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Microsoft was recently in the news for its big collaboration with OpenAI to leverage the GPT (Generative Pre-Text Transformer) technology to add an Artificial Intelligence (AI) copilot to its Bing search engine. But the company had laid the foundation for its own AI-based platforms back in October 2022, when it announced Microsoft Designer, leveraging OpenAI's DALL-E 2 application. For the unaware, DALL-E is an AI image generator that takes prompts in natural language text format. The Microsoft Designer was touted to be an AI-powered design platform that offers an advanced set of features to allow users to create Instagram posts, presentations, digital postcards, graphics and more. On April 27, Microsoft launched a public preview of the platform and showcased its advanced set of features.
“Since October, the AI models have steadily improved, and we've worked to weave these powerful capabilities throughout the Designer canvas in even more delightful ways while keeping you in control,” said Bryan Rognier, General Manager, Microsoft 365 Consumer, in a blog post.
Now, if you are someone who needs to generate/create visuals, the first stop is generally Adobe Photoshop and then there is Canva. While these tools can do a tremendous job, Designer can go way ahead and actually help you during the creative process in finishing the product as per your ideas. And that is where Designer is being seen as one of the biggest threats to Photoshop as well as Canva.
The AI-powered design platform features a wide range of features to enable users in creating designs and graphics quickly and seamlessly. Just like DALL-E, it takes input in natural language, meaning you can give it a text prompt saying “A social media post about affordable smartphones”, and it will duly oblige. For better results, you can also add accompanying images with design suggestions.
But suggesting designs and graphics is merely the beginning. You can also customize whether you want the design to make an Instagram or Facebook post or any other use case, to get the right dimensions. After picking the image, you can simply choose the goal of the post (from multiple choices including raising awareness, engagement, community building, and sales) and add a brief description to see the AI platform generate multiple caption choices for you to pick and add to the post. You can also pick from a selection of trending hashtags around the topic and add them to the post. Once done, and if you have connected your social media to Microsoft Designer, it will automatically post it to your account.
It also has given more manual control to users to let them fine-tune the image as per their preference. The platform now has a new feature where it lets users resize the image to fit into various social media post formats. The images do not lose resolution on resizing, the company has said.
Another new feature added to the platform is animated visuals (transition slides and similar effects) to make the designs eye-catching. Microsoft also plans to add more features in the future including editing options where you can place an object in the canvas and AI fills in the rest, erasing the background, and replacing background options.
During the preview period, Microsoft has allowed free access to the platform and it can be accessed through the sidebar of the Microsoft Edge browser.
Microsoft Designer offers AI tools to automate design tasks that earlier users would have to do manually. We took the platform for a spin and in our experience, the images generated were fairly accurate to the description. It also takes away the manual efforts required for selecting an image, resizing it, adding different visual effects and elements, and placing the text in the right position.
This is a powerful tool that can create a huge number of posts geared towards the need of the user in a short amount of time. The curated hashtags and captions also remove the headache of thinking about the right content to appeal to the audience. However, the images generated lack the personalized creativity that some organizations and individuals prefer. With a lack of editing capabilities, more creative users can feel a bit underwhelmed by the end result, for now.
Microsoft Designer has the potential to offer a powerful alternative to existing design platforms such as Adobe Photoshop and Canva, but with the vast amount of tools these platforms offer, Designer still has a bit to do to catch up.
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