Microsoft, relentless integration of generative AI into a wide range of its products is hard to overlook, spanning from Bing search to the Windows operating system. This trend persists as evidenced by the latest Windows 11 update, which has now introduced Copilot to all users.
For those unfamiliar with Copilot, it closely resembles the AI you can engage with through Bing search, but it also offers some Windows-specific functionalities. These include the capability to initiate applications and handle saved screenshots in the clipboard, among other features.
In its feature announcement, Microsoft says that Copilot will bring together the context and insights from the web, your work-related information, and your current PC activities to deliver enhanced assistance.
However, it’s important to keep in mind that this tool is in its early stages of development, and you can’t delegate all, or even most, of your computing tasks to it at this point. With this in consideration, here’s a guide on how to begin using Copilot.
Before you start, it’s important to ensure that you’re running the most up-to-date version of Windows 11 since Copilot is included in the September 2023 Windows update.
- Open the Settings menu and select “Windows Update.”
- Depending on your geographic location and your PC’s position in Microsoft’s update queue, you may need to enable the “Get the latest updates as soon as they’re available” toggle switch.
- To launch Copilot, which appears in a panel on the right side of your screen, either click the Copilot button on the taskbar or press Win + C on your keyboard.
By the way, if you prefer not to have Copilot displayed on the taskbar, navigate to “Personalization” > “Taskbar” in the Settings menu and disable Copilot from there.
Utilizing Copilot for Windows Control
It’s important to temper your expectations regarding Copilot’s integration with Windows, as it’s still designated as a “preview” feature at the time of writing. However, here are some interesting tasks I managed to perform using it:
- Typing “turn on dark mode” will switch your Windows interface to dark mode.
- Typing “open Windows Settings” will launch the primary Settings panel.
- Typing “launch File Explorer” will initiate the file browsing experience on your PC.
However, it’s worth noting that even these integrations aren’t entirely seamless. In each instance, you will need to confirm the action by clicking “Yes,” and Copilot tends to provide verbose explanations about what it’s going to do, followed by a repeat query about whether you wish to proceed (even after it has already executed the action).
Additionally, it’s worth mentioning that one of my colleagues encountered an issue where Copilot couldn’t launch File Explorer, so your experience may vary.
One feature that operates smoothly is the command “take a screenshot,” which promptly launches the Snipping Tool, akin to pressing the PrtSc key, without any additional queries. Similarly, instructing Copilot to “change the wallpaper” efficiently navigates you to the Personalization page in Settings, devoid of any extra prompts.
However, when it comes to integration with Windows’ other applications, there’s room for improvement. For instance, requesting Copilot to “duplicate a slide” in PowerPoint results in instructions on how to do it, sourced from Bing, rather than the direct execution of the action.
Similarly, asking the bot to “create a presentation on the benefits of Copilot” yields generic AI responses like “begin with a slide introducing the topic and key points you want to cover” not particularly helpful, Copilot.
It’s important to note that Microsoft’s apps, including PowerPoint, will eventually receive Copilot integrations, but these features are not currently available for individual users and smaller organizations, and they may involve an additional cost.
Copilot and Its Versatility
If you’ve previously used ChatGPT, Bing Chat (which shares similar technology with ChatGPT), Google Bard, or any of the recently emerged generative AI text tools, you’ll find that Copilot in Windows offers a comparable range of functionalities.
You can engage Copilot to compose poetry, make fashion trend predictions, conduct smartphone comparisons, brainstorm ideas for a children’s party, simplify complex concepts into plain language, fetch a recipe for chocolate chip cookies, and much more.
To initiate a new conversation with Copilot, click on the three dots located at the top of the panel and then select “Refresh.” This action not only clears the existing content but also provides suggestions for potential queries. For example, you might ask it to generate C code or seek gift ideas for a specific type of friend.
When starting a fresh Copilot chat, you can choose from three options: “More Creative,” “More Balanced,” and “More Precise,” the same choices available in Bing Chat on the web. In essence, this allows you to prioritize creativity over precision or vice versa, depending on your preferences. Additionally, there’s a microphone icon in the lower-right corner, enabling you to speak your prompts instead of typing them if you prefer.
Enhancing Copilot’s Capabilities
Currently, there’s just one setting within Copilot, but it holds significant importance. To access it, click the three dots located at the top of the panel and select “Settings.” This setting is called “Let Copilot in Windows use Microsoft Edge content,” and it essentially allows Copilot to access and interpret what you’re viewing in Microsoft Edge.
For instance, you can request Copilot to summarize a news article or elucidate terms found on a webpage. It even enables you to inquire about the content of images on a website. However, during our testing, this feature displayed mixed results, with Copilot occasionally providing inaccurate answers or failing to access the content altogether.
Additionally, Copilot offers the capability to work with images you provide. Click on the square icon in the lower-left corner of the input box, and you’ll be prompted to select an image from your system or provide a web link to an image. Once this is done, you can ask Copilot to identify the contents of the image or request it to find similar images on the internet.
Microsoft’s ongoing integration of generative AI, exemplified by Copilot in Windows, brings versatility to user interactions. Copilot offers diverse functions, although some aspects require refinement. Its compatibility with Microsoft Edge content holds promise, even though results vary. While Copilot continues to evolve, its potential for enhancing user experiences remains intriguing.