Since it launched in 2019, Microsoft’s Cortana personal assistant has allowed users to listen to emails that land in their Outlook mobile inbox. Fast forward two years, the software company is making voice a much more significant part of the Outlook experience.
Beginning with the iOS version of the software (with Android soon to follow), you can now use your voice to dictate emails, schedule meetings and conduct searches.
To access the new features, just tap the plus icon floating above the application’s main navigation bar. After that you press the “Use Voice” prompt.
You can ask Cortana things like “When’s my next team meeting?” or for more complex requests like “Set up a meeting with Jill and her team for next Monday about the Q1 budget.” You can also ask the assistant to add specific individuals to the invite each time you are scheduling an event. In addition, you can use Cortana to attach files while sending emails, and the speech-to-text tool allows you to both respond to emails and write new ones.
Powering a lot of the functionality is Microsoft’s Graph tool, which provides the assistant with context when it needs it. This allows Cortana to perform tasks like spelling the names of your colleagues correctly when you mention them in an email.
Really, this is not the first time that Cortana voice functionality has appeared in Microsoft Outlook. The Software Company has been gradually building to this point with a dedicated “Play My Emails” tool inside the Outlook mobile. However, this new update brings voice to nearly every part of Outlook mobile.
Apart from the voice addition, The Verge says that Microsoft is launching a separate Scheduler Microsoft 365 service. The report confirms that it is designed for Microsoft 365 administrators to enable as a backend service that helps schedule meetings. It plugs into Cortana to allow users to set up meetings using just email replies.
“You can reply to a colleague confirming a meeting and simply write “Cortana, please find a time to meet next week,” and Scheduler should find the most appropriate time and arrange the meeting,” the Verge adds.
Scheduler is part of a bigger push by Microsoft to reposition Cortana as a productivity assistant. Microsoft first launched Cortana for iOS and Android in December 2015, and the company shut down the app earlier this year. The closure came after Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella previously recognized the company’s difficulties competing with other digital assistants, revealing in 2019 that Microsoft no longer saw Cortana as a competitor to Alexa and Google Assistant.