Microsoft’s digital assistant Cortana is among the major additions to Windows 10 – and it’s a winner. Switch it on and Cortana alerts you to upcoming meetings; searches your PC and also the web; lets you know concerning the weather, news, and sports; and a lot more.
To obtain the most out of Cortana, I’ve come up with a number of my favorite tips for using it – including using Cortana to handle your Google Calendar, identify the music you’re hearing, and track packages and flights.
This article assumes that you’re already acquainted with the fundamentals of Cortana. If you would like help getting started, see the Cortana section of Computerworld’s “Windows 10 cheat sheet.”
Keep in your mind there have been six major updates to Windows 10 since its initial release in July 2015. This article reflects how Cortana works if you’ve installed the Windows 10 October 2018 Update (version 1809), so if you haven’t installed that update, what you see and browse here may vary slightly from what you see inside your form of Windows 10.
Get a direct answer to your question
Whenever you ask Cortana a question, it will typically show you the answer via a listing of web links; you then open the search results in your browser. That’s what happened, for instance, after i asked, “What was the coldest day’s the year in 2015 in Boston?”
This is a useful but time-consuming process, as you have to browse through the search results, click one and then look for information from the web page seems.
But there are many questions that Cortana can answer directly, without first sending you out of trouble to the web. Instead, you get your answers in Cortana’s pane. Following is simply a partial list – try experimenting by yourself to determine what else it knows.
Define [word] Desire a definition for “absquatulate”? Just ask Cortana.
When is [name of holiday]? Cortana knows when holidays fall around the calendar.
Who is [title of person]? Cortana can tell you who are the CEOs of Microsoft, Google, and Apple, as well who’s the president of the us. Try other titles and names too.
What time could it be in [place]? Unclear about what the time is at this time somewhere in the world? Cortana knows.
Convert [currency] to [currency] Want to know the present forex rates between currencies? Just ask.
How tall is [person]? It knows how tall most famous people are. So it knows, for example, that former U.S. President Barack Obama is six feet 1 inch tall.
How long is [movie]? Just how long is The Godfather? Just ask, and Cortana will inform. However, it does not know every movie available, so sometimes you will be sent out to the net to have an answer.
What is the capital of [country or state]? If you need to be aware of capital of the country or state, Cortana knows.
Connect your accounts, apps, and services to Cortana
One way to extend the strength of Cortana would be to hook it up for an account – for example, LinkedIn – to ensure that when you ask Cortana to behave, it can examine information in that account and provide you with more information regarding your request. Cortana can do more too, including playing music through a service for example Spotify or controlling smart home appliances. And Cortana can work with Windows 10 apps, such as getting a show and playing it on Netflix or Hulu, or asking Fitbit the number of steps you’ve drawn in each day. Microsoft calls these types of actions “Cortana skills.”
To get started, click within the Cortana search box and, when the Cortana panel appears, click on the icon of the notebook in the left-hand navigation panel. Click on the Manage Skills tab at the top of the screen seems and look under Connections, which is broken into four sections: Connected services, Music, Connected Home, and Microsoft family. Click on the appropriate box – for example, Music if you want to have Cortana be a musician via Spotify. Then click on the service you need to connect. When i write this, only three services can be found: iHeartRadio, Spotify, and TuneIn. Stick to the prompts to include the account and then start playing music.
To control home appliances, click Connected Home, then in the screen that appears, click on the appliance you need to control – for instance, the Nest smart thermostat. Click Connect after which follow the prompts. It will probably help if you look into the manual of your smart home appliance prior to trying this.
For other services, select “Connected services” after which “Add something.” You’ll see a listing of available services, including LinkedIn, Gmail, Office 365, Outlook.com, Wunderlist, and Skype. (Note that Office 365 integration is available only when you’ve got a business Office 365 account, not a personal one.) For connecting for an account, click it, then click the Connect button seems. Enter the information you normally use to log in to the account, and Cortana is going to do the remainder.
If you wish to share events and calendars with members of the family, click Microsoft family, then click “Start adding family members” and stick to the prompts.
