Cortana gets a boost in productivity with new chat-based correspondence, Briefings and updates to Plan My Emails

Kareem Anderson

Despite public perception, Microsoft continues to toil away at evolving its digital assistant service, Cortana, and today the company released several updates to the platform that bolsters its feature set on both desktops and mobile devices.

Today, Cortana gets a boost in productivity with a new chat-based experience in Windows 10 that improves the digital assistant’s natural language processing and responses. As the focus shifts to more commercial activities for Cortana, users will now find they can ask Cortana more task-oriented questions such as “Am I free at 9?” “Join my meeting,” or “Remind me to review expenses Friday at 3 PM.” to receive a more conversational experience from the platform.

Unfortunately, Cortana’s new chat-like experience is limited to English customers in the United State for the time being. Microsoft looks to expand its reach with app updates over time.

In the coming months, with regular app updates through the Microsoft Store, we’ll enhance this experience to support wake word invocation and enable listening when you say “Cortana,” offer more productivity capabilities such as surfacing relevant emails and documents to help you prepare for meetings, and expand supported capabilities for international users.

In addition to a new chat-based experience, Microsoft is also rolling out updates to the Plan My Emails feature in Cortana, which allows users to schedule meetings in response to emails and add emails to their task lists. There are also new voice and touch targets for sending quick automated responses to meeting invitations or “I’m running late” messages when joining a meeting late. Plan My Emails was introduced a few months back on iOS devices and today’s updates are expected to roll out to Android devices in the coming days, but again, for customers in the US only, for now.

Lastly, there is a new Briefing email feature coming to Cortana, that acts as a sort of notification shade of all important email-related content.

This personalized brief will appear automatically in your Outlook inbox near the start of your workday, providing intelligent, actionable recommendations of documents for you to review ahead of the day’s meetings and drawing your attention to pending requests or commitments from prior emails that you may want to follow up on.

Cortana Briefings Outlook

While it would seem like a no-brainer for anyone with a full inbox, Briefing is only rolling out in First Release for Microsoft 365 Enterprise users with Exchange Online mailboxes and in English, so it may be a while before normal people get to try it out.