The May 2020 update has arrived, and one noticeable change is Microsoft Cortana. If you were used to asking the virtual assistant questions, it may be time to switch to another assistant. Microsoft’s decided to revamp Cortana into a productivity tool, eliminating many of the features you might have been used to. The big question – is Cortana still worth using for the average user?
Why the Change?
Even though some users absolutely love Microsoft Cortana, she never really caught on quite like Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and Siri. Instead of investing more time and money into trying to compete, Microsoft made the choice to turn Cortana into a system application versus the whole system integration the assistant once had.
Microsoft Cortana Becomes an App
Cortana is no longer married to the taskbar. Instead, Cortana is a regular app. This means you’ll open and interact with Cortana just like you would other apps. You’ll even get updates via the Microsoft Store instead of Windows Update. You’ll be able to update Cortana without having to install full system feature updates, too.
Search Already Separate
A common question users have been asking is how they can search for files. When Cortana was originally introduced in Windows 10, you either asked Cortana to find a file using your voice or typed it in the Cortana search box in the taskbar. However, search and Cortana were separated well before the May 2020 update.
Microsoft Cortana’s New Capabilities
Microsoft now calls Cortana a “personal productivity assistant.” According to Microsoft’s official announcement, Cortana’s new capabilities include:
- Chat-based interaction – Voice control is still an option, but the chat-based UI gives you the ability to type versus talk to your computer. This is actually a good thing if you’re using Cortana at the office.
- Manage your calendar and schedule – After signing in to your Microsoft account, connect your calendar and schedule to Cortana. Add items, get reminders, and check things off.
- Integration with Microsoft Teams – If you use Microsoft Teams, use Cortana to join meetings, see upcoming meetings, and book meetings.
- Work and school integration – Using your Microsoft work or school accounts, ask for more details about other members of your organization.
- Create lists – Since productivity is the entire purpose, Cortana is able to make lists and give you reminders so you don’t forget to do anything.
While Microsoft Cortana isn’t quite as functional as before, you can still ask her some questions. Some extras Cortana can do include:
- provide weather information
- answer simple questions
- provide news headlines
- open apps and settings
In many ways, Cortana is still a virtual assistant. However, the app is now all about productivity. You’ll no longer be able to control smart home devices. Even though music can be helpful with productivity, you won’t be able to use Cortana to control your music either. Instead, you’ll use Cortana to connect with other Microsoft apps and services, such as Office 365.
If you still want to control smart home devices and do everything that Cortana used to do and more, you can download Alexa from the Microsoft Store. You’ll then have a full-fledged virtual assistant on your desktop or laptop.
How Do Users Feel?
Based on the 2.6 star rating at the time of writing, users aren’t thrilled about the change. In fact, the general consensus is Cortana isn’t useful at all.
However, if you mainly used Cortana for work, such as opening Microsoft apps and managing your calendar, you may not notice much of a difference. For the average user, Cortana isn’t nearly as useful as she used to be before the May 2020 update.
That being said, give the new version a try. If you don’t like it, it can be removed with a little effort. Or, if you don’t want to install it, simply sign out of Cortana to stop using it altogether.
If you’ve already tried out the new Microsoft Cortana, share your thoughts in the comments.
Image credit: Flickr/Bolly Holly Baba