Author Topic: 7 ways to use Microsoft Copilot right 1/2  (Read 189 times)

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7 ways to use Microsoft Copilot right 1/2
« on: February 09, 2024, 02:30:07 PM »
The free version of Microsoft’s generative AI chatbot is available in Windows and on the web. Here’s how to make the most of it.

Whether you believe AI will be the salvation of humankind or the death of it, whether you think it’s little more than a plaything to while away your time or the surest way to get onto the fast track at work, you’re going to use it someday. Maybe today. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe next week or next month. But one day, you’ll turn to it. And you’ll most likely be surprised at how helpful it can be, even in its earliest days.

For many business users, that means using Copilot, Microsoft’s umbrella name for a variety of AI products. There are already highly targeted Copilots for various Microsoft products, notably Copilot for Microsoft 365, which integrates with Microsoft Office apps like Word, Outlook, and OneNote. That Copilot is only available for business customers willing to pay a hefty $30 per user per month, essentially doubling the price of the Microsoft 365 E3 plan, for instance. There’s also a $20-per-month Copilot Pro subscription for individuals that offers integration with Office apps and priority access during peak times.

In this article, though, we’re going to give you tips about how to get the most out of the everyday, free version of Copilot, available directly inside Windows, inside the Edge browser, inside Microsoft’s Bing search engine, and on the web for anyone using Windows or macOS, as long as they have a Microsoft account.

Know the Copilot basics

Before you start using Copilot, you need to understand exactly what it is — and what it isn’t. It’s what’s called generative AI, or genAI for short. It’s called that because it can create, or generate, different kinds of content — notably text, images, and videos. In this article, we’ll primarily cover text-based content.

For text generation, Copilot uses a large language model (LLM) to do its work. It’s based on the GPT-4 model, developed by a company called OpenAI in which Microsoft is the largest investor. It’s trained on massive amounts of articles, books, web pages, and other publicly available text. Based on that training, it can respond to questions, summarize articles and documents, write documents from scratch, and much more.

Like its more famous cousin, OpenAI’s ChatGPT, Copilot works as a chatbot. You ask it a question or feed it a prompt, and it generates a response. You can ask a series of follow-up queries in an ongoing conversation, or start over with a new query.

Using Copilot can initially be somewhat eerie because its responses are often human-like. But don’t be fooled — it has no human intelligence. So when asking it for information, give it very precise detailed information about what you want, and be as concise as possible. Microsoft also recommends that you “avoid using relative terms, like yesterday or tomorrow, and pronouns, like it and they. Instead, use specifics, such as an exact date or a person’s name.”

Three ways to access Copilot

Copilot is a shift-shaping genAI tool, and the general, free version is available in several ways, including directly from Windows, in the Edge browser, and as a web tool in Bing or on its own.

Here are the ways to access it and when to use each.

Copilot in Windows

If you use Windows 11, Copilot for Windows (still in preview) is always just a click away — there’s an icon of it just to the right of the search box. (If you don’t see the icon, try updating to the latest version of Windows 11. If you’re using Windows in a business or educational setting, your organization may not yet have enabled Copilot.)

As I write this, the Copilot preview in Windows 10 is available only for those who are Windows Insiders and have opted in to get the newest preview updates. Eventually, though, it will make its way to all Windows 10 users.

Click the Copilot icon and Copilot appears in a right-hand pane. The pane stays open no matter what you’re doing in Windows — running an app, switching between windows, or just looking at the desktop. It always stays the same size and takes up the entire right side of your screen. So running it this way is your best bet if you run it regularly and use it throughout the day.

Once you launch Copilot in Windows, its pane stays open on the right side of your screen until you close it.

Copilot in Edge

Microsoft Edge browser users have an easy way to use Copilot — click the Copilot icon at the upper right of Edge’s screen, and a Copilot pane slides into place on the right side of the screen.

Type your request into the “Ask me anything” search box at the bottom of the Copilot pane, or else click one of the suggestions for things you can do with Copilot in the middle of the pane. You’ll find these suggestions sometimes useful and sometimes not. “Generate page summary” is certainly helpful. But “Watch romance movies in the 1990s”? Not so much.