You can find more accounts you can connect to Cortana for a variety of other skills, such as linking for your Fitbit account to obtain a task summary, or even ordering pizza from Domino’s. To connect to them, go to the main Manage Skills screen, then click on the “Discover more Skills” button. Which will launch the Microsoft Edge web browser to some page with a listing of services you should use. Click any for instructions regarding how to connect to it.
The advantages you’ll get from linking your accounts to Cortana vary based on the account. For instance, if you link Cortana to LinkedIn, if this reminds you of the meeting, it will look to see if any of the people in the meeting are LinkedIn members. If they’re, it will grab their information – including their LinkedIn profile photo, their job title, as well as their company. You can then click the person’s name to leap to their LinkedIn profile.
Note that in many instances, you don’t have to manually give a skill to Cortana to be perform tasks for you. So long as you’ve installed the app, Cortana automatically integrates with it. A number of popular apps, including Netflix, Hulu, and Uber, integrate with Cortana such as this. For example, if you wish to play the Tv show Master of None on Netflix, you are able to type “Netflix find Master of None.” (Actually, you are able to type “netflix find master of none” – Cortana is case-insensitive.)
If you wish to make use of a voice command instead, you can say, “Hey, Cortana, Netflix find Master of None.” Use the same syntax for Hulu – for instance, “Hulu find Spiral” if you wish to find and take part in the French police show. You can also play and pause using voice commands.
Remember that you have to use the precise syntax necessary for each app – you cannot type or speak using real-life, natural language. And it is different for each app. For Netflix and Hulu, for instance, the syntax is [name of app] find [name of show]. You can’t say, “Play Master of None on Netflix” or even “Netflix play Master of None” and have it work.
Set and use reminders
One of Cortana’s best features may be the manner in which it can remind you about tasks or upcoming events. It’s very simple to set a reminder – just say or type “Remind me.” From the screen that appears, complete the form using the person, place, time, or thing that you want to become reminded about. If you prefer, you are able to bypass the shape and just say something similar to “Remind me about my tennis game today at 6 pm.”
You can also set a reminder by clicking in the search box, selecting the notebook icon in the Cortana pane that appears, clicking the Organizer tab, and then selecting “Create an indication.”
In order for Cortana to pop up alerts about the reminders you’ve set, you need to switch on Windows 10’s notification feature. To do it, visit Settings > System > Notifications & actions and then turn the slider on within the “Get notifications from apps and other senders” section.
Let’s move on with location. Say that you usually want to be reminded to buy a pint of Ben and Jerry’s Cherry Garcia frozen treats when you’re near your preferred supermarket – Whole Foods, for example. Say or type “Remind me to obtain Cherry Garcia ice cream when I’m at Whole-foods.” A screen will appear, showing the address associated with a nearby Whole-foods stores and asking which to set a reminder for – or whether the reminder should show up when you are in almost any Whole-foods. Then, next time you’re there, Cortana reminds you to definitely indulge in your ice cream addiction.
Note that you’ll need to have location services turned on with this feature to operate. To turn the help on, select Settings > Privacy > Location. Click the Change button, and in the screen seems, move the slider to On. Also, if the place isn’t one which Cortana readily recognizes, it will charge a fee more information and have you enter in the address yourself.
You are able to set reminders in the same manner for time and contacts. If you want to be reminded to fill your vehicle with gas tomorrow morning, for example, say or type “Remind me to obtain gas tomorrow morning.” A screen will appear requesting more details, like the exact time and whether or not this should be a recurring reminder.
You may also tell Cortana to remind you to make a move whenever you interact with someone in your contact book. If you want to remind yourself to inquire about your friend Lydia in regards to a dinner invitation, say “Remind me to inquire about Lydia about a dinner invitation.” A screen appears asking for the contact’s name if Cortana didn’t recognize it. Then the the next time you signal or receive an email with this person, you’ll get the reminder.
Cortana also lets you view, delete, and edit the reminders you’ve created. To manage your reminders, click in the search engine, click on the notebook icon in the Cortana pane seems, and click on “Reminders” within the Organizer tab. You’ll see a list of all the reminders you’ve created. To edit or delete any, click on the three-dot icon to its right. From the menu that pops up, click Edit to edit it – for instance, to alter the time, place, or person involved. To delete it, click either Delete or Complete.
