New Cortana experience for Windows 10 shows up in latest preview build

What you need to know

  • A new Cortana UI is hidden in the latest preview build of Windows 10.
  • It introduces a new conversational UI, similar to what's available on Android and iOS.

A brand new Cortana experience for Windows 10 has made its first appearance in the latest preview build being tested by Windows Insiders. The feature was spotted by Albacore on Twitter, and is currently hidden in the latest build, but can be enabled via third-party tools. The experience is very similar to the Cortana experience on Android and iOS, with a conversational UI that encourages typing over voice.

The new Cortana experience is labeled "beta," and since Microsoft hasn't yet unveiled this new UI there's no official word on when we can expect this to show up for testing officially. It's likely we'll see this ship to the public with the Windows 10 20H1 release in the spring of next year, however.

Microsoft has been working on a new conversational Cortana experience for Windows 10 for a while now. In fact, it's something I wrote about back in 2018. Today, we're finally seeing the result of those plans take shape, and it's very exciting. Up until earlier this year, Cortana seemed pretty dead, but with a refreshed focus announced at Build, there's a lot of cool new features and experiences coming soon to Cortana.

Part of this work was completed with the last Windows 10 feature update, where Microsoft split up the Cortana and Search experiences to make way for a new Cortana experience that isn't deprioritized over search. Multiple users assumed the split meant Cortana was going away, but it actually meant the opposite. Microsoft split the two features up so that it could build out Cortana as a much more versatile and productive feature without getting in the way of search.

We're excited to see what Microsoft has planned for Cortana. What are your thoughts on the new Cortana experience? Let us know in the comments.

Zac Bowden
Senior Editor

Zac Bowden is a Senior Editor at Windows Central. Bringing you exclusive coverage into the world of Windows on PCs, tablets, phones, and more. Also an avid collector of rare Microsoft prototype devices! Keep in touch on Twitter: @zacbowden.