The Copilot pane in Edge is part of what Microsoft calls the Edge sidebar. Other icons running vertically down the right side of Edge let you launch different panes in the same location, such as an Outlook pane or the Windows Action Center pane.

As of this writing, Copilot in Edge has more built-in features than it does in Windows, Bing, or the standalone web tool. For instance, Copilot in Edge has an option for summarizing the web page you’re on, and another for generating a first draft of a document, an email, or other text — features we’ll cover later in this story. Those features may eventually make their way to other versions of Copilot, but for now, Edge offers the most full-featured option.

Copilot in Bing and on the web

A simple way to use Copilot is to head to Microsoft’s Bing search website and click the Ask Bing Chat button in the center of the page. That launches Copilot.

Copilot also has a dedicated web page at Microsoft says it works only in Edge, Chrome, or other Chromium-based browsers and only on Windows and macOS; however, we found that it also worked in Firefox on macOS. You’ll need to sign in with a Microsoft ID to use it.

Copilot has a dedicated web page, but you need a Microsoft account to use it.

Now that you know the Copilot basics, let’s explore some ways to put it to its best use.

1. Choose the right chat mode

Copilot isn’t one size fits all. To a certain extent, you can customize the responses it gives you. A little more than halfway up its pane you can choose what Microsoft calls a “conversation style.” You’ll get a lot more out of it if you choose the right one for the task at hand.

Here are the three styles, and what each is best suited for:

More Creative. Microsoft says this mode will “furnish elaborate and imaginative responses, presenting information in a more extensive and creative manner.” Normally, this isn’t the mode you’ll use for work — Microsoft says it’s best for things like coming up with “fun pet names” or writing short stories. (I’ve published a number of short stories in literary magazines, and I recommend that you never use Copilot to write one. When I’ve tested this ability, the results have ranged from execrable to dull-as-dirt to painfully idiotic and cliched.) However, if you’re looking to do something such as jumpstarting a first draft of marketing copy, give this mode a try.

More Precise. Think of this as Copilot’s “Just-the-facts-ma’am” mode. Copilot will get right to the point, eliminate unnecessary words and information, and deliver the facts you’re looking for to the best of its ability. It’s ideal for tracking down definable information that requires no context.

More Balanced. As the name implies, this mode strikes a balance between “More Creative” and “More Precise” modes. It delivers facts, but with additional information and context if you need it. According to Microsoft, “If you’re planning a trip or looking for product recommendations, this style will be helpful.”

2. Create a web page summary

Life is too short to spend it trying to dig your way through all the text on a web page to find the few nuggets of useful information buried there. So use Copilot to summarize the contents of the web page you’re currently on in Edge. Click the Copilot icon at the upper right of the screen, then click the Generate page summary button in the Copilot pane. The summary will appear.

Copilot creating a summary of a web page.

Note that you may need to give Copilot permission before it will summarize page contents. Click the vertical three-dot icon at the upper right of the Copilot pane, then choose Notification and app settings and set the Allow Microsoft to access page content toggle to on.

Like other responses that Copilot generates, page summaries are not saved after the current session. So if you want to save the summary, click the Export icon underneath it (it looks like a download arrow). You can save it as a Word document, as a PDF, or as plain text. If you prefer, click the Copy button to its left to put it into your Clipboard.

If you don’t use Edge, you can get similar results in Copilot in Bing or on the web by asking it to tell you the key points of an article or web page and pasting in the URL, although Edge’s “Generate page summary” feature seems to return more comprehensive results.

3. Generate a first draft

For many people, the hardest part of writing is getting down a first draft. Facing an empty screen waiting to be filled with words so frightens many people that they can become paralyzed and put off working on it.

Copilot can help by generating a first draft for you. It’s best suited for documents that aren’t overly long or complex — memos, emails, marketing pitches, summaries, and similar material. It doesn’t work well on sizable reports, especially those that include other kinds of materials like spreadsheets and graphics.

« Last Edit: February 09, 2024, 03:45:06 PM by javajolt »