Forget Microsoft Copilot – an unofficial Clippy AI is available for Windows 11

Microsoft's 'Clippy' assistant inside a digital vortex.
(Image credit: Microsoft, Shutterstock)

Clippy is back – sort of – and ready to help you out on the Windows 11 desktop, if you dare to install a new app (still in beta).

Okay, so yes, this is an odd one, but you may recall Clippy (real name Clippit, but everybody uses the nickname now) from the heady days of Office 97, where the paperclip performed as a virtual assistant. In theory, it helped you to do stuff, but in practice, Clippy was generally an annoying presence. (“It looks like you’re writing a letter…” – well, we aren’t, Clippy, so go away).

The awfulness of Clippy has been mostly forgotten in the mists of time now, replaced by a nostalgic fondness for the assistant, and one enterprising developer has been inspired to resurrect Microsoft’s creation from the 90s.

FireCube has made the Clippy app which is available from the Microsoft Store (and elsewhere, for free), software that puts a Clippy icon on your Windows 11 (or Windows 10) desktop, one powered by OpenAI’s GPT 3.5 model (as in ChatGPT).

You can pin this Clippy to the desktop and chat away to what is essentially ChatGPT in paperclip form. Note that this is still very early days for the application, so if you take the plunge, expect issues. Likely lots of them.

Analysis: A paperclip that needs some polish

To give you some perspective on where we’re at with this app, Clippy for the desktop was put on Github only a couple of days ago, with the developer FireCube observing that there are still issues with random crashes. So, stability is likely to be somewhat wonky for the time being, we’d imagine.

A further sticking point is that an OpenAI key is required to use this preview version of the Clippy app. If you haven’t paid for one of those, you won’t be able to fire up Clippy. As noted by the dev, this is one of the most pressing known issues for the application, and FireCube is working on a way around this that’ll hopefully be implemented soon enough.

Further work promised in the near future is the ability to drag and resize Clippy, and FireCube aims to bring more classic characters into the mix alongside the paperclip – like Microsoft Bob.

You may recall that Bob was an attempt to make the interface of Windows 95 (and Windows 3.1 before that) more user-friendly by turning it into a cutesy representation of a house. Like Clippy, Bob turned into something of a joke in the computing community, and was a concept swiftly abandoned by Microsoft.

This new take on Clippy for Windows 11 is clearly a tongue-in-cheek move ahead of the inbound Copilot AI which should go into testing in the relatively near future. (Microsoft promised this would happen in June, but that looks like a bust at this point). To say all eyes are on Copilot, and how it’ll be implemented, is an understatement (check out this recent leak for the latest gossip).

AI is very much the future of Windows 11, or rather, next-gen Windows – that and shifting to the cloud (and maybe a subscription model) – so we don’t expect Copilot will be consigned to the bin in short order, as was the fate of Clippy (and indeed Bob). That said, you never know…

Darren is a freelancer writing news and features for TechRadar (and occasionally T3) across a broad range of computing topics including CPUs, GPUs, various other hardware, VPNs, antivirus and more. He has written about tech for the best part of three decades, and writes books in his spare time (his debut novel - 'I Know What You Did Last Supper' - was published by Hachette UK in 2013).