  • But i read in the comments that Microsoft was killing cortana.
  • Oh, don't pay attention to those mindless trolls
  • Ohh, Cortana is dead. Microsoft might put a slight bit of effort into it, but not any real effort. Cortana will continue to be overlooked as Google Assistant, Alexa, Siri, and Bixby are much more accessible. Digital assistants don't really make much sense on Windows. Without mobile or smart speaker support, why would anyone use Cortana in any serious manner? It is only a matter of time before Microsoft realizes the little effort they are putting in is wasted as useage is near zero. WC will have some excuse why it is a good thing and still isn't dead just being repurposed to some invisible cloud service. In reality, it has been dead for years now. Look at those Cortana numbers!
  • Seriously...why are you here? You say the most outrageous things and try to justify your stupidity with dubious statistics.
  • Dubious statistics? Look at the logo on the bottom right of that slide. It was leaked from Microsoft. Some of you guys live in fairy tale land. Cortana has no vehicle for the future. Desktops aren't an incubator for digital assistants, they are hospice. It is only a matter of time before the plug is pulled for a consumer version of Cortana. Probably after Windows Lite fails.
  • Arent all of those technically Cortana numbers as Cortana is basically Bing? Also, I dont see Cortana numbers, or is that the point you are trying to make?
  • A ridiculously ignorant Microsoft hater. Cortana is on Android, which is one of Microsofts platforms, including a hugely popular Microsoft launcher, and the Office 365 suite.
    It's also in the xbox, and of course the most popular line of mobile computing device, used by almost every business person on earth 'the laptop'.
  • "i read in the comments" I think I see the issue. ;-)
  • I like using Cortana so I'm excited.
  • In the meantime Cortana cant even say the temperature in Celsius even if is selected as preferred setting...
  • Thank you!!! That bother me a lot too!
  • So what you are saying is that even an American AI finds the metric system confusing. 😜
  • For my language it can. But it's probably one of her many bugs, I guess in US you have some too.
  • Cortana fails half the time you ask it to open an app. It's in a pretty bad state. I'm glad they're getting into it again - they had really abandoned it.
  • The appropriate term would be "neglected" rather than "abandoned".
  • A little bit more than that. It changed leaders, and even which team "owns" Cortana (it's now under Office, happened last year). Combined with work in Windows 10 to basically turn it into a Store app/modularize, work with Semantic Machines, and more I don't think it was neglected. so much as undergoing a reworking since the demise of Mobile 2 years ago.
  • Dan, don't forget about the team up with a uni in Melbourne Australia to improve Cortana's skills.
  • Well, a huge reworking. An overhaul. And the product on W10 right now reflects very little of it.
  • Well it felt more like "abandoned" because Cortana's skills actually went backwards. It used to track my flights and packages fine, and synced my phone's notifications. It does none of that now. But MS is serious about turning Cortana into a truly capable voice assistant - and in my opinion the field is wide open because voice assistants are still in their infancy.
  • Digital assistants get better with use and data. It is still early, but platforms with more users have more opportunity to collect data and use that data to improve the system. Microsoft is at a disadvantage since they don't have users for Cortana, especially mainstream users.
  • Google has more than enough data to know that I take the train every day. So why does it keep giving me driving directions? It's not just machine learning + data. It's not about data, it's about brain power. Consumer AI is still stupid.
  • But Google has that location data and can eventually learn to interpret it correctly. Microsoft is tethered to your desk. They have very little information to build on. Assistant is well beyond Cortana at this point. Assistant has had conversational capabilities from the start and is now moving beyond that. You really don't want to have a conversation with your technology. You want to give it commands and have it react accurately and immediately when possible. Watch Google's keynote from I/O this year.
  • Microsoft has Cortana on other platforms, meaning they can get these numbers. The problem is that people stopped even knowing that it exists.
  • Google can't interpret three years of location data and my explicitly telling it I use mass transit now? That's just beyond their abilities? Maybe it's a harder task than you think.
  • Actually there's another thing. I own two Android devices, and one gets my location data all the time. But those devices also feed lots of data to Microsoft (through MS apps like Office, OneNote, Outlook, etc. and the Launcher). Also, I spend way more screen time and do way more things on Windows than I ever did on any mobile OS. The question of "who has the most useful data?" doesn't have an obvious answer for anyone like me.
  • Cortana should be too upgradeable through the Store
  • I believe that is the goal this time.
  • That's great news.
  • Yeah Microsoft!!! Don't give up on her!!! My Invoke, Surface Headphones and Surface Go thanks you! She can be amazing with focus and priority behind her. Give her to the Xbox team...they will have your consumer products singing!
  • I like this. Changing from a voice centric to a more hybrid approach and act like a messenger app makes more sense. Now depending on how fast the responses are, she could be really handy for quick info (e.g. word definitions, quick calculation, weather etc...). Might definitely use her more for this.
  • Google Assistant has had this feature for years now. If this is what you want, Cortana isn't the best experience, it is actually quite crappy in comparison.
  • But Google Assistant isn't extendable unless you subscribe to thirdparty services like IFTTT and even then the capabilities GA's public apis give is very limited. I'm a developer by trade so I do alot of custom tinkering with the likes of IoT, Apps, etc... The power of Cortana is that it's extensible by design, they actually have a bot framework SDK so I could even create a new AI assistant that's not Cortana if I wanted to, I know quite a lot of companies in my network utilizing this sdk into their own products, it's just not called Cortana but the backend powering it is what powers Cortana. For example with Cortana I can give her a dictionary of keywords with specific commands that I can code / script, and this dictionary is regularly updated via local network within my house. Then I use Cortana + my custom extensions as macros for my IoT devices, I can say "Light's Out" and it'll trigger turn off my lighting or a more fun side project I did was adding a command "Who's at my doorstep" which would run a snapshot via a CCTV on my house and use Azure Cognitive services to describe how many people and what they look like at my doorstep. You can't do that with GA since it lacks extension points or even an SDK to work with as a developer.
  • Where can I find out more about Cortana extensibility and the bot framework SDK? I'll do some searches, but it sounds like you might know a few good links for communities, resources, etc.
  • I don't understand why they'd be integrating a fictional video game character into Windows? Can someone please explain??
  • You're like 5 years late to explain this.
  • This may help give some context. Cortana, despite being a fictional character in Halo, was a popular and well recognized AI that many fans of the game and Windows Phone/Mobile are familiar with. At the time Cortana was unveiled, it was well ahead, IMO, of anything the Google and Siri had to offer. Three examples of the top of my head are, Cortana was more natural sounding, thanks to the voice actor that actually voiced the character. It inserted punctuation, without the need to say the punctuation, unlike Google Assistant. It also worked best over Bluetooth, when it came to being completely hands free. To my knowledge, Google nor Siri still can't do the later two, without having software installed on your car stereo or other Bluetooth device. The link below may offer some additional insight, too.
  • Did Microsoft neglect Cortana all these years? Just like working on CShell 'neglecting' tablet mode. They just keep it low. The chat based interface might interest more interaction with Cortana. It's a big thing indeed, but lacks Cortana's 'personality', for which she was widely commended, and feels like just any other bots. It needs a revamp to make it a Cortana Experience.
  • There’s also a new hidden feature for Snip and Sketch. After a screenshot is taken, you’re able to drag and drop that screenshot:
  • Yes.. Happy News... Having two invokes and Cortana on my Andriod, this is good...
  • Yes, I own a invoke and use her on Android. So bring it on Microsoft, just keep ignoring the hates and do you.
  • Typing over voice? Well, that's almost useless to me. I want MORE voice. SIGNIFICANTLY more voice control.
  • I still see the original Pen options (Windows Ink Workspace) options, so maybe they're still A/B testing it.