Microsoft recently said that the impact of AI on our lives will be as big as the PC and the Internet, which is something to be expected from a company that just invested billions of dollars in OpenAI, the maker of ChatGPT.
However, Microsoft is far from alone in making these claims, and ChatGPT’s talents, which include advanced text generation and question answering, are potentially transformative. But how exactly could AI tools and machine learning change Microsoft 365, formerly known as Microsoft Office?
At this time, there is no timeline for Microsoft’s integration of OpenAI technology into its suite of productivity apps, which include Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and Teams. But the process has already begun, and recent reports suggest that Microsoft will soon add ChatGPT talents to its Office suite and the Bing search engine, which could change the way we use them.
Based on what we know of ChatGPT talent and how they could be applied to Microsoft 365, here are five ways AI technology is likely to change the way we use apps like Outlook, Word, and PowerPoint.
5 Ways ChatGPT Could Transform Microsoft Office
Microsoft Office, now known as Microsoft 365, already has some AI-powered tools of its own thanks to Project Turing (opens in a new tab). Since 2017, the latter has provided features like assistive AI (see below) for suggested email replies and ‘Smart Search’ for searching your documents.
But OpenAI tools like ChatGPT promise to mesh with Microsoft’s own AI research to power those features and unlock new ones. Thanks to its skills in language processing and data analysis, Microsoft’s partnership with ChatGPT could help with…
1. Solving your email headache
For most of us, email has become an outdated chore that lacks the immediacy of the best online collaboration tools like Slack. But Generative Pretrained Transformers (or GPTs) promise to be able to tame our inboxes, thanks to their ability to process large amounts of text and unravel its meaning.
According to the information (opens in a new tab), Microsoft “recently looked at how Outlook and Word could use GPT to suggest automatic replies to other emails.” This could go much further than the simple autocomplete suggestions we have now: apparently Microsoft has also talked about creating “chatbot-style programs inside Word and Outlook that write full lengths of text.”
Ultimately, your role with email might be to approve or lightly edit suggested responses, rather than setting aside time to track them down. ChatGPT could also help schedule meetings or organize trips, all of which sounds like good news to us.
2. Making you (look like) a better writer
One of the great strengths of ChatGPT is generating text in response to a notice. The content of the AI chatbot’s responses isn’t always as factual as its confident tone implies, but the writing itself can convincingly take on the nuance and character of a particular author.
This is where ChatGPT, particularly its incoming GPT-4 model, could have some of its biggest impacts on Outlook and Word. Third-party apps like Hemingway (opens in a new tab) they already act as our virtual sub-editors, but these tools will increasingly be integrated into applications like Microsoft Office to enhance our writing.
You’ll be able to press a button and get a more refined version of the report you just wrote, or get tips on removing jargon. What impact could automatically generated text ultimately have on our writing skills? That’s a thorny question for another day, but in the short term it could fix problems like an over-reliance on the passive voice in our documents and emails.
3. Summing up your meetings
Microsoft’s ‘At a Glance’ feature can already summarize your Word documents with bulleted summaries, but the ChatGPT integration could take this to the next level and deliver it across Microsoft 365 apps.
For example, a long report could automatically be reduced to a digestible PowerPoint presentation. The same technology could also automatically summarize transcripts created during Teams meetings, saving you the chore of creating a follow-up email from scratch.
This combination of Turing’s ability to understand text and ChatGPT’s ability to generate it automatically could put an end to the repetition many of us experience when creating documents or written text for multiple formats, from presentations to email. You’ll still have the power of final approval, but the legwork of creating PowerPoint presentations and post-meeting emails could soon be crossed off your “to do” list.
4. Create Elegant PowerPoint Images
ChatGPT’s AI powers also fit nicely with another OpenAI brainchild, Dall-E, which went viral last year long before the chatbot. A powerful text-to-image generator, Dall-E can create images (with mixed results) from simple prompts, which could be a very useful way to liven up your PowerPoint presentations.
According to a report by The Information (opens in a new tab), Microsoft has internally discussed “plans to allow PowerPoint clients to use OpenAI’s Dall-E 2 imaging model to create new images for presentations.” This could work in conjunction with ChatGPT’s ability to summarize text snippets with bulleted summaries, effectively creating presentation drafts for you.
This visual aid is something Adobe has referred to as a “creative co-pilot”, allowing you to simply describe the things you want to add to a scene or image. While it has big ramifications for digital art, it could also make PowerPoint presentations much less time consuming.
5. Becoming an Excel genius
Not everyone likes spending time in Microsoft Excel, but ChatGPT’s query-answering and data-analysis powers could make the spreadsheet tool a much friendlier place for the uninitiated.
The Reddit forums have already lit up with the ways people have found to connect ChatGPT to Excel (see video below). And Microsoft’s heavy investment in OpenAI holds the promise of those skills being built right into apps like Microsoft’s king of spreadsheets.
It could, for example, pull data based on a simple prompt (“list the world’s top five companies by profit”), create Excel formulas and macros, or create data visualization charts for you.
Having a chatbot that lives inside of Excel, ready to analyze data and help you with visualizations, would be a great help for beginners and also a huge time saver for experienced users.