It’s been a while since I looked at browser extensions. In the past, I’ve been frustrated by the lack of quality and choice. That meant I had little motivation to check the Microsoft store for new or improved extensions. Recently I took another look and found Microsoft’s Editor extension available for Edge. It’s also available for Chrome users.
Available for Edge and Chrome – sorry Firefox.
Microsoft Editor for browsers
If you use Microsoft 365 (formerly called Office 365), you may be familiar with Editor. For the past month or so, I’ve been using it in Word. It’s handy at catching the usual spelling and grammar suspects. I don’t rely upon it heavily because the grammar rules used are too rigid for a casual conversational style website. But overall, it’s a sound addon for Word. Before installing the editor, make sure you have a Microsoft account, or it won’t work. If you want anything beyond barebones features, you’ll also need a Microsoft 365 subscription. A Microsoft account is free but 365 isn’t. One positive aspect of Microsoft Editor is the simplicity of accessing the checker. Red, as expected, signifies typos and blue, grammar issues. No right click is needed. Left click on the underlined word or phrase and suggestions will be offered. I’m not sure why right clicking irritates me when I’m working on a document, but it’s one of those irrational bits of my mind.
Pretty helpful now that it works.
The good news is Microsoft Editor supports an extensive list of languages, not just English. You can check out the list here – Microsoft Store.
Fatal flaws in Microsoft Editor?
I’m not sure what happened when I installed the software, but it was … quirky. Very quirky. I have a 365 account so there shouldn’t have been any issues, but there were. So many issues. They ranged from insisting I speak a different language to non-functionality of most features. When I first tried to use Editor, I almost removed it because of the frustration I felt.
Basic issues with grammar checkers
I dutifully setup the correct language, English (Canada) and tried to use the extension on this article when it was in the initial stages. Basic spell check worked fine, but it didn’t catch any capitalization at the beginning of a sentence. It still ignores the issue. When writing, I tend to type very quickly and often miss upper-case letters at the start of a sentence. Having it flagged makes editing faster. I’ve gone through the meager settings and there is no option to correct this oversite. It’s excellent at catching extra spaces within a sentence and missing commas, not so good at proper nouns and sentence structure.
Another flaw is its failure to be consistent when flagging double spacing between sentences. I learned to type on a manual typewriter. That meant I was taught to add 2 spaces after the period. This has gone the way of the dodo, and one space is all that is required. My brain still inserts double spacing when I’m typing rapidly. MS Editor would flag some but miss the majority.
One other irritant was the pop-up screen offering suggestions. If you’re working on a web address that has been flagged as a typo, you can’t copy/cut the line until you click “ignore”. Not a big issue but was a little aggravating until I figured out what was going on.
Grammar checker is okay, but it works best if you already have a solid grasp on how to construct sentences. It’s helpful, but if you aren’t aware of the pitfalls of conversational vs formal grammar, you may end up with a stilted article. Microsoft Editor is better than the old grammar checker from the early days of word processing which was comical on many levels.
But I don’t speak Welsh
Initially, I experienced a lot of issues with the extension. At first, I couldn’t figure out why everything was underlined. And what Sillafu and wibies were?
But, why Welsh?
Another question was why synonyms weren’t available. Then a light flashed in my brain. I have a cousin who lives in Wales and thought the Sillafu looked vaguely familiar. Language was still set to English, but the spell checker was stuck on Welsh. No, I don’t have a clue as to why this happened. It is funny, after the fact. To solve this, I used the tried and true trouble shooting technique of “turning it off and on again”. I turned off the extension, closed the browser and then started over. Suddenly, Microsoft Editor was using the correct language.
The issue that hacked me off the most
Spell check worked, except for the previously mentioned issue with capitals at the beginning of a sentence. The real issue was, and remains, with the synonym finder. At one point, synonyms began to work but they were in Welsh. Another reboot of the browser and extension sorted that out. Alternate words were now being offered, but only if there was a spelling mistake to correct. Typos allowed me to see different words or phrases. I could correct the initial spelling error, but the synonym was not clickable. I was faced with manually typing in the suggestions. At this point, my frustration became too much, and I put the article away and ignored the extension. When I returned to it 24 hours later, all the issues were gone. Microsoft Editor seemed to work.
A flaw in Microsoft Editor
Editor is handy to have on the browser, but I doubt I’ll rely on it for anything more than catching the most grievous errors. A bigger issue is embedded in the design. Microsoft will flag words or phrases it thinks should be looked at and offer suggestions. But there is no way for the writer to manually trigger off synonym suggestions. It won’t spot multiple uses of a phrase or word nor will it allow writers to change them on the fly, unless flagged by the extension itself. This is significant. There is no sense in having a synonym checker if it depends solely on a piece of code to offer suggestions. Flawed, but useful is my thinking. I’ll keep it installed for quick checks and rely upon my own judgement. There’s always Roget’s Thesaurus and Oxford Concise sitting nearby for a quick consult.
Where to find Microsoft Editor
Microsoft Store here Chrome store here Firefox is not compatible, but you can always use the Grammarly extension.
