Microsoft is rushing to add AI features to its services, such as the new Bing Chat AI and a new sidebar in Microsoft Edge. To no one’s surprise, AI functionality is now coming to Office apps.

Microsoft held its “Reinventing Productivity with AI” live event today, where the company announced “Microsoft 365 Copilot,” an umbrella term for various features powered by large language models (LLMs). The first wave of new features is coming to Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and Teams, which Microsoft says will help “you to unleash creativity, unlock productivity, and uplevel skills.”

Microsoft Word is adding a Copilot feature that works a bit like the text generation functionality in ChatGPT or Bing Chat. You can give it a prompt, and it will generate draft text based on what you requested, with customization options for setting the tone. The main difference with Microsoft’s implementation is that it can pull data from your other files. For example, you can ask “Draft a two-page project proposal based on the data from [a document] and [a spreadsheet],” and Word will ask you to confirm the files. The functionality seems like what Google Docs is testing, though Google’s implementation doesn’t appear to pull in data from your other files.


Copilot in Microsoft Excel is less focused on generative text, and aims more to help you analyze and explore data already in a spreadsheet. Microsoft said, “It will reveal correlations, propose what-if scenarios, and suggest new formulas based on your questions—generating models based on your questions that help you explore your data without modifying it.” It takes a while to learn all of Excel’s various formulas, so having an assistant help you could be useful… as long as it doesn’t break.

Microsoft PowerPoint’s Copilot can help you convert written documents into presentation decks, complete with speaker notes and sources, or you can give Copilot a prompt to create a template. The announcement said you will be able to use commands like, “Create a five-slide presentation based on a Word document and include relevant stock photos,” or “Reformat these three bullets into three columns, each with a picture.”


Meanwhile, Microsoft Outlook is using Copilot to summarize email threads “to understand not only what has been said, but the different viewpoints of each person and the open questions that have yet to be answered.” You’ll also be able to generate text in emails from a prompt, or make text you’re writing longer or shorter if needed, much like what Google announced for Gmail.

Copilot is also coming to Microsoft Teams, where it will attempt to summarize meetings you may have missed. Teams will have a “Business Chat” tab that functions like Bing Chat, but with access to data across all your documents, presentations, email, notes, calendar, and contacts. It’s not clear if Business Chat will ever be accessible to personal accounts, but if it does, Microsoft will presumably give it a different name.

The new features look impressive, but there are many questions remaining about how effective the features will be, or even if they should be used at all. I certainly wouldn’t want an AI trying to summarize something I say in a meeting or string of emails, because it could easily misinterpret my statements and give people the wrong idea. Microsoft also recently laid off an entire team dedicated to maintaining ethics in AI, but the company did say in its announcement that Copilot is “not trained on customer content or on individual prompts.”

Microsoft 365 Copilot is currently being tested with 20 companies, and will be rolled out to more people “in the coming months.” It’s not clear when personal Microsoft accounts will have access.

Source: Microsoft, Microsoft News Center

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Corbin Davenport is the News Editor at How-To Geek, an independent software developer, and a podcaster. He previously worked at Android Police, PC Gamer, and XDA Developers.
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