Windows 11 bids farewell to WordPad as Microsoft axes longtime favorite (oh, and Cortana)

Microsoft finally gives its iconic WordPad app the chop as a new Windows 11 Canary build reveals that the long-time word processing app’s time is up. The Canary channel is one of four release channels in the Windows Insider Program, Microsoft’s community that gives testers, developers, and enthusiasts access to try out new versions of Windows and new features to gather feedback and improve them before releasing them to the wider user base. 

In WordPad’s place, Microsoft is directing users to use Microsoft Word to work with rich text files, which feels a little cheeky (more about that in a moment). 

We found out that WordPad was being deprecated a little while back, and now Microsoft is making good on its promises. The company elaborated that no new WordPad developments were being worked on at the time of the announcement, and that future Windows 11 releases wouldn’t include it – which is what has happened with the latest WordPad-less Canary build. 

Microsoft also revealed that the WordPad and People apps won’t be included by default upon a clean install of Windows 11, and you’ll no longer be able to reinstall WordPad at a later date.

Man typing on laptop

(Image credit: Chase Chappell/Unsplash)

Users react

This development comes with a tinge of melancholy for many Windows fans because it has been one of Microsoft’s flagship programs for a long time. For many users, it was their preferred choice for a basic and straightforward simple rich text editor, being included in nearly every version of Windows starting with Windows 95. 

Microsoft recommends “Microsoft Word for rich text documents like .doc and .rtf and Windows Notepad for plain text documents like .txt” for users who would like to know what to use instead. 

Of course, the full version of Microsoft Word is part of the Microsoft Office suite, which isn’t free, so recommending a paid-for alternative to a free app they’ve just cut probably won’t go down too well. A much better alternative is LibreOffice Writer, which is part of the free, open-source LibreOffice suite – although I can imagine why Microsoft would be hesitant to send people to a free rival app.

The newest preview build, Windows 11 Insider Preview Build 26020, also saw a move that was long expected from Microsoft – giving Cortana the chop. If you’ve already forgotten what Cortana is (or, rather, was), Cortana is Microsoft’s previous effort in its mission to create a personal productivity assistant. 

Now, it’s leaving Cortana in the past and trucking forward with Windows Copilot, its newer and fresher take on the all-purpose digital assistant that’s powered by AI. According to Tom’s Hardware, Microsoft is so keen to make Copilot a hit (unlike the rather unpopular Cortana), it is now requiring partner keyboard manufacturers to have a dedicated Copilot key. 

A final bow for WordPad – or is it?

To some, this move reminds them of when Microsoft wanted to ax Windows Paint. Many users were incensed, which is understandable, in my opinion, as I think Paint is one of the best apps ever made. In the case of Paint, Microsoft actually listened to users’ outcry and made the app available for download from the Microsoft Store. Since then, it’s been developed and upgraded for Windows 11, and even getting its own AI assistant named Cocreator

It’s speculated that if there’s enough uproar about WordPad’s departure, Microsoft might consider doing something similar for WordPad. WordPad is a quality, solid app that’s simple and straightforward, installed by default, quick to load and get going, and offers more features than NotePad for simple text editing. 

It’s safe to say many users are lamenting WordPad’s exit and are hoping it’ll be made available as an optional download. I guess we’ll have to see if Microsoft is actually interested in continuing to give users the option to work more simply and without unwanted AI features, or if it really is committed to dropping popular basic apps in pursuit of its vision of an AI-powered future.


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Say your goodbyes to Cortana: the unloved Windows 11 assistant is going the way of Clippy as Copilot takes over

The preview of the newest Windows 11 build is missing a big thing: the Cortana app. This change was detailed in an official Windows Insider blog post (aimed at people who help test out early versions of upcoming Windows 11 updates), providing a link to an extra page going into more detail about ending support for the Cortana standalone app. 

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen talk of effectively killing off the Cortana app. BleepingComputer reports about another Canary channel preview release that had the Cortana app and support for it removed earlier this year. The future of Cortana was originally announced back in June, when Microsoft first set out its plans to end support for the standalone app.

At the time, Microsoft wrote that support for Cortana would also eventually end for a range of Microsoft products including Teams mobile, the Teams display, and Teams Rooms, as well as ending voice assistance for Outlook mobile and Microsoft 365 mobile, in the later half of this year. 

