If you’ve used Windows 10 and haven’t started using Cortana, you might want to give it a try. It’s basically Microsoft’s version of Siri and Google Assistant, but it’s integrated directly into Windows.
You can ask questions in Cortana and it can help you do things on your PC. With each update, Microsoft adds new features and options to Cortana, which makes it a little useful. Since I sit at the computer table most of the day, I’ve gotten used to asking random things at Cortana.
In this article, I will show you how you can activate Cortana and do some of the most useful tasks it can do for you. Compared to Google and Siri, Cortana is still a bit behind, but it’s catching up fast.
How Cortana is activated
Cortana is basically in the small search box to the right of the home button. If you click inside the search box, you will see a configuration icon in the far left. If you click on it, you can manage all the settings related to Cortana.
The first option at the top, Microphone, is the first step in using Cortana. If you don’t have a microphone on your computer, you can use Cortana, but it’s not as useful without voice controls.
- If you click To start, will try to detect the microphone, and then go through an assistant to check the volume and make sure the microphone is working properly. Once this is done, you can start enabling the other options listed. The first is Hey Cortana, which will allow you to simply say Hey Cortana and then start asking a question. Almost the same as Hello, Siri.
- When you turn on this feature, you’ll be prompted to turn on voice recognition, which will send your voice input to Microsoft to improve their speech systems. Of course, if you don’t like your voice commands sent to Microsoft, you can only choose Maybe later. You definitely give up some privacy when you turn on Cortana because you want to access your voice history, location, email, calendar, and more. You can turn them on or off individually and I’ll show you how.
- Once you’ve activated a setting, it will usually show you more related options. For example, the Hey Cortana feature will prevent your computer from sleeping by default so that it can always hear you say those words. You can also reply to anyone or try to reply only to you. When you turn on the lock screen option, it will provide you with Cortana tips even when your device is locked. By default, you will be given access to your calendar, email, and other data when your device is locked. You can uncheck this box if you wish.
- As you scroll down, you’ll see more options. You can enable a keyboard shortcut to access Cortana instead of having to say Hey Cortana. You can also download Cortana to your Android or iOS device and have notifications synced between devices.
- At the bottom, you can also choose whether or not to enable device history and search history. Obviously, this will track all of your searches, etc., so change them based on your privacy tolerance.
- Next, you need to check your permissions. To do this, click on the small notebook icon below the start button. You’ll see a list of items like About Me, lists, reminders, connected services, and more.
You can configure all of these other options later, but first click Permissions. Here you can enable or disable permissions for location, contacts / email / calendar, and browsing history.
At the bottom, it also tells you how to delete all this data if you ever want to get rid of it. If you don’t turn on location, Cortana doesn’t really work. I had to enable it in order to get the home screen. At this point, you will need to review each of the items listed in the notebook and configure the settings.
The home screen will be loaded basically with popular stories, highlights, local weather, and tips and tricks. I suggest you scroll down to tips and tricks and click on them See more tips. This will give you a good idea of all the things Cortana can do.
The most useful thing for me has been to use lists, reminders and set alarms. If you use Spotify for your music, you can use Cortana to play songs, which is great. Also, like Amazon Alexa, Cortana is compatible third party skills. They currently support approximately 45 skills that you can enable and use.
Once you start using Cortana, the search box will appear in full screen and give you full screen results. In general, if you are sitting on your computer in front of you, Cortana is quite useful. I stopped using Siri because I usually don’t like talking to the phone when I’m not at home, but my computer is always used at home and that eliminates the discomfort. Try it and see what you think. You can always turn it off later. Enjoy!