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Windows 10 preview ushers in new Cortana app with chat-based interface

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Windows 10 has witnessed the release of another preview build for the update due to land in the first half of 2020, and the big change here is what Microsoft’s describing as a new experience with Cortana.

Build 18945 has been released to testers in the fast ring, and sees the digital assistant being turned into a separate app within Windows 10 (you may recall that the beta version of the application was spotted in the Microsoft Store in June). And as was previously indicated, Cortana features a new chat-based interface that facilitates natural language queries. At the moment, though, this is only for testers in the US.

Most of the features Cortana could previously handle are still here, but some important new functionality has been added. Microsoft notes: “We have updated Cortana with new speech and language models, and significantly improved performance – making it faster and more reliable than ever before.”

The ‘Hey Cortana’ screen has been made more subtle and streamlined, so it represents less of an intrusion on what you’re currently doing on the desktop, and Cortana now supports both light and dark themes in Windows 10.

Cortana

(Image credit: Microsoft)

In the blog post introducing the preview, Microsoft stresses that this Cortana app is still in beta, so you may well see glitches (as ever), and not all functions that used to be accessible from Cortana are here – but more will be added over time, naturally.

All the key core features are here, though, such as using Cortana to open apps, manage lists, set timers or reminders, along with Assistant conversations, Bing answers, and so forth.

Slow rollout

As mentioned, this new Cortana beta is only available to Windows Insiders in the US, and even then, there’s a phased rollout, so you may not see it just yet. As time goes on it will be deployed more widely, and outside the States.

Microsoft has described the pace of the rollout as slow, but hopefully it won’t be too sluggish, and other territories won’t have to wait too long to get their teeth into this major change.

Build 18945 also introduces some accessibility improvements including Narrator delivering a better experience when reading out messages in Outlook or Windows Mail.

Windows Subsystem for Linux has also been tweaked with some useful bits and pieces such as the addition of global configuration options.