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Your life is so complex, you deserve your own personal assistant. Cortana, available on Windows 10 Cortana Arrives on the Desktop & Here's What She Can Do for You Cortana Arrives on the Desktop & Here's What She Can Do for You Is Microsoft's intelligent digital assistant as competent on the Windows 10 desktop as she is on Windows Phone? Cortana has a lot of expectation on her shoulders. Let's see how she holds up. Read More and Windows Mobile, can help you navigate this fast-growing maze of your digital life. Why rely on someone else or your busy brain, when your competent virtual assistant Cortana is ready to serve at the tip of your tongue.

Let us show you how to delegate tasks to Cortana and make her help you with effectively organizing your life.

1. Set Default Programs Cortana Will Use

You have to sign into Cortana with your Microsoft Live account. This is so Cortana can save your questions and analyze your search history to better fit your needs whenever prompted.

Once signed in, the next best step in setting up Cortana How to Set Up Cortana & Remove Her in Windows 10 How to Set Up Cortana & Remove Her in Windows 10 Cortana is Microsoft's greatest productivity tool since Office. We'll show you how to get started with Windows 10's digital assistant or how to turn Cortana off for improved privacy. Read More is changing the Windows defaults to programs you are more familiar with. Cortana relies on the default Windows programs for a large part of its functionality. You can change these default programs How to Change Default Apps and Settings in Windows 10 How to Change Default Apps and Settings in Windows 10 Windows 10 makes a lot of decisions for the lazy user. If you would prefer to be your own master, you can set your own preferences. We show you how. Read More under Windows key + X > Control Panel > Programs > Default Programs > Set your default programs  > Select Program > Set this program as default.


For example, if you’d like to change the default Windows 10 browser Microsoft Edge, to Mozilla Firefox, simply select the program in the Set Default Programs window and Cortana will search for answers through the browser’s default search engine.

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2. Call on Cortana Whenever You Want

The Hey Cortana voice command feature allows Cortana to run in the background and come forward once prompted by the phrase Hey Cortana. This is especially useful when prompting Cortana across a room or during an intense typing session.


Enable this feature under Windows Key > search Cortana & Search settings > enable Hey Cortana. You can toggle several other options in this menu, although these settings depend on the amount of information Do Siri, Cortana & Google Now Need Too Much Personal Data? Do Siri, Cortana & Google Now Need Too Much Personal Data? Read More you are willing to share with Cortana. For our purposes the Hey Cortana command feature is the only vital setting.

3. Have Cortana Schedule an Appointment for You

When it comes to organizing your life, schedules How to Create the Last Perfect Time Management System You'll Ever Use How to Create the Last Perfect Time Management System You'll Ever Use Productivity is a constant search for more organization with less work. A way to accomplish everything you dream to accomplish, without losing out on sleep. Can this automated time management system do it all? Read More are of the utmost importance. Use the voice command Set An Appointment for a particular time frame to have Cortana setba schedule for you. You can be as specific or as broad about the appointment description (e.g. Set a Dinner Appointment with Abigail for 6:30PM) as you wish, and Cortana will give you the choice of saving this appointment under any email account saved into the program.

You may also ask Cortana to remind you of your daily events by asking What do I have to do today? or When do I have a dinner appointment with Abigail?  If you’re as forgetful as I am, you can also prompt Cortana to remind you of said event at any time by saying Remind me of my Dinner appointment with Abigail at 5:00PM, so you have ample time to get what you need done.


If you would like to schedule your time in shorter increments than hourly periods, Cortana also provides a timer function for productive period breaks How to Be Productive When Productivity Apps Don't Work for You How to Be Productive When Productivity Apps Don't Work for You You should noticed that the past few years have been about an obsession with productivity. But what if productivity apps don't do it for you? Then what do you do? Read More . Simply ask Cortana to Set a timer for 30 minutes and she will comply to help keep you timely and efficient.

4. Ask Cortana If You Need a Jacket Today

Although Cortana is equipped with weather and traffic forecasts, the program is much more personable than a temperature listing. If you’re curious about whether you’ll need an umbrella or jacket for the day, simply ask Cortana Do I need a jacket today? to receive her honest opinion. Remember that Cortana is incapable of experiencing heat, thereby making the decision ultimately yours.


Cortana will also answer questions concerning traffic such as: How long will it take me to reach West Hollywood? and What does the traffic look like on the freeway today? along with recommending great places to eat or drink in your area.

If you have Cortana on your Windows 10 or Android phone, the program will also provide turn by turn directions How To Use Cortana As Your Personalized Satnav Tool How To Use Cortana As Your Personalized Satnav Tool How would you like a competent co-pilot, who arranges your travels, feeds you with tips and location-based reminders and is sexy, too? Take Cortana everywhere and win at life! Read More to get you where you need to go. In some instances Cortana will remind you to make time for traffic when an event takes place in a remote location, making the program efficient and helpful backseat driver.

5. Let Cortana Crunch Your Numbers

Hate doing math in your head? Don’t worry about crunching numbers, you can rely on Cortana’s built-in calculator. Type in your summation and Cortana will promptly deliver the result.

If you prefer the button interface of a normal calculator application, click on your grayed out summation to access Cortana’s calculator interface.


