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How to Make the Most of Windows 10 Cortana

written by: •edited by: Carly Stockwell•updated: 11/23/2015

Windows 10 Cortana may share the name of a character in the popular Halo series of games, but the ‘real’ Cortana in Windows 10 is surprisingly fun and handy to use. This guide will show you how to make the most of using Cortana.

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    Once you have Cortana set up on your computer there are some items you can tweak and features you may not be aware of. Be sure to read through C. Taylor’s article on how to set up Cortana in Windows 10 if you haven’t set up Cortana yet.

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    Understanding Cortana’s Interface

    Understanding Cortana’s Interface 

    By default, you interact with Cortana by typing into the search window next to the Windows button. Once you start typing you’ll see your info panels along with a few icons along the left hand side.

    The main icon already highlighted is the Home button. This is where you’ll see the information Cortana has gathered for you.

    Above the Home button is the menu expansion button. Simply press this and the text for each below button will be clearly labeled.

    Below the Home button is the Notebook. The Notebook is an important area Cortana uses to organize information about you and the way you want Cortana to interact with you. We’ll come back to the Notebook in a bit.

    Below the Notebook button is the Reminders area. In this area you can set reminders and organize the reminders by person, place or time.

    The last button is the Feedback button. If you’d like to give the development team feedback feel free to do so here!

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    Using Cortana

    Using Cortana 

    You will want to take a look through the options in the Notebook after you first enable Cortana. There are a ton of options to configure based on what you hope to get out of your new personal assistant.

    Before we get to the fun stuff, at the most basic level, you can simply type in the search bar to use Cortana. You can ask questions such as “what’s the weather” or “how old is Burt Reynolds” – Cortana will go out to the web and fetch answers for you. You can also search for files both locally and on your OneDrive account.

    Let’s go over some cool features of Cortana to make sure you’re getting the most of your new assistant!

    Enable Listening

    Cortana can listen for your voice using a built in microphone or headset. To turn this option on, navigate to the Notebook and select Settings. From here, click the slider for “Hey Cortana” to ON. You can even train Cortana to only respond to you.

    Customize the Content Cortana finds for you

    Going through the Notebook, you’ll see Cortana is a bit of a neat freak. She likes to track your preferences for places to eat, events, finance, movies and so on. Click on each section to customize whether or not you want Cortana to give you suggestions on that topic. These suggestions will show up on Cortana’s home page.

    Cortana can tell you when to leave to get to work on time!

    First we need to set up favorites for your home and work. Navigate to the Notebook and click About Me. Click Edit Favorites. Click the “+” sign and search for the address you wish to add. Give it a nickname, select if the location is work or home and click save. Once you’ve done this for both work and home, navigate to the Notebook again and this time click Getting Around. Ensure the main “Traffic, time and route notifications” setting is turned on. Check the box to “Notify me when it’s time to go to work or head home”. 

    Tell Cortana to set up a reminder for you

    Once you have the voice recognition working you can says “Hey Cortana” to wake her up. You can easily add reminders by saying “Hey Cortana – remind me to give the baby a bath at 7:45pm tonight”. (See below) She will reply with what she heard and you can confirm by saying “yes” or “no”. Once the time nears you’ll get a reminder that you have an upcoming event. You can also have Cortana remind you when you arrive at a location and need to do something. “Remind me to buy a new toothbrush when I go to Target”. Cortana will return with a list of nearby Target’s and once you confirm, she’ll speak up the next time you go to that location. 

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    Send an email

    If you add contacts to Cortana you can have her send out emails on your behalf. Just say “Hey Cortana – send an email”. She’ll walk you through first asking who to send it to, what the subject should be and then the message body. Once you’re ready, she’ll send it out.  

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    Although Cortana is the first personal assistant in a desktop operating system, it’s a pretty cool first try. I can’t wait to see how Microsoft improves Cortana in future updates. If you have any additional tricks or tips to using Cortana, be sure to leave them in the comments below!