This is a big step for Microsoft which committed a lot of time and resources to Cortana, integrating it deeply into the Windows operating system and tailoring it to work with a number of Microsoft apps and products. It was, however, long expected that it may end up getting culled after Microsoft put out an announcement on its official support blog two years ago that support for the Cortana mobile app would end.

Screenshot of Windows Copilot in use

(Image credit: Microsoft)

The new kid on the block, Copilot

Cortana’s exit is happening to make way for Microsoft’s new central focus, its AI-equipped assistant named Copilot, which was announced at this year’s Build conference. Users were able to try Copilot after the Windows 11 22H2 update was released on September 26. Microsoft’s CVP, Yusuf Mehdi, stated that “Copilot will uniquely incorporate the context and intelligence of the web, your work data, and what you are doing in the moment,” and emphasized that Microsoft was prioritizing privacy and security.

After an optional update (or eventually I assume a mandatory update), Copilot will be turned on by default, with users being able to configure settings with Microsoft’s Intune policy or Group Policy (for groups and organizations). This was clarified by Harjit Dhaliwal, a Product Marketing Manager at Microsoft, in a Microsoft enterprise blog post.

As well as Copilot, Microsoft has told users how they can utilize its AI-powered search engine Bing Search and enable voice assistance capabilities through Voice access in Windows 11. 

Cortana’s demise isn’t too surprising, as the voice assistant got a very mixed reception and saw a lot of criticism. Microsoft appears to want to have another try, and is clearly hoping that the AI-powered Copilot will fare better. Although Copilot has taken somewhat wobbly first steps, it’s innovative and has plenty of potential.

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Windows 11 no longer has Cortana as Microsoft pulls the plug on digital assistant

It’s official – Microsoft has made the move to scrap Cortana in Windows 11, as promised a while back.

If you recall, back in June, Microsoft let us know that Cortana was going to be killed off later in 2023. We then heard a firm date for that to happen, namely August, and the first sightings of some folks seeing Cortana dumped were reported just over a week ago.

And now it seems Microsoft is fully pulling support for the digital assistant.

Windows Central reports that the deprecation of Cortana is fully underway, and you’ll be notified the assistant is no longer available if you try to access it in Windows 11. Along with that notification, a link is provided to a support page where you can learn more about what’s going on here.

The change seems to be rolling out for everyone on Windows 11 now, though some folks may still have access to Cortana – but not for much longer.

Cortana will also be getting the elbow from Microsoft Teams later this year, we’re told, and will only remain in Outlook mobile by the time the end of 2023 rolls around.

Analysis: Curtains for Cortana across the board

Waving goodbye to Cortana won’t be a difficult task for most users. After all, certainly for the general computing population using Windows 11, Cortana wasn’t used much anyway. Microsoft had already angled the digital assistant more towards business use because of this – but Cortana will also be dumped from Microsoft Teams, as well, soon enough.

The reason for getting rid of Cortana pretty much everywhere (except Outlook mobile, for some reason) is obvious, and that’s the incoming Windows Copilot AI, a much more ambitious desktop assistant.

This will basically be the Bing AI integrated into a side panel in Windows 11, but with a lot of extra abilities to customize Windows settings in various ways, to save you the trouble of having to hunt for these (options that might be buried deep in submenus somewhere).

Microsoft’s Copilot is already in test builds of Windows 11, but right now, it’s still a barebones incarnation of what the software giant has promised. Meaning it’s pretty much just a built-in Bing chatbot with a few very limited powers to manipulate the Windows 11 environment, though Microsoft is going to build out the latter facets considerably going forward.

Rumor has it Copilot could debut in Windows 11 23H2, and clearing out Cortana before then would make sense in that light. We still have our doubts that Copilot will be impressive enough to launch in just a few short months though (mind you, Bing AI itself not being ready didn’t stop Microsoft launching the chatbot, either).

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Cortana is finally getting the boot by Microsoft in favor of an actual AI

If you recently updated Windows 11, you may have spotted the following message when trying to open the Cortana app: “Cortana in Windows as a standalone app is deprecated.”

