Experiencing Copilot Pro: A Month with Microsoft’s AI Vision of the Future

Microsoft’s Copilot Pro introduced last month as a $20 monthly membership that grants access to AI-powered features inside select Office apps, along with preferential access to the latest OpenAI models and enhanced image generation.

I’ve been putting Copilot Pro to the test over the past month to evaluate its value as a $20 subscription for my everyday needs and examine the quality of the AI image and text generation across Office apps like Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. Certain features of Copilot Pro are currently underwhelming, while others are genuinely beneficial improvements that I may not want to go without. Let’s delve into everything included in Copilot Pro at present.

Artist image creation
One of the primary attractions of subscribing to Copilot Pro is an upgraded version of Designer, Microsoft’s image authoring tool. Designer utilizes OpenAI’s DALL-E 3 model to generate content, and the paid Copilot Pro version generates widescreen images with much greater detail than the free version.

I’ve been using Designer to experiment with images, and I’ve found it especially impressive when you provide it with as many details as possible. Requesting Designer to generate “a picture of a dachshund sitting by a window gazing at a piece of bacon” produces some good examples, but you can get Designer to do much more with some additional encouragement. Adding in more detailed language to produce a “hyper-real painting” with “natural lighting, medium shot, and shallow depth of field” will significantly enhance image results.

As evident in the two examples below, Designer captures the natural lighting accurately, with some depth of field around the bacon. Unfortunately, there are multiple slices of bacon here instead of just one, and they’re oversized pieces of bacon.

“An illustrated image of a UPS delivery man from 1910. In the style of early Japanese cartoons.‘’ Image: Microsoft Designer

The large piece of bacon I didn’t request. Image: Microsoft Designer

Like most things involving AI, the Designer feature isn’t flawless. I generated another separate image of a dog gazing at bacon, and a large piece of bacon was randomly inserted. In fact, I’d say most times only one or two of the four images that are produced are usable. DALL-E 3 still struggles with text, too, particularly if you ask Designer to add labels or signs that have text written on them.

It did a good job of “an illustrated image of a UPS delivery man from 1910. In the style of early Japanese cartoons,” though, adding the UPS logo in — even if it’s a little wonky. Copilot Pro lets you generate 100 images per day, and it does so much faster than the free version. “An illustrated image of a UPS delivery man from 1910. In the style of early Japanese cartoons.” Image: Microsoft Designer

Copilot in Word, PowerPoint, Excel, and Outlook
Copilot Pro isn’t solely about image generation, however. This subscription unlocks the AI capabilities within Office apps. In Word, you can use Copilot to generate text, which can be useful for initiating a document outline or refining paragraphs.

If you have numerical data, you can also get Copilot to visualize this data as a graph or table, which is especially helpful for making text-heavy documents more readable. If you highlight text, a small Copilot logo appears to prompt you to select it to rewrite that text or visualize it. If you select an entire paragraph, Copilot will attempt to rewrite it with different options you can cycle through and choose.

You can quickly visualize data as a table inside Word documents. Screenshot by Tom Warren / The Verge

Like the image generation, the paragraph rewriting can be hit-or-miss, introducing different meanings to sentences by swapping out words. Overall, I didn’t find that it improved my writing. For someone who doesn’t write regularly, it might be a lot more useful.

Copilot in Outlook has been extremely beneficial to me personally. I use it every day to review summaries of emails, which conveniently appear at the top of emails. This might even entice me to purchase Copilot Pro solely for this feature because it saves me so much time when I’m coordinating a project with multiple people.

It’s also really helpful when you have a long-running email thread to quickly receive a summary of all the key information. You can also use Copilot in Outlook to generate emails or craft replies. Much like Word, there’s a rewrite tool here that lets you write a draft email that’s then analyzed to produce suggestions for improving the tone or clarity of an email.

Copilot in PowerPoint is similarly useful if you’re not accustomed to creating presentations. You can ask it to generate slides in a particular style, and you’ll receive an entire deck back within seconds. Designer is part of this feature, so you can delve into each individual slide and modify the images or text.

As someone who dislikes creating presentations, this is something I will definitely use in the future. It certainly surpasses the PowerPoint templates you can find online. However, I did encounter some issues with PowerPoint slide generation, particularly where Copilot would sit there saying, “Still working on it,” and not finish generating the slides.

Copilot in PowerPoint. Screenshot by Tom Warren / The Verge

Copilot in Excel seems to be the most limited part of the Copilot Pro experience right now. You need 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’d expect we’ll see even more functionality here over time.

The final example of Copilot inside Office apps is OneNote. Much like Word, you can draft notes or plans here and easily rewrite text. Copilot also offers summaries of your notes, which can be particularly amusing if you attempt to summarize shorthand notes or incomplete notes that only make sense to your brain.

Copilot GPTs and the future
Microsoft is also rolling out a number of GPTs for fitness, travel, and cooking. These are essentially individual assistants inside Copilot that can help you find recipes, plan out a vacation itinerary, or create a personalized workout plan. Copilot Pro subscribers will soon be able to develop their own custom GPTs around specific topics, too.

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

The email summaries in Outlook tempt me into the subscription, but the text generation features aren’t really all that unique in the Office apps. I feel like you can get just as good results using the free version of Copilot or even ChatGPT, but you’ll have to do the manual (and less expensive) option of copying and pasting the results into a document.

The consumer Copilot Pro isn’t as fully featured as the commercial version just yet, so I’d expect we’ll see a lot of improvements over the coming months. Microsoft is showing no sign of slowing down with its AI efforts, and the company is set to detail more of its AI plans at Build in May.

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