Microsoft Outlook for iOS adds voice dictation to email, search, and calendar invitations

338 28/06/2021

Since 2019, Microsoft’s Cortana personal assistant has allowed you to listen to emails in your Outlook mobile inbox. Nearly two years later, Microsoft is making voice a more important part of the Outlook experience. Starting with the iOS version of the software (and then Android), you can use voice to dictate emails, schedule meetings, and search.

To access Outlook's new capabilities, tap the plus icon floating above the app's main navigation bar and then press the "Use Voice" prompt. You can ask Cortana things like "When's my next team meeting?" or for more complex requests like "Set up a meeting with Jill and her team for next Monday about the Q1 budget." When you're scheduling an event, you can also ask the assistant to add specific individuals to the invite. It's even possible to use Cortana to add attachments to your emails, and the speech-to-text tool allows you to both respond to emails and write new ones.

Powering a lot of the functionality is Microsoft's Graph tool, which provides the assistant with context when it needs it. That information allows Cortana to do things like spell the names of your co-workers correctly when you mention them in an email.

As The Verge pointed out, today’s announcement is consistent with Microsoft’s broader push to rebuild Cortana as a productivity assistant, rather than a competitor to Alexa and Google Assistant. To this end, the company recently discontinued Cortana iOS and Android applications.

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