One month with Microsoft’s AI vision of the future: Copilot Pro

Microsoft’s Copilot Pro launched last month as a $20 monthly subscription that provides access to AI-powered features in some Office apps, in addition to priority access to the latest OpenAI models and improved image generation.

I’ve been testing Copilot Pro for the past month to see if it’s worth the $20 subscription for my daily needs and how good or bad its AI image and text generation is in Office apps like Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. Some of Copilot Pro’s features are a bit disappointing at this point, while others are really useful improvements that I’m not sure I’d want to live without.

Now let’s take a look at everything you get with Copilot Pro.

One of the main benefits of subscribing to Copilot Pro is an improved version of Designer, Microsoft’s image creation tool. Designer uses OpenAI’s DALL-E 3 model to generate content, and the paid Copilot Pro version creates widescreen images with much more detail than the free version.

I’ve been using Designer to experiment with images, and I found it particularly impressive when you add as much detail as possible. Asking Designer for “an image of a dachshund sitting by a window and staring at a slice of bacon” will provide some good examples, but you can get Designer to do a lot more with some extra prompts. Adding more descriptive language to generate a ‘hyperreal painting’ with ‘natural light, medium shot and shallow depth of field’ will significantly improve image results.

As you can see in the two examples below, Designer provides the right natural lighting, with some depth of field around the bacon. Unfortunately, there are multiple slices of bacon here instead of just one, and they are gigantic pieces of bacon.

a:hover]:text-gray-63 [&>a:hover]:shadow-underline-black dark:[&>a:hover]:text-gray-bd dark:[&>a:hover]:shadow-underline-gray [&>a]:shadow-underline-gray-63 dark:[&>a]:text-gray-bd dark:[&>a]:shadow-underline-gray”>Image: Microsoft Designer

a:hover]:text-gray-63 [&>a:hover]:shadow-underline-black dark:[&>a:hover]:text-gray-bd dark:[&>a:hover]:shadow-underline-gray [&>a]:shadow-underline-gray-63 dark:[&>a]:text-gray-bd dark:[&>a]:shadow-underline-gray”>Image: Microsoft Designer

Like most things involving AI, the Designer feature isn’t perfect. I generated another separate image of a dog staring at bacon, and a giant piece of bacon was randomly inserted. In fact, I’d say that usually only one or two of the four images produced are usable. DALL-E 3 also still struggles with text, especially if you ask Designer to add labels or boards with text written on them.

However, it did a good job as “an illustrated depiction of a 1910 UPS delivery man. In the style of early Japanese cartoons,” adding the UPS logo – even if it’s a bit weird. With Copilot Pro you can generate 100 images per day, which is much faster than the free version.

a:hover]:text-gray-63 [&>a:hover]:shadow-underline-black dark:[&>a:hover]:text-gray-bd dark:[&>a:hover]:shadow-underline-gray [&>a]:shadow-underline-gray-63 dark:[&>a]:text-gray-bd dark:[&>a]:shadow-underline-gray”>Image: Microsoft Designer

Copilot Pro isn’t just about generating images, though. This subscription unlocks AI capabilities within Office apps. In Word, you can use Copilot to generate text, which can be useful if you want to outline a document or refine paragraphs.

If you have numerical data, you can also have Copilot visualize that data as a graph or table, which is especially useful for making text-heavy documents easier to read. When you highlight text, a small Copilot logo appears prompting you to select the text to rewrite or visualize that text. If you select an entire paragraph, Copilot will attempt to rewrite it with different options for you to scroll through and choose.

a:hover]:text-gray-63 [&>a:hover]:shadow-underline-black dark:[&>a:hover]:text-gray-bd dark:[&>a:hover]:shadow-underline-gray [&>a]:shadow-underline-gray-63 dark:[&>a]:text-gray-bd dark:[&>a]:shadow-underline-gray”>Screenshot by Tom Warren / The Verge

Like image generation, rewriting paragraphs can be a bit hit and miss, with sentences taking on different meanings by exchanging words. Overall, I didn’t think it improved my writing. For someone who doesn’t write regularly, it can be a lot more useful.

Copilot in Outlook has been super helpful for me personally. I use it every day to check email summaries, which conveniently appear at the top of emails. This might even tempt me to buy Copilot Pro just for this feature, as it saves me so much time when I’m planning a project with multiple people.

It’s also very useful if you have a long running email thread so you can quickly get a summary of all the important information. You can also use Copilot in Outlook to generate emails or create replies. Just like in Word, there’s a rewrite tool here that lets you write a draft email that is then analyzed to make suggestions for improving the tone or clarity of an email.

Copilot in PowerPoint is just as useful if you’re not used to creating presentations. You can ask it to generate slides in a certain style, and you’ll get an entire deck back in seconds. Designer is part of this feature so you can dive into each individual slide and change the images or text.

As someone who hates making presentations, I will definitely be using this in the future. It’s certainly better than the PowerPoint templates you can find online. However, I ran into some issues when generating PowerPoint slides, especially when Copilot would sit there and say, “I’m still working on it,” and not finish generating the slides.

a:hover]:text-gray-63 [&>a:hover]:shadow-underline-black dark:[&>a:hover]:text-gray-bd dark:[&>a:hover]:shadow-underline-gray [&>a]:shadow-underline-gray-63 dark:[&>a]:text-gray-bd dark:[&>a]:shadow-underline-gray”>Screenshot by Tom Warren / The Verge

Copilot in Excel currently seems to be the most limited part of the Copilot Pro experience. You want your data neatly arranged in a table. Otherwise Copilot will want to convert it. Once you have data that works with Copilot, you can create visualizations, use data insights to create pivot tables, or even get formula suggestions. Copilot for Excel is still in preview, so I expect we’ll see even more functionality here over time.

The final example of Copilot in Office apps is OneNote. Just like in Word, you can make notes or plans here and easily rewrite text. Copilot also offers summaries of your notes, which can be especially funny if you’re trying to summarize shorthand notes or incomplete notes that only make sense to your brain.

Microsoft is also introducing a number of GPTs for fitness, travel and cooking. These are essentially individual assistants within Copilot that can help you find recipes, plan a vacation itinerary, or create a personalized training plan. Copilot Pro subscribers will also soon be able to build their own custom GPTs around specific topics.

Overall, I think Copilot Pro is a good start for Microsoft’s consumer AI efforts, but I’m not sure I’d pay $20 a month just yet. The image generation improvements here are solid and could be worth $20 a month for some.

Email summaries in Outlook tempt me to subscribe, but the text generation features aren’t exactly unique to the Office apps. I feel like you can get just as good results with the free version of Copilot or even ChatGPT, but you’ll have to use the manual (and cheaper) option of copying and pasting the results into a document.

The consumer version of Copilot Pro isn’t yet as fully featured as the commercial version, so I expect we’ll see a lot of improvements in the coming months. Microsoft shows no signs of slowing down with its AI efforts, and the company will provide more details about its AI plans at Build in May.

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