browser Spartan
A first look at Project Spartan, a new web browser that Microsoft plans to ship with the upcoming Windows 10 operating system.
Ghacks Technology News

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  1. madridking said on April 1, 2015 at 11:00 pm

    Why do you make it sound like this is even near the final build? You may be moving to Linux, but no need for these low blows.

  2. Dave said on April 1, 2015 at 10:28 am

    I’m glad the buttons are in the right place. Back. Forward. Reload. :)

  3. ilev said on April 1, 2015 at 8:49 am

    Mark Wilson at betanew summed it well : fat, chunky, and devoid of style and features.

    So, users will have to hop from IE to Spartan and back every couple of minutes (just like they do in Windows 8 with Metro and desktop). I suppose both browsers don’t share/sync bookmarks, passwords, browsing history…

  4. Pd said on April 1, 2015 at 7:28 am
    1. DonGateley said on April 1, 2015 at 8:18 am

      To show respect you would have said, “Here is Ars analysis of Spartan.” The editorial comment was unnecessary and rude.

      1. Tim said on April 1, 2015 at 4:21 pm

        Indeed. I’ve gone through quite a lot of tech related websites over the years and Ghacks and Ars are still the two main ones I read regularly. I like them both in different ways, both are trustworthy and both have their plus points. So I for one wouldn’t want them to be the same and I certainly wouldn’t want to replace one with the other.

  5. Jazzal said on April 1, 2015 at 6:59 am

    Ugh, the usual batch of ‘me too’ Microsoft haters here commenting on something they clearly don’t know much about.

    How about waiting until it’s finished and giving it a fair chance before you make hasty judgements.

    1. Tim said on April 1, 2015 at 3:59 pm

      The whole point of releasing a preview is to gather feedback and market response. Are you suggesting that people should keep silent until it’s Released-to-Manufacturing, and then comment on it? Don’t you think it’ll be a bit too late then?

  6. XenoSilvano said on April 1, 2015 at 6:34 am

    I decided to do a Peacekeeper test on Futuremark, the first test I made was with Firefox 26.0.4 where it got a rounded score of 3000, I did another test with Firefox 37 and this time I got 2000, am I right in assuming that lower is better?

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on April 1, 2015 at 8:13 am

      Higher is better.

  7. Å ime Vidas said on April 1, 2015 at 6:03 am

    Could you post a screenshot of Spartan’s developer tools (press F12 to open)?

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on April 1, 2015 at 8:24 am
      1. kurtextrem said on April 1, 2015 at 8:26 am

        that looks like a prototype of the first dev tool version from webkit to be honest haha :D

  8. DonGateley said on March 31, 2015 at 10:42 pm

    How delightfully flat, featureless and boring it’s UI is.

    1. Earl said on April 1, 2015 at 1:57 am

      Welcome to the Windows 10 default UI. As I understand it, though, you’ll be able to “pretty it up” some with just a hint of Aero-like options (Aero-lite? :D ).

      1. DonGateley said on April 1, 2015 at 2:20 am

        The day will come when people tire of this and art will be reintroduced to the UI as novelty. As tiresome as it is that day should not be too far off. :-)

  9. Earl said on March 31, 2015 at 7:35 pm

    As far as appearance goes, it looks very much like the Firefox Developer Edition “theme” (with the TabsToolbar top margin set to zero), but Firefox has a slimmer nav-bar. And no browser has better extension support (for now–can’t say how signing will affect this) than Firefox. Firefox is the current “speed king” for performance, but with the typically fast hardware most users have nowadays, I don’t know how much that matters anymore. It may be less annoying than IE, but we’ll have to wait till the “final” release to really tell. Well, no hurry on that.

  10. Guest said on March 31, 2015 at 6:53 pm

    So I read this: ” some sites suggested that Microsoft would adopt Chrome’s way of supporting extension to be compatible with the majority of extensions for the browser — it is a feature to look forward to.”

    What I understand is that in order for a browser to use Chrome’s extension support, you need to use Chromium base, and Blink engine. Do we need another Chromium browser? Um, nope.

    Then I focused on “Chrome’s way of supporting extension” and “it is a feature to look forward to” – yeah so basically I’m reading (probably out of context, but only slightly so) that Chrome’s way of supporting extensions is good. Well sorry, it’s not. If you want good extension support, look at Firefox. Firefox has some extensions that Chrome has never been able to duplicate, though this is possibly due to Chrome’s build limitations.

    No, if Microsoft is developing a new browser, I hope it uses a brand new engine, brand new base (aka, don’t fork Chromium) and does it from scratch to avoid copying too much legacy stuff from IE.