Manage your Google Calendar with Cortana
Windows 10 includes a built-in calendar app that actually works with Cortana. However, a high level Google Calendar user, you can get Cortana to integrate with that too, so you can use Cortana to create and edit appointments, and show you your schedule with Google Calendar in the same way as you do with the built-in Windows 10 Calendar app.
To get it done, you need to integrate your Google Calendar with the Windows 10 Calendar. First, launch the Calendar app by typing “calendar” into Cortana, then clicking the Calendar app icon that appears towards the top of search results.
Next, click the Settings icon on the lower right from the Calendar screen – the icon is incorporated in the shape of a gear. Once the Settings menu appears, select Account > Manage Accounts > Add account. From the “Choose an account” screen, select Google. You will be asked to sign in with your Google account information. Stick to the prompts to produce the account.
That’s what is needed. From now on, your Google calendar will sync with the Windows 10’s Calendar app. So, for example, if you ask Cortana to “create appointment,” you’ll be able to fill in the details using Cortana, such as the date, time, and purpose. Cortana will prove to add the big event to the Windows 10 Calendar. In order to save it to your Google calendar directly, choose the calendar from the drop-down list just above the Add button. No matter which calendar you set a celebration to, both Google and Windows 10 Calendar will remain in sync.
Also, whenever you ask to visit your schedule – for example by asking “What’s my schedule today?” – Cortana will highlight the events coming from all your calendars, including Google.
One bad thing is that you can’t add events to sub-calendars on Google Calendar (like ‘home’ or ‘work’) with any regular success. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it does not.
Use Cortana on the lock screen
Do you know you don’t even need to log into Windows to make use of Cortana? You are able to work with digital assistant on right on the lock screen.
To get started: Click within the Cortana search bar and click the gear icon that appears on the left side of the pop-up menu. This brings up Cortana’s settings.
Scroll down to the Lock Screen section and slowly move the slider to On. Look just below that for the “Let Cortana access my calendar, email, messages, and Power BI data when my system is locked” setting. Make sure that box as well. Should you don’t, Cortana is going to be limited with what it may do for you in the lock screen – you’ll have the ability to pay attention to music and find out the weather from the lock screen, but you won’t have the ability to set reminders, send emails, or add events to your calendar.
Once you’ve done that, when your system is locked you can easily say “Hey Cortana” and employ it in the lock screen while you would, to create reminders, be a musician, look at your calendar, and more without logging into Windows.
Use Google and Chrome with Cortana
Whenever you ask Cortana to search the web, it uses Microsoft’s Bing search engine. And then, to include insult to injury, it displays the results while using Microsoft Edge browser. Before April 2016, you could easily have Chrome or any other browser display the results by looking into making a simple alternation in Windows 10 Settings. Alas, that’s no longer the situation, because even if you configure another browser like Chrome to become your default browser, Cortana will ignore your wishes and launch its web searches using Edge.
However, there’s a workaround which will force Cortana to make use of Google or another search engine to do its web searches, and the other that tells Cortana to use Chrome or another browser to show the outcomes. Here’s how you can do them.
First we’ll tackle Cortana’s practice of displaying search results in Edge. Although you can have Cortana use any browser that you’ve set as your default, I’ll provide the instructions below for Google Chrome, because if you also want to force Cortana to use Google or another internet search engine besides Bing, you’ll need to use Chrome.
To begin, ensure that Chrome is placed as your default in Windows 10. Open the Windows 10 Settings app and choose Apps > Default Apps. If Chrome isn’t the listed because the default browser, click the web browser icon and select Google Chrome from the list seems. Which makes Chrome your default whenever you click a link. But you need to do one more thing to force Cortana to use Chrome.
