Working with Windows 10? Find out how Cortana can help make things quicker and easier.
Cortana is undoubtedly one of the biggest additions to Windows 10. Microsoft has spared no opportunity to talk up the capabilities of the virtual assistant, demonstrating various pieces of functionality at the many pre-release events put on to publicize the operating system.
Now, Cortana is finally out in the wild for PC users. Windows Phone advocates might already be familiar with her intricacies, but anyone who hasn’t spent any amount of time with a virtual assistant might feel a little lost. Whether you’re completely new to this sort of tool, or just wondering what Windows 10 adds to the broth, these uses of Cortana are all well worth a try.
Search the Web
This is just about the most basic functionality that Cortana has to offer, but it does work very well. Say anything to Cortana, and she’ll search for it using Bing. On the off-chance she can’t understand one of your more specific commands, she’ll simply search for that, too.
If Bing is a deal-breaker, don’t panic. If you use either Firefox or Chrome as your browser, this method allows you to switch the default search engine to something more palatable. However, there’s a bit of leg work that you’ll have to complete, and some third-party downloads if you’re using Chrome.
Open up Apps
While early versions of Cortana for PC were little more than a voice-controlled search bar, that’s all changed now that Windows 10 has been officially released. The first piece of functionality that you’ll likely want to take advantage of is the ability to launch an app with a few words.
All you need to do is click the microphone icon — or say “Hey Cortana” if you have that setting enabled — and instruct your PC to open the desired app. For example, to produce the result above, I simply said ‘open Spotify’.
If you already have a shortcut to an app, this might not save you that much time, but the feature really comes in handy when you’re accessing a rarely used piece of software; Cortana can have it up and running in a flash.
Draft an Email
While Cortana is still being implemented into most third party apps, many of Microsoft’s own stable of products are compatible with the virtual assistant already. If you have an email account set up in Outlook, you can dictate to Cortana and quickly draft an email.
To get started, make sure that your recipient is already listed in your contacts. You can then refer to them by their first name, using a command like “send an email to Mary.”
You’ll then be asked for a subject and the message body, both of which you can simply dictate. Afterwards, you’re given the opportunity to tweak things with your keyboard, just in case Cortana made any errors. Alternatively, you can ask her to send it and complete the whole thing hands-free, which can be useful if you want to write an email about something you’re looking at on your screen.
Control Your Music
Whether you’re using your laptop to play some music while you cook, or you just want to skip a track while you’re working without breaking concentration, voice-enabled music controls are one of the best ways to use Cortana.
A broad variety of voice commands have been included to make this work as naturally as possible — for example, while ‘next track’ seems to be the default, but ‘skip song’ works just as well.
I’m using these commands with Spotify, but it seems that they’re linked to system-level music controls, just as your function buttons are. As a result, you should be able to use Cortana to control the basics of most modern media players. However, you can’t ask her to play a particular song just yet.
Schedule a Meeting
This is another bit of functionality that relies on an Outlook account being set up, so do that first if you’re looking to use it. From there, simply say “schedule a meeting” to Cortana, and she’ll open the dialogue so you can tell her the specifics.
This feature works very well alongside Cortana’s reminders. If you’re concerned that you’ll forget to attend, just say “remind me about my meeting” and Cortana will take down the necessary information to make sure that’s not the case.
Turn Your Wi-Fi Off
Cortana also has access to settings like your Wi-Fi and flight mode. Tell your computer to turn Wi-Fi on or off, and it’ll be done in a flash, and without the need for you to ever enter the Settings app or Action Center.
This might not seem too revolutionary in itself, but it seems like the sort of thing that will grow more and more advanced as time goes by. Making tweaks to system functionality such as this, once meant poring through page after page of menus, but it might become simpler than ever thanks to Cortana in the not-so-distant future.
Do you have a great tip on how to use Cortana in Windows 10? Why not share it with other users in the comments section below?