If you’re using Windows 10 and haven’t started using Cortana yet, you might want to give it a try. It’s basically Microsoft’s version of Siri and Google Assistant, but it’s built right into Windows.
You can ask Cortana questions and it can help you with things on your PC. With each update, Microsoft adds new features and options to Cortana, making it useful. Since I sit at my computer desk most of the day, I’ve gotten used to asking Cortana random things.
In this article, I will show you how to enable Cortana and do some of the more useful tasks it can do for you. Compared to Google and Siri, Cortana is still a bit behind, but it’s catching up very quickly.
How to enable Cortana
Basically, Cortana is in the little search box to the right of your Start button. If you click inside the search box, you’ll see a settings icon on the far left. If you click that, you can manage all Cortana related settings.
The first option at the top, The checkered microphone, is the first step to using Cortana. If you don’t have a microphone on your computer, you can still use Cortana, but it’s not nearly as useful without voice control.
If you click Begin, it will try to detect your microphone and then go through the wizard to check the volume and make sure it’s working properly. Once you’ve done that, you can start enabling the other options listed. First is Hello Cortanathis will allow you to simply say Hello Cortana and then start asking a question. Quite similar to Hey, Siri.
When you enable this feature, it will ask you to enable speech recognition, which will send your voice input to Microsoft to improve their voice system. Obviously, if you don’t want your voice commands sent to Microsoft, you can simply choose Maybe later. You definitely have to give up some privacy when you enable Cortana because it wants to access your voice history, location, email, calendar and more. You can turn these options on or off individually, and I’ll show you how.
After you enable a setting, it will usually show you more related options. For example, the Hey Cortana feature will prevent your computer from going to sleep by default so it can hear you say those words whenever. It can also respond to anyone or try to reply only to you. When you enable the lock screen option, it will give you Cortana tips even when your device is locked. By default, it will grant itself access to your calendar, email messages, and other data when the device is locked. You can uncheck that box if you want.
As you scroll down, you’ll see more options. You can enable keyboard shortcuts to access Cortana instead of having to say Hey Cortana. You can also download Cortana on your Android or iOS device and have notifications synced across devices.
At the bottom, you can also choose whether to turn on device history and search history. Obviously, this will track all your searches etc, so switch these searches depending on your security.
Next, you need to check your permissions. To do this, click the small notebook icon below the home button. You will see a list of items like About Me, List, Reminders, Connected Services, etc.
You can set all other options later, but click first Permission. 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 that data if you want to delete it. If you don’t turn on location, Cortana doesn’t actually work. I had to enable it to show the home screen. At this point, you should go through each item listed in the notebook and configure the settings.
Basically, the home screen will upload popular stories, top news, local weather and tips and tricks. I recommend you scroll down to the tips and tricks and click See more tips. This should give you a good idea of all the things Cortana can do.
What has worked best for me is using lists, reminders, and setting alarms. If you happen to use Spotify for your music, you can use Cortana to play songs, which is really cool. Also, like Amazon Alexa, Cortana supports third party skills. Currently, they support about 45 skills or so that you can activate and use.
When you start using Cortana, the search box will show up on your entire screen and give you full-screen results. Overall, if you happen to be sitting in front of your computer a lot, Cortana will come in quite handy. I stopped using Siri because I usually don’t like talking to my phone when I’m not at home, but my computer is always used at home and that eliminates the awkwardness. Try it and see what you think. You can always turn it off later. Interesting!