If Cortana’s built-in calculator isn’t fitting your needs, you can always ask Cortana to open Calculator so you can use the Windows 10 calculator instead 9 Neglected Windows Calculator Features to Save Your Day (and Money) 9 Neglected Windows Calculator Features to Save Your Day (and Money) The classic Windows Calculator contains many overlooked features. We bring them to light and show you how you can use this app to do math faster, process unusual calculations, and save money. Read More .

6. Discover the Linguist in Cortana

Hate thinking up formal terms in a business email or technical terms in that college thesis? Ask Cortana for synonyms to assist your writing.

Cortana also comes with a built-in translator function; ask her to translate simple words and phrases in other languages once a day, and you may even increase you interlingual vocabulary. Just ask Cortana How do I say Good morning in German? and she will not only give you the translation, but pronounce the translation for you as well.


Note that you can change Cortana’s own region and language by changing the respective settings on Windows 10. Open the Settings app (Windows key + I), go to Time & language > Region & language, and edit your default language. For example, you can Add a Language and set a new default language.

Make sure Settings > Time & language > Region & language > Country or region as well as Settings > Time & language > Speech > Speech language both correspond to the chosen default language.

7. Have Cortana Send an Email or Text Message

Cortana is a fairly capable email client whenever you need to pop off a quick email. Simply tell Cortana I want to send an email and stipulate who the message is going to and what the content of the email should be.


You can also send SMS text messages through your phone number to anyone in your phone or email contact list. This is particularly useful for hands-free texting, either on your Windows 10 desktop or Windows 10 Mobile and Android phones.

8. Cortana, Write This Down

Cortana also works as a dedicated note-taker to scribble down any brilliant ideas you happen to have. Request that Cortana write this down, fill out the content of your note, and click add to tack your note into your OneNote account.


By default, Windows uses OneNote to save all of your ideas 12 Tips to Take Better Notes with Microsoft OneNote 12 Tips to Take Better Notes with Microsoft OneNote These 12 tips show you how to take better notes in MIcrosoft OneNote. Today, digital note-taking is as much about skill, as it is about the tool. Read More ; download OneNote to both your Windows Mobile or Android phone and you will never be without your ideas again.

9. DJ Cortana at Your Service

You can also request Cortana to play music from your computer by prompting the program to Play your favorite song, album, or artist. In the example shown below, I prompted Cortana to Play The Waters by Anderson Paak.


Cortana uses the Groove Music program on Windows 10 by default. You can also stop and play the music, along with requesting the next or previous track (replay and volume features are in the works).

10. Come to Consensus with Cortana

You’re left with two choices: Go to Janie’s party or stay in and finish that Senior thesis you’ve been putting off. It’s situations like these that are best left to chance. This is where Cortana’s random computational abilities reign supreme; simply prompt Cortana to flip a coin and she will assist you in deciding your fate.


Cortana also comes with built in Play Rock, Paper, Scissor and Roll a Dice features if you’re ever in the need for random, bi-partisan decision making.

What Will Cortana Do for You?

Since I’ve been using Cortana, my multi-tasking abilities have improved tenfold. Fewer steps, less distractions, and your productivity will soar. Do you want to listen to your favorite album while relacing your shoes? Simply call out a command. All in all: Cortana is a wondrous program and will only better with time.

What are your favorite features of Microsoft’s Cortana, and what features would you add to make Cortana a better virtual assistant?

  1. Peter Fitzsimmons
    April 6, 2016 at 9:19 pm

    I just set up Cortana today and knew I'd find some useful stuff on here!

    Thanks for this.

    I have plenty to be getting on with to keep me entertained (and productive) for a good while!

    Thanks. :O)

    • Christian Bonilla
      April 8, 2016 at 4:18 am

      No problem, Cortana will only get better with time!

  2. Read and Share
    March 11, 2016 at 9:46 pm

    Ummm... a friend of mine wants to know... if Cortana is set up to listen for commands, will she (meaning Microsoft) pick up on the nasty fights in his dysfunctional home?

    • Christian Bonilla
      March 12, 2016 at 7:53 am

      I appreciate your question, and will reply using as much of Microsoft's published information as possible in order to limit any speculation on my part.

      To put it shortly: No. Cortana is not a typical sound recorder. You may notice that, after being prompted through voice command, Cortana will transcribe the following command (voice-to-text) in order to submit the request. Cortana is not 'listening' to every sound or voice occurring around your computer until prompted and, even when prompted, Cortana only picks up and responds to specific commands.

      Can you imagine how large Microsoft's servers would have to be in order to store every sneeze and keyboard clack, not to mention every fight or conversation, occurring within the vicinity of every Cortana user's computer? Probably unreasonably large.

      The "voice data" picked up by Cortana are often bits of information relating to common voice requests, contact list items and voice volume levels. Again, "voice data" are not the same as voice or sound recordings.This data is then (largely) used to refine ad content and user security.

      These are my sources:

      If for any reason you are in need of a sound recorder, I would recommend Audacity ( Thank you for your question, and I'm sorry to hear about your friend's predicament :(

      • Read and Share
        March 12, 2016 at 4:14 pm

        Thanks, very helpful!

  3. fcd76218
    March 4, 2016 at 1:14 pm

    I've got my wife, why would I need Cortana?!

    • Christian Bonilla
      March 9, 2016 at 7:40 pm

      Although Cortana may remind you to pick milk up from the grocery store in case you have forgotten, Cortana unfortunately cannot pick up the milk for you.


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