Home What is Microsoft’s Copilot? Here’s everything you need to know about the AI assistant

What is Microsoft’s Copilot? Here’s everything you need to know about the AI assistant


  • Microsoft's Copilot aims to surpass OpenAI's ChatGPT with advanced features across Microsoft applications.
  • Copilot integrates with Windows and Microsoft 365, enhancing productivity through AI-driven functionalities.
  • Free and paid versions of Copilot offer various features, with paid versions providing extensive capabilities for business users.

The market for generative AI chatbots is expanding quickly. Although OpenAI’s ChatGPT is currently the most popular, Microsoft’s Copilot is attempting to become the top choice for the general public, creative industries, and anyone interested in exploring how artificial intelligence can make the best of their daily lives.

How is Copilot different to Cortana?

Copilot has replaced Cortana and comes with advanced features. It is able to understand and respond to natural language queries, provide detailed explanations, analyze data, generate content such as code or images, and undertake complex tasks across Microsoft applications.

As a result, Copilot offers far more functionalities than Cortana. For example, it can generate a PowerPoint presentation from the provided information, and craft emails and responses. If you’re dealing with multiple emails from the same colleague on a single subject, Copilot can summarize all those communications.

In addition, Copilot can assist with meeting preparations or provide a summary of missed discussions if you’re late to a Teams meeting.

The tool also supports the creation of budget proposals, project timelines, agendas, and SWOT analyses. Its ability to interpret and execute commands using natural language processing means users don’t require coding skills to use it effectively.

What does Copilot do?

Copilot is integrated within Windows and Microsoft 365 apps like Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, improving productivity:

  • Visualizations: Copilot helps users start creative projects by providing first drafts in Word, assisting in creating engaging PowerPoint presentations, and enabling quick data analysis and visualization in Excel.
  • Productivity: Copilot reduces busywork by summarizing email threads and drafting responses in Outlook, providing real-time meeting summaries and action items in Teams, and enabling automation and application creation in Power Platform. GitHub data indicates that Copilot significantly increases productivity among developers.
  • Chatbot: This new feature allows users to interact with all their Microsoft 365 apps and data (like calendars, emails, and documents) using natural language commands to manage tasks and access information efficiently.
  • Upskilling: Copilot simplifies the use of Microsoft 365’s extensive functionality by enabling command execution through natural language, helping users improve their existing skills and learn new ones more quickly.

First launched as Bing Chat on February 7, 2023, as an add-on for Bing and Microsoft’s Edge browser, Copilot is developed on OpenAI’s GPT-4 model.

During its rollout in March, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella described it as a “major step,” stating, “Today marks the next major step in the evolution of how we interact with computing, which will fundamentally change the way we work and unlock a new wave of productivity growth. With our new copilot for work, we’re giving people more agency and making technology more accessible through the most universal interface — natural language.”

What does chatbot do with Microsoft apps?

Here’s what Copilot brings to your specific Microsoft apps:

  • Microsoft Word: Copilot uses AI to compose text, revise existing content, and condense key information into summaries.
  • PowerPoint: It transforms basic ideas into comprehensive presentations, complete with detailed speaker notes and citations.
  • Excel: The tool helps users uncover insights, recognize patterns, and improve the effectiveness of their spreadsheets.
  • Teams: The video conferencing software uses Copilot by creating real-time meeting summaries and identifying actionable items, all while considering the conversation’s context.
  • Teams phone: Phone conversations can be summarized and important action items are noted in Teams Phone. It showcases key discussion points and suggests subsequent steps.
  • Outlook: It manages and streamlines Outlook inboxes, providing response suggestions and summarizing email threads.
  • Power Platform: Copilot supports developers of all skill levels in prototyping and developing low-code applications.
  • Business chat: Copilot aggregates and processes data from various sources—documents, calendars, notes, presentations, and contacts—to summarize conversations, pinpoint crucial dates, and draft business plans and emails.
  • Microsoft Loop: AI improves any collaborative efforts by aligning data, summarizing information, and providing guidance to team members.

Is Microsoft Copilot free?

Copilot was introduced to Windows 11 as part of the update on September 26, 2023. It is available at no added cost for commercial users of Windows 11. There was speculation that Windows 10 might eventually support Copilot integration, though Microsoft has not officially confirmed this yet.

