Cortana is done hiding in the Windows 10 Start Menu, where it's been tucked away for years, largely unused and unnoticed. Microsoft has released a standalone app for its Cortana digital assistant, most likely an attempt to bolster its significance in the overall Windows 10 experience.

The company's most recent experiment is a chat-based interface for Cortana on Windows 10 PCs that live in a standalone app. It's still in beta, though, and only Windows Insiders have access to it at the moment.

Standalone Cortana App

Designed to appear more conversational, the new Cortana app supports both text and voice queries. Microsoft wants to separate Cortana from the built-in Windows 10 search experience, and at the same time focus on business users. This Cortana app is just as powerful as it was when it was shoved to the Start menu, able to perform a number of neat features such as answer queries, participate in assistant conversations, launch apps, manage lists, set reminders, and more.

Microsoft has also tweaked Cortana so that the "Hey, Cortana" prompt is less intrusive. Additionally, the assistant now supports both light and dark themes, which should be a boon for all dark theme fans out there. Performance is also "significantly improved" thanks to new speech and language models, claims Microsoft.

More Features Coming Soon

However, not all features from the previous Cortana experience are available just yet, according to Dona Sarkar, Microsoft's Windows Insider chief. More features will be added over time, however, through updates to Cortana via the Microsoft Store. Which is to say Cortana will be just like any other Windows 10 app in that it's updated via Microsoft's software marketplace.

The Cortana app is now available for Fast Ring users. More specifically, it's present in the preview version of Windows 10, build 18945. It will eventually make its way to all Windows 10 users come the first half of next year.

These updates arrive just days after Microsoft announced it's changing the look of the Xbox One homescreen and how players control the console via Cortana. As part of a major dashboard overhaul, Microsoft is removing the digital assistant entirely to make way for a more "streamlined user interface" for the home section of the Xbox One dashboard. Microsoft also said it's moving to cloud-based assistants moving forward.

Thoughts about Cortana disappearing from the Xbox One experience but getting its own app in Windows 10? As always, if you have anything to share, feel free to sound them off in the comments section below!

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