Microsoft's new Cortana app for Windows 10 gets productivity-focused updates

Microsoft is working on a new Cortana app for Windows 10, and it's been in testing with Insiders in the 20H1 development branch for some time now. Today, Microsoft shared a blog post detailing some new changes coming to this new Cortana experience, specifically for users in the Fast ring. The updates are aimed at boosting productivity, which is part of Microsoft's vision for Cortana, positioning it as an assistant for productivity.

Some of the changes were already known of, like the fact that the new Cortana app isn't docked to the taskbar anymore and you can move it anywhere on the screen. You can also now choose your favorite input method for talking to Cortana, so you can either type or speak after press the Cortana shortcut on your keyboard.

The new Cortana also has a set of improved skills, including the e-mail skill that lets users send e-mails to specific people or see received messages from them. There's also an improved calendar skill that makes it easier to set up meetings or join virtual meetings, though the latter only works with Teams for now. Microsoft says it's also improved the Windows skill, which is used for opening apps or controlling system settings. Finally, there have been "significant" improvements for accessibility, though the blog post didn't specify what those are.

As a result of these updates, Cortana has also lost some features, though. For one thing, you're no longer able to use the Connect accounts option, so once you sign into Cortana, you'll only be working with information for that account. Microsoft has also temporarily removed some of the non-productivity features from Cortana, so for now, it won't be able to tell you jokes, set timers, or get instant answers from Bing. These features are returning "with a fresh coat of paint" later on, though.

For now, the new Cortana app is still only available in English (United States), but Microsoft says it will expand availability soon.

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