Hands-On with Windows Copilot (Preview)

Yesterday, Microsoft released the first public version of the Windows Copilot (Preview) to a small subset of Windows Insiders in the Dev channel. I installed this build on three separate PCs, one physical and two in VMs, but none of them had Copilot enabled. And so I enlisted the help of Rafael to unlock the feature.

Long story short, you need to download Vivetool to the PC on which you installed the build, extract its contents to a folder, open Terminal with administrator privileges, navigate to the extracted folder, and then use the following command:

>./vivetool /enable /id:44774629,44850061,44776738,42105254,41655236

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Then, reboot the PC. When you sign in again, you will see a new blue icon in the Taskbar for Windows Copilot that looks a little too much like the icon for the Microsoft 365 app.

Like other default Taskbar items—Search, Task view, Widgets, and Chat—the Windows Copilot icon on the Taskbar can be toggled via Taskbar personalization settings in the Settings app.

And as we were shown at Build 2023, Copilot appears as a sidebar docked to the right side of the desktop and fullscreen apps will now take up the remaining space. There’s not much to configure in this early preview—if you navigate to More options (“…”) > Settings, you find only one option, “Let Copilot use content from Microsoft Edge”—and the feature set is basic and just a subset of what Microsoft promises for the final release. It’s also quite buggy.

I start off with every AI the same way that Yusuf Mehdi did when Microsoft held its original Bing chat launch event in February: I ask it to generate a 5-day itinerary for Mexico City. In doing so, I learned two things. First, this thing is really buggy, with this query being met with a “Sorry, looks like something went wrong” error and a “Let’s start over” link. And second, it limits you to 30 queries (per day, I assume). That’s interesting because some of the queries are about enabling features local to the PC and it’s unclear why they would count against some Bing chat limit. But they do.

The itinerary answer was pretty basic, just a list of sights organized by day, but this is an area where Bing chat has improved since February, as each day of the itinerary at least features places that are near each other in the city. This wasn’t the case a few months ago.

From there, I moved on to the small list of query recommendations that Microsoft suggested in its announcement blog post. I had mixed results, and many of the queries triggered a weird confirmation dialog in the Copilot pane.

Asking it to switch to dark mode worked, for example, but I feel like many people are actually looking for a theme change here, so what I got was the default light mode Windows 11 wallpaper with dark mode UI elements. Again, this is correct, but not what I’d like. (I also asked it to switch back to light mode, which it did.)

Turning on Do not disturb works as expected, again with a confirmation dialog.

When I asked it to take a screenshot, Copilot told me that the Snipping tool was open, provided its keyboard shortcut, and then actually displayed Snipping tool.

Summarizing a webpage never worked. According to Microsoft, you can ask Copilot to “Summarize this website” and it will summarize whatever page is open in the active tab of Microsoft Edge. But each of these queries failed:

“Summarize this webpage.” It told me, “I’m sorry, but I’m not sure which webpage you are referring to. Could you please supply me with the URL of the webpage you want me to summarize?”

“Summarize this website.” It told me, “There are many websites that can summarize text for you. Here are some of the most popular ones” followed by a list of websites.

“Summarize https://www.thurrott.com/windows/285007/windows-copilot-preview-dev-channel-insiders.” This triggered a reasonable answer.

Then I tried to get it to tell me a story using the query “write a story about a purple unicorn flying through outer space.” This worked fine.

Finally, I tried its image creation capabilities. Here again, I had mixed results.

When I asked it to “make me an oil painting of mexico city in the style of frida kahlo,” I was told, incredibly, that it could not create an oil painting.

So I retyped it as “make me a picture of mexico city in the style of frida kahlo” instead. The first time I did this, I was told to wait a bit so it could do its thing. But it never created the image.

So I retyped it again. This time I got a “Your image is generating” prompt and I eventually got four very similar images that for some reason had a person in “Day of the Dead” regalia in front of a Mexico City background. This is not what I asked for. (The images are also photorealistic, which is OK as I did not specify a style.)

Overall, I have to say that this is unimpressive. But it’s early days, and Microsoft says that it will add new features and add an extensibility model over time. Microsoft also says that this thing will display advertising, or as it calls it, “inline recommendations we think are relevant through ads in Bing.” So this thing is being enshittified even in preview. Fantastic.

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