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Microsoft's still-unannounced 'Designer' tool: New details emerge

Microsoft is seemingly readying a new Designer tool that looks like a Canva competitor, as well as a Create app/site for templates.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor
Credit: Walking Cat (on Twitter)

In May this year, images from a Microsoft tool known as "Designer" leaked to the web, thanks to Microsoft sleuth "WalkingCat." This week, we got a couple more tidbits about the still-unannounced Designer -- including an associated codename, which seemingly is "Oasis."

Designer looks to be a tool meant to help individuals create polished-looking Instagram and LinkedIn posts and stories, Facebook ads, brochures, invitations and more. Users can start with a blank canvas or provided templates for their creations. (A preview of the Designer tool was briefly available via designer.microsoft.com to those with personal or Microsoft education accounts, but Microsoft has since blocked the content available at that URL, even though the Designer logo still appears.)

A page from the Designer preview supplied by WalkingCat this week shows a screen entitled "Let's start with your content," where users can choose the type of design they intend to create and answer the question "What would you like to say to your audience" and opt for a color scheme. "We use your content and AI to create designs for you," the page says at the top.

Credit: WalkingCat

At the bottom of the design page, there is a note which says, "Browse more templates at Microsoft Create". Yesterday, The Cat tweeted that he had discovered a link, create.microsoft.com, which seems to be where these templates ultimately might be stored. Those of us who tried accessing that URL got a message telling us the site/app isn't yet ready and to come back later. 

Some have wondered whether Microsoft is intending to try to take on the Canva graphic-design platform/service with this new Designer product. As someone who used Microsoft Sway quite a bit, I feel like Designer could be the successor to Sway, which Microsoft hasn't updated since 2017 and seems basically abandoned at this point. There also could be synergies between PowerPoint Designer and this new Designer tool, especially around the concept of generating suggested ideas.

In terms of the AI element in all this, I'm betting when and if ever Microsoft announces the Designer tool, officials will say that Designer's ability to come up with idea suggestions and interpret user intent comes from its Context IQ set of predictive AI technologies which the company first discussed publicly last November.

I don't know when Microsoft plans to go public with the Designer and Create previews. I've asked for a comment and am awaiting my usual "we have nothing to share."

Update (August 8): And there it is! "Microsoft has nothing to share at this time," a spokesperson said.

Regarding the codename Oasis, which I found when digging around on the create.microsoft.com URL, this isn't the first time Microsoft has used this as a codename. Back when the Windows team was still planning to create a variety of "shells" for Windows 10, the holographic shell was codenamed "Oasis." I guess since that idea is no longer active, officials felt it was safe to resurrect the Oasis codename.

In other "creator"-related news, Microsoft has updated its pricing for its Clipchamp web-based video editor, as reported on August 4 by Windows Central. It has reduced its paid tiers to just once and lowered the prices of many premium features. Originally, Windows Central notes, Clipchamp's premium tiers were between $9 and $39 each; now, there is a single $11.99 tier with all the premium features that is called "Essentials." There also is still a basic free tier.

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