I love the intelligence Cortana adds to assist you with your daily tasks, whether you are a Windows 10 user or a phone user (Windows, Android, iPhone). It has been good at things, but not always. And I found myself not relying on it so much as I was when I had Windows Phone. Partly because I prefer native tools where they work.
However, the areas of personal assistance weren’t perfect whichever tools you use. Especially for the workflow I rely on. For an example, when I book a flight, I send myself a calendar invite from airline’s system if it offers such function. If I book a hotel, I do the same. If such option isn’t available, I take information that is sent in confirmation email and create an event in my calendar manually.
Wouldn’t it be awesome if I have an assistant that does it for me? Enter “Events for mail”! No it’s not a standalone product, rather a function built-in to your Office 365 tenant. The feature was enabled in my tenant at some point in recent past. I only found out by happy surprise when I saw the following in my mailbox:
I had just booked my rental car for my upcoming trip and to my surprise, only moments after receiving confirmation email, this email landed in my mailbox. Only because it was the first time it had processed something automatically and added to my calendar! It also offered me a shortcut to options page from where I can configure the behavior to my tastes. Here’s what it looks like:
As you may have noticed, it allows you to configure options such as what kind of events you want to process from your emails (flights, hotel reservations, car rentals and even package deliveries), whether you want to mark the calendar item private or completely disable automatic processing of events from your emails. But why would you want to do that? I certainly can use all help I can get!
This reminded me of Satya’s Keynote “Democratizing AI” at Microsoft Ignite. He laid out many scenarios where artificial intelligence can make your lives better, healthier, safer or productive. He was serious for sure!
What’s more? The assistance offered by these machine learning functions doesn’t stop at creating events in your calendar from emails, Outlook surfaces helpful hints as well. For example, when I am looking at an email from which it found the events, it looks something like this:
The top portion of email isn’t from actual email sent by AVIS, but function of Outlook adding useful information on the fly! It also offers me additional contextual tasks such as “modify reservation” in this case. If you were to click that option, it takes you right to your reservation page on AVIS. Now that’s handy!
Now it might be annoying to some when you get a reminder email in addition to forthcoming reminder from the event on your calendar but I find it handy when it not only reminds me but offers me ability to check in online for an upcoming flight, well in advance:
Yes I will take all assistance I can get! And I hate to use this quote but Conrtana “You’re fired!” Now, don’t get me wrong, I will continue using Cortana for lot of other things it can do which isn’t just emails.