Microsoft is finally cutting off support to Cortana, its Windows Phone-era assistant that first launched with Windows 10 back in 2014, in favor of AI features like Bing Search and Windows Copilot. Cortana was released in response to Apple’s Siri, which had been growing in popularity since its own debut. Microsoft even released a playful commercial poking fun at Siri’s more robotic voice while promoting how human-sounding Cortana was,

But thanks to this update, Siri has outlasted Microsoft’s robotic assistant. Here's the official post from Microsoft: “We are making some changes to Windows that will impact users of the Cortana app. Starting in August 2023, we will no longer support Cortana in Windows as a standalone app.” And for those asking for an assistance program, Microsoft is recommending Windows Copilot which is set to release with the Windows 11 23H2 update. The tech giant has already been testing out first-party and Bing third-party plugins for Copilot.

The app is still working on Windows 10 for now but, according to a source from Windows Latest, Microsoft plans to kill off the app on Windows 10 within a few weeks. For now, Cortana will remain with other apps like Outlook and Microsoft Teams, though it mostly likely won’t be permanent.

Should Microsoft have canned Cortana? 

It’s rather ironic that Cortana, which was made as a fake AI assistant of sorts based on the iconic one that aids Master Chief in the long-running video game franchise Halo series, is getting ousted by actual AI tools. But considering how AI has skyrocketed in popularity and in growth potential, it makes sense that Microsoft would completely drop app support that hasn’t received an update in two years.

But was this the right move for Microsoft? On one hand, it feels obvious to dump tools that haven’t been supported for so long. But maybe there could have been a way to integrate Cortana with AI technology to create a more personalized AI assistant experience. Imagine having Cortana combined with Bing search or Windows Copilot, giving you your results and aiding you.

Of course, this opens up a huge can of worms in regards to using the voice actress Jen Taylor's audio likeness in ways that were never covered by her original contract with Microsoft. Ethically she would need to give her consent and be paid royalties for that purpose.

But with Microsoft officially closing the chapter on Cortana, we’ll never know what could have been.

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Microsoft says it’s curtains for Cortana in Windows 11 (and 10) – but that’s no surprise

Microsoft has announced that it’s killing off Cortana, at least in Windows, where the assistant will be dropped in the not-so-distant future.

Windows Central reported on Microsoft’s revelation that the Cortana app will no longer be supported in Windows late in 2023 (as tipped by @Perbylund on Twitter).

However, the aged assistant will still remain in other Microsoft services, including various bits of Microsoft Teams and Outlook mobile, so Cortana hasn’t entirely been binned.

As for Windows 11, though, you won’t be needing Cortana anyway, because as Microsoft reminds us, the operating system already has elements in place to replace the digital assistant.

For voice controls, there’s now a comprehensive Voice Access feature which Microsoft has been beavering away honing considerably of late.

And for queries and assistance, naturally there’s the new Bing AI (ChatGPT-powered bot) on tap, plus there’s something bigger in the pipeline – Copilot.

In case you missed it (somehow), Microsoft recently revealed it’s bringing Copilot to Windows 11 to sit at the heart of the operating system, offering help with whatever you’re doing.

Analysis: An inevitable move from Microsoft

While Copilot isn’t here yet, the AI will be far more extensive in terms of its scope than Cortana. When it comes to assistance with doing stuff in Windows 11, it’ll not just tell you about useful features for any given task, but offer to automatically enable them if needed. Copilot can also summarize a Word document, for example, Bing AI-style, and its far more wide-ranging skills and utility make Cortana irrelevant as a result.

Just on that basis, it’s no surprise to see Microsoft giving Cortana the elbow from Windows. Indeed, with Cortana getting cut off late in 2023, that perhaps is a further suggestion that this is when Copilot will step up to be incorporated in Windows 11 – perhaps with the 23H2 update? We know Copilot will be in Windows 11 preview builds this month (or at least that’s what Microsoft has told us), so it seems everything is all lining up.

Although there’s always a chance that Copilot is such a big feature addition, Microsoft may want to save it for next-gen Windows (Windows 12, maybe) which is set to arrive next year (rumor has it).

Whatever the case, Cortana is not exactly going to be missed outside a niche of users, at least in Windows, anyway. As a digital assistant, rather than being an all-rounder, Microsoft had already angled Cortana more to business-related use (hence Cortana remaining in Teams and so forth after being ditched from Windows). So, none of this is a shock, and it just makes sense for Microsoft to eject Cortana with Copilot now incoming for Windows 11.

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