I was poking the Microsoft store with a stick again to see what would fall out and look what tumbled out: Enhancer makes a number of changes in the way YouTube behaves, including volume control with a quick flick of the mouse wheel. It does other stuff too, but the ability to scroll the volume is exciting. Yea, yea, I really need to get out more, but seriously, it’s great. Enhancer, by MRFDEV Web Development, offers a number of options, including blocking ads, disable auto play, set automatic screen size, and much more. It’s worth a trip to the store to check out, especially if you watch a lot of YouTube. I personally like the option to preset the video to start on a specific screen size and quality and disable auto play.
The only teeny thing I have to complain about is accessing the controls. They are placed at the very bottom of the page (very unobtrusive) and occasionally a bit tricky to click. I have a couple customers who have control issues and wouldn’t be able to tap that tiny control panel without a major hassle. It would be nice if the pop up was a little larger.
To download it for Edge browser, fire up the Store app and search for Enhancer. It also comes in Chrome, Firefox and Opera flavours so you get to choose which browser you prefer.
Last time I looked at Microsoft Store’s extension offerings, it was a forlorn and desolate place. Not a lot available, much to my ever loving annoyance. I like playing around with extensions, even silly useless ones. Today I decided to see if there’s been an increase and what do you know, the offerings have grown to 42! Still not a lot of choice, but a marked improvement since Christmas.
I decided to test drive an extension called Web Developer Checklist by Mads Kristensen. It turned out to be anything but silly and a potential boon to web designers.
It’s the only offering in the Microsoft Store by the developer, and is available also for Chrome and Firefox. It’s a kickass little extension designed to help web developers check that they are using best practices on their site. Everything is compact and easy to use with a lot of helpful information, quickly accessible with a mouse click.
Handy little extension to have. It tipped me off to a couple improvements I should be exploring.
My sole complaint is a minor, quirky one. The screen on the left is from Firefox and the one on the right is from Edge:
It took me a few minutes to figure out the ace was a misinterpreted check mark. Like I said, very minor issue. Other than that, there are no real issues. I was interested in seeing it snagged a few different issues with each browser. That’ll be a project to look at tomorrow.
I’m always poking around the Microsoft store looking for Edge browser extensions. Until now, the offerings have been a wee bit slim. But… huzzah … a few new extensions have found their way to the store. I tested out two and, well, I’m impressed. You get one today, maybe the other on the weekend… depends on my mood. Read & Write, from TextHelp (https://www.texthelp.com), gets a nod for the single most useful extension I’ve seen to date. It’s also available for Firefox and Chrome if those flavours suit you more.
Read & Write is an excellent piece of assistive technology that reads webpages. People with vision issues, reading or learning disabilities or learning English will find this immensely useful. Once installed, you have a number of options that include reading a page or paragraph, simplified page layout, definitions and reference lookups. The voice is fairly easy to listen to and understand. The odd word is not quite right, but mostly above par for pronunciation and enunciation. One mildly amusing aspect with any software like this is they read literally – if there’s a typo on the page, that will be read.
It’s easy to use, just click the speech button on the toolbar and then hover the mouse over the text. The software does the rest. I put together a short video of Read & Write in action so you can hear what the voice is like:
It offers a couple of options handy for day to day use, including a built-in dictionary and Simplify. The dictionary is self explanatory.
The Simplify feature is outstanding. It converts the page to a high contrast single page of text only. It strips out the clutter and makes the speech to text option run flawlessly. It’s also handy for anyone who want to print a page, without all the images and ads. As a bonus feature, tap the minus/plus signs to increase the text size for easy reading.
The little picture dictionary is embarrassingly fun to use. If a person is unfamiliar with English, the simple pictograph images are a perfect way to show the meaning of the word. A stroke of genius. Not all words have pictograph definitions and once in awhile it throws up a cryptically funny one:
Not sure why the little stickman looks so angry but he looks like his blood pressure is through the roof.
Occasionally the extension stutters and doesn’t start reading immediately, but by and large, it’s reliable. At worse, all you have to do is turn the extension off and back on again. I was a little disappointed it didn’t read my Outlook email. But there are some pages that simply won’t work with the extension because of the way they are designed, such as Twitter. However, for the majority of webpages, the extension does the job.
If you know someone who might benefit from this extension, pass along the name to them – Read & Write extension for Edge, Chrome & Firefox. I have a number of customers I’m going to install it for. It’ll make some pages – the ones with itty bitty type – far easier to manage. Download it direct from the Microsoft Store or use your browser’s extension feature to install it.
Icon for Turn off the Lights Edge browser extension
If you enjoy watching movies & Youtube on Edge browser, this is a cool extension – Turn off the Lights, by Stefan VD. It’s a handy little extension that dims the background around the video window, cutting out distractions. Here’s what it looks like:
I’ve been using it for about 2 weeks and have encountered only one issue – it popped out and stopped working until I shut Edge down and restarted it. Other than the one instance, I’ve had no other problems. Get it the usual way, Microsoft Store ->Extensions->Turn off the Lights. Once installed, it sits on the screen’s toolbar within easy clicking distance.
The image still is from Professor Quatermass and the Pit – BBC sci fi serial from the 1950s. One of the best sci fi series ever made. Go watch it … no .. go .. now… Watch it. Where else can you see extinct giant Martian grasshoppers destroying humanity?