  11. pd said on March 31, 2015 at 4:55 pm

    Please please please can we get some perspective here!? Ok there’s a new ‘flat’ skin/theme/UI that doesn’t look awful but otherwise it’s just a rebranding exercise. Yes this might mean much less to a web developer such as myself than it does to non-IT people. They may get sucked into thinking this really is a “new engine” and new piece of software but come on, this blog doesn’t seem to be aimed squarely at non-IT users. Articles on this blog usually have a level of objectivity and realism behind the IT industry’s fanfare. Ok it’s a good thing that MS is trying to split the “Edge” rendering mode from other modes. But that’s all it is, a mode, not a new piece of software. All current browsers have a variety of rendering modes or at least a series of criteria that determines how they work. Do we really think that adjusting that criteria is a fundamental change? If anything there’s more potential for a splintered web through these changes. I’d like to think that those still relying on the ancient IE6-era ActiveX and proprietary MS markup and functions will get the message that IE is going the way of the dodo. That these ignorant managers might finally feel embarrassed their software might not work in Spartan. So much so that they finally invest in modernizing these apps to use modern open web standards. But there’s no guarantee of that. Has anyone even loaded any of these ancient sites in Spartan and *proven* that ActiveX and/or IE6-era proprietary features are actually disallowed? I wouldn’t be surprised if MS caves and allows the same old legacy modes in Spartan. It would be a brave and commendable move for MS to allow badly written software to be unusable when loaded by Spartan. They would likely have to put in a message saying something like “this site is written for IE, please [load it in IE] because only modern sites function well in Spartan”. I’d love to see that, but I’m not sure MS has the fortitude to force users into that sub optimal usability scenario.

  12. Tim said on March 31, 2015 at 4:18 pm

    Other than having the tabs at the top, I prefer Internet Explorer 11. IE 11 has proper text menus. Also where’s the ability to have Search Providers? Where’s the built-in RSS reader?

  13. Boris said on March 31, 2015 at 4:14 pm

    As long as they support Adblock, it will become my second browser. I was looking for second browser for a while.

    1. Jeff said on March 31, 2015 at 7:50 pm

      Keep an eye on Vivaldi, I expect it will blow Spartan out of the water.

    2. Tim said on March 31, 2015 at 4:19 pm

      Internet Explorer had Tracking Protection Lists built-in. Where is it in Spartan?

      1. Boris said on March 31, 2015 at 5:21 pm

        Since Spartan is supposed to use extensions, some build-in functions are not needed.

  14. Dwight Stegall said on March 31, 2015 at 3:05 pm

    They haven’t learned anything. Still using that awful Favorites panel instead of a bookmarks manager. :(

  15. clas said on March 31, 2015 at 2:25 pm

    here they go again with more minimalistic type browsers. i like my older ff with bold type and larger fonts up top. so easy to see and nothing is really in the way….ah, tabs on bottom of course.

  16. Mike said on March 31, 2015 at 2:16 pm

    It is missing a home button.

    1. rtris said on May 1, 2015 at 2:31 am

      The home button being obsolete is your opinion, not a software or technological fact.

    2. Tim said on April 1, 2015 at 3:52 pm

      Me too, except I use my own home-made local webpage as the default home page, which has links on it to all my most used websites and also a search box. Unless Microsoft introduce a SpeedDial type home page, getting rid of the home page will be a right pain.

    3. Madis said on March 31, 2015 at 2:56 pm

      It is missing pinned tabs, home button has been obsolete for a long time.

      1. Bobby Phoenix said on March 31, 2015 at 4:48 pm

        I disagree. The home button is the most used button on my browser. I have a speed dial set has my home page, and all my sites are there. I like to browse using one tab, and when I’m done a site, I click the home button, and go to the next site I want to visit.

  17. Orson said on March 31, 2015 at 2:06 pm

    You don’t really understand about software architecture. Just because the process for Spartan shows 24 MB doesn’t mean it’s more efficient that IE. IE is native code. C++/COM. Uses Direct2D and GDI. Ultra fast. That Spartan UI is XAML and is running on top of WinRT and EdgeHTML. Task Manager won’t show the far slower runtime as a separate process but believe me it’s nowhere near as fast as native code nor memory efficient. Ever seen how much RAM .NET Framework apps take compared to native ones?

    1. Jan said on March 31, 2015 at 9:18 pm

      May you explain more about that ?
      I don’t know much on that topic, but that looks interesting.

      1. anon said on April 1, 2015 at 12:39 pm

        Basically the new browser is running on top of lot of things. It’s like the topmost bread on a double burger, while the old IE is the meat.

    2. kurtextrem said on March 31, 2015 at 3:56 pm

      Wow, that’s great to know. Thank you.

  18. alexi said on March 31, 2015 at 1:52 pm

    Personally I think a browser’s strength depends on add-ons and its a major weakness for Microsoft browsers.

    1. ari torres said on April 2, 2015 at 7:19 pm

      amen. I second that, lack of add-ons or plugins will kill your browser, just installed windows 10049 to check out Spartan and while I can attest that it is fast I can also add that it’s too commercial :( that’s why I use Firefox all the way to the bank :)

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