Microsoft provides a free version of Copilot and also offers a Copilot Pro subscription for $20 per month. The Pro version used to include advanced features such as the Copilot GPT Builder for creating custom chatbots and the capability for higher-resolution image creation. However, this was discontinued in June.

The free version of Copilot has limited features such as image creation in Designer, document and webpage summarization, plugin support, and data protection via Commercial Entra ID. It is accessible through specific platforms:

  • Mobile app: Available on Google Play and the Apple App Store, users can interact with Copilot features like conversational search, image creation, and text generation on the go.
  • Web app: This is a continuation of Bing Chat, now rebranded as Microsoft Copilot. Users can search, question, and customize of outputs using various Copilot GPTs such as Designer and Fitness Trainer. Accessible via web browsers, it provides a free way to engage with generative AI.
  • Copilot for Windows: Integrated into the latest versions of Windows, this version makes it easy to manage PC settings, interact with Copilot via text or voice, and perform tasks like shopping or writing essays for free.
  • Copilot for Edge: Built into the Edge browser, this service uses GPT-4 to upgrade online searching and provide generative AI features like image generation and story writing directly within the browser.

What do the paid versions include?

Microsoft 365 Copilot became available for all business users for $30 per user per month, starting January 15, 2024. At first, it was only open to Enterprise users. There is an annual option for $360, though this still requires a qualifying Microsoft 365 plan.

The system works in conjunction with Microsoft 365 apps like Word, Outlook, Teams, PowerPoint, and Excel. Although Copilot is available for free at copilot.microsoft.com, make sure you access it using Microsoft Edge or Google Chrome for it to work smoothly.

The subscription includes all the features of Copilot Pro along with additional gadgets. It also extends Copilot to all Microsoft 365 apps, including Teams, provided you have a Microsoft 365 subscription that includes Teams. It’s important to note that current Office plans do not include Teams, as Microsoft has separated Teams from its Office suite. Users now have the option to purchase plans either with or without the Teams collaboration app.

Is Copilot better than ChatGPT?

Shortly after the launch of ChatGPT, Microsoft unveiled an AI chatbot for its Bing search engine, first named Bing Chat but later rebranded as Copilot. This new tool gave more advanced options over ChatGPT, most notably free internet access which provided a considerable edge.

By May 2024, OpenAI responded by upgrading the free version of ChatGPT to include features that not only matched but in some aspects, surpassed those of Copilot. Despite these improvements, one persistent issue with ChatGPT was its inability to consistently verify the accuracy of its responses, as it does not generally cite sources. The May update allowed ChatGPT to access the internet, although it still provided source links only selectively.

Meanwhile, Copilot automatically embeds footnotes in its responses, directing users to the source material via web links, which helps with transparency and trust. Copilot is much like a search engine, its replies can include links and photos that add context and engage users. The images it generates also usually include additional information, improving the user experience.

However, this changed when OpenAI launched its new GPT-4o model in May 2024. This updated version has all the bells and whistles of GPT-4, which already outshines most AI models for its reasoning and coding, and introduces multimodal capabilities. GPT-4o can process and generate content across multiple formats, including text, audio, and images, recognizing inputs from text, audio, images, and video.

Thanks to the upgrade, free users can now access the advanced system, which was previously limited to paid users.

Featured image: Canva / Microsoft

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The ReadWrite Editorial policy involves closely monitoring the tech industry for major developments, new product launches, AI breakthroughs, video game releases and other newsworthy events. Editors assign relevant stories to staff writers or freelance contributors with expertise in each particular topic area. Before publication, articles go through a rigorous round of editing for accuracy, clarity, and to ensure adherence to ReadWrite's style guidelines.

Suswati Basu
Tech journalist

Suswati Basu is a multilingual, award-winning editor and the founder of the intersectional literature channel, How To Be Books. She was shortlisted for the Guardian Mary Stott Prize and longlisted for the Guardian International Development Journalism Award. With 18 years of experience in the media industry, Suswati has held significant roles such as head of audience and deputy editor for NationalWorld news, digital editor for Channel 4 News and ITV News. She has also contributed to the Guardian and received training at the BBC As an audience, trends, and SEO specialist, she has participated in panel events alongside Google. Her…

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