To do that, you’ll have to install a free piece of software called EdgeDeflector. To do it, first obtain the latest version of EdgeDeflector’s .EXE executable file from GitHub. (The GitHub site also has more details about EdgeDeflector.) After you’ve downloaded the file, produce a new folder in File Explorer where you’ll put EdgeDeflector. You may create the folder anywhere you want, although I suggest putting it either in the Program Files or Program Files (x86) under your Windows installation, because that’s where most or all your other individuals are stored. It’s smart to name the folder EdgeDeflector or something like that, so you’ll have the ability to know at a glance what’s in it. You’ll need to be logged in being an administrator to produce the folder.
After you’ve created the folder, move EdgeDeflector’s .EXE to the folder and run it. When you do, it will ask what program you want to use to open the file. Choose EdgeDeflector. From now on, when Cortana does a web search, it will display the outcomes inside your default web browser – in this case, Chrome.
(Note: EdgeDeflector doesn’t update itself automatically. When Windows 10 gets an update, there’s an opportunity it could stop working. In the event that happens, get the latest discharge of EdgeDeflector’s .EXE file from GitHub and do the installation.)
Now we’ll tackle the second problem: the fact that Cortana searches the web using Bing. If you like it instead do a google search, Yahoo, or even the DuckDuckGo internet search engine, install the Chrometana extension for Chrome. (It just works best for Chrome, no other browsers.)
After you do the installation, a tab will open asking which internet search engine you want to use. Click on the one you need to use, and in the future, your research will be performed via that search engine, not Bing. Observe that Chrometana won’t work unless you first install EdgeDeflector.
One final note about Cortana and web browsers: Cortana answers a lot of questions directly without sending you to an internet search engines, as explained earlier in this article. For instance, if you use Cortana to look for “Weather,” you will see the results right in Cortana in a flyout pane. Those answers are still gotten via Bing. However, whenever you click on the pane to determine more or related information, that information reveals in Chrome, not in Bing if you are using EdgeDeflector.
Use natural-language queries
Cortana will be a lot smarter than you believe: It enables you to use natural-language queries – quite simply, make requests of it using plain English (or whatever your language is), rather than having to use specific words.
For example, to transmit an email to some contact, you are able to say, “Send an email to Jane Doe.” Cortana will appear through your contacts, discover the person with whom you need to send the email, after which let you fill out an application onscreen to produce and send the email without having to go into a mail app. If you’ve linked your Outlook account to a different account, like a Gmail account, it’ll examine that a lot. And when it finds multiple matches for the person’s name, it will ask you which address you need to send the mail to.
Make Cortana answer only to you
You can tell Cortana to reply simply to your voice with no one else’s. To get it done, click within the search bar, then click Cortana’s settings icon (it looks like a gear) around the left of the screen. Make sure that the slider underneath “Let Cortana respond to ‘Hey Cortana'” is placed to On. Beneath it, you’ll see two buttons – one which reads, “Respond when anyone says ‘Hey Cortana'” and the other that reads “Try to reply simply to me.”
That second button is grayed out – to pick it, you first need to train Cortana to recognize just your voice. Click “Learn the way i say ‘Hey Cortana.'” Cortana will ask you to repeat six phrases. Next, you’ll be able to select “Try to reply simply to me.” Do this, and Cortana is going to do its best to respond only to your voice.
Look at your calendar for Cortana-created information
Cortana can automatically add events to your calendar according to emails you receive – for example, it’ll add airline flight info to your calendar should you receive a flight confirmation via email. Keep in mind, though, that it only performs this with mail sent to an Outlook.com account in order to corporate Outlook users. When the information goes to a different service, for example Gmail, it won’t work.
Miscellaneous cool stuff
There are a number of other useful and/or fun things that Cortana can do for you. A number of my top picks:
You can track packages or flights by typing or saying the flight number or package tracking number.
You can ask Cortana to perform simple calculations: Just type in the search engine (“What’s 521 * 12 – 26 / 3?”) or speak (“Hey Cortana, what’s five-hundred twenty-one times twelve minus twenty-six divided by three?”).
You can snap a picture of a poster for an event, and Cortana will detect the dates onto it and ask if you wish to produce a reminder to attend it.
To find out other things that Cortana can perform, just type or say “help me” and you’ll get a long list of other Cortana features. Click anything on the list – “Play music,” for instance – and Cortana is going to do your bidding.