This week, as the year draws to a close, we are excited to announce that Bot Framework Composer 1.3 is now available to download. Composer has come a long way since we made the product GA (generally available) at the Microsoft Build conference earlier this year and this is our biggest release yet, adding many significant capabilities and making building sophisticated bots and virtual assistants even easier!
New features to improve the developer experience and workflow
For developers who are working with Bot Framework Skills today, you will know that developing multiple bots locally that work together can sometimes be a challenge, especially when it comes to setting up debugging. In Composer 1.3, we have now added a multi-bot authoring and management experience to transform this scenario, adding the capability to create, manage and test multiple bots within a single project. With a single click, you can now start all local bots for debugging, enabling you to test your root (parent) bot, connected to one or more skills with no additional manual configuration needed.
Another significant enhancement is for the provisioning feature, which previously required developers to leave Composer and run a PowerShell script, copying back a resulting configuration into Composer. Now though, the provisioning process has been overhauled and users can now login to Azure, provision required resources and subsequently publish bots, all within the Composer environment!
Additionally, we have implemented a new settings experience, providing an improved interface, removing the need to manually edit the underlying JSON for common settings, whilst retaining the ability to make changes or add additional configuration manually if you need to.
In addition to the existing capability for developers to localize their bots, multilingual support has now been added to the Composer UI! You can now choose from a long list of available languages within the Application Settings pane to change the language displayed within Composer.
As part of version 1.3, you can now choose to enable one or more preview features by choosing preview feature flags within the Composer settings page. These features are designed to give you early access and a chance to try what we are working on right now for future Composer releases. The following preview feature flags are now available.
Form Dialogs – Automatically generate a sophisticated dialog by simply providing the properties that you would like customers to provide as part of the conversation, with Composer then generating the appropriate dialog, language understanding (to enable dis-ambiguation and interruption scenarios) and bot responses (.lg files) assets.
Orchestrator – A new top-level recognizer which can help to arbitrate (dispatch) between multiple LUIS and QnA Maker models to ensure accurate routing of user requests to the appropriate language model or skill.
Package Manager – Developers can now discover and install packages from NuGet / NPM that contain re-usable assets, including dialogs, custom actions and .LG (language generation) files, that can be utilized by their bots. Once installed, assets contained within a package become available for use within a bot. Moving forward, we will provide guidance for how you can create and publish your own packages (including to internal feeds if desired), as well as making available a number of packages covering common scenarios that will ship with Composer.
Conversational core template – Built on the new package capabilities, surfaced via the preview of the Package Manager, we are developing a new component model for bot development using re-usable building blocks (packages). With this preview, users can create a bot using the new conversational core template which consists of a configurable runtime that can be extended with packages or importing additional skills.
Help us to improve Composer!
Within this release we have enabled the ability for users of Composer to opt in to sending usage information to us, to allow us to better understand how Composer is used. As we gather this telemetry, we can use it as an additional signal to help us prioritize our efforts in future releases and ensure we are focusing on the right features. You can help us by opting into providing usage data via the Data Collection section of the Composer settings page.
Finally, a huge thank you to all of our users for your support and feedback during 2020 - we are excited to bring more significant updates to you as we move into 2021. Happy Holidays to everyone from the entire Conversational AI team!