Productivity Windows

Cortana Arrives on the Desktop & Here’s What She Can Do for You

Christian Cawley 30-01-2015

As expected, Cortana has been activated in the latest preview release of Windows 10. But is Microsoft’s intelligent digital assistant as competent as she is on Windows Phone?


With the potential to revolutionise how we use our desktop and laptop computers, Cortana has a lot of expectation on her shoulders. Fortunately, she’s easy enough to set up…

Activating Cortana On Windows 10

In order to use Cortana on your Windows 10 preview, click into the Search bar, situated beside the Start button on the desktop Taskbar, type “Cortana” and click the first result. That’s right – no more hiding for Cortana Discover Cortana On Windows 10 - Her Hiding Places Revealed! Cortana, Microsoft's voice controlled personal assistant, has been starting to show up on Windows 10. This article reveals her hiding places. It looks like she will come out to play very soon. Read More , she’s now ready for the big time on desktop!


Based in the USA? Cortana should be enabled almost instantly. If you’re based outside of the USA, however, you’ll need to change your regional settings and primary language to trick Windows 10 into thinking you’re in the Land of the Free.



In the Start menu, click Settings, then Time & language where you will be able to set your location as the United States, and your language as English (United States). Both changes are saved by click the back arrow.

You’ll then be able to start using Cortana, beginning by telling her your name.

Cortana’s Desktop Dwelling

Popping up on the Windows 10 desktop, right next to the Start button, Cortana takes over the newly situated Windows search box. At this stage, her appearance is a little muted, a mix of main and accent colours based on those chosen for Windows 10.



Appearing as a Windows Phone-style column, Cortana seems to be pretty much the same app as you may have seen on a Nokia or HTC device. It’s almost as if the app has been transposed from Windows Phone 8.1 into Windows 10 lock stock and barrel, so while there might have been some expectation that the intelligent digital assistant would appear across the top of the UI, OK Google-style, or perhaps replace the charms bar, in actual fact Cortana is permanently present on the taskbar.

Tell Her About Yourself

One key similarity with Cortana on Windows 10 with the current mobile version on Windows 8.1 is the notebook, a tool that you can edit which is used by Cortana to store useful information about you.


News that is of interest, local places to eat, items from your daily routine (from your Outlook calendar) and traffic details can all be specified or collected by Cortana during transit (she is a useful driving companion on mobile 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 ), and favourite places can also be specified to assist with this.


Meanwhile, Cortana’s settings screen features an option that can be used to collect tracking information for flights and any parcels that you might have ordered, based on emails you may have received from airlines or couriers. When activated, this information is used to update you as to the progress of the flight or package.

Here’s a look at Cortana in action on Windows 10.

Incidentally, if you have a Windows Phone with Cortana set up already, your notebook will be imported into the Windows 10 Cortana.

Things You Can Ask Cortana On Windows 10

Cortana can respond to questions, either spoken or typed; the flexibility with which she responds will depend partially on your notebook and on Bing results.


For instance, you can start simple and ask Cortana to “tell me a story”; the assistant will reply in her typically dry manner Cortana Talks Back: Laugh, Cry & Love With Windows Phone's Digital Assistant Bored with no one to talk to? Why not strike up a conversation with your Windows Phone? These cues will make Cortana talk. Read More , and this is just one of the many amazing responses that she will give Geek Humor Included! Meet Cortana, Windows Phone 8.1 Digital Assistant Cortana is the best reason to upgrade your Windows Phone early. Microsoft's answer to Siri offers great features and will make you laugh. Read More to questions on many different subjects.


Meanwhile, you can use Cortana to enhance productivity. Perhaps the most common task is to request a reminder. As long as the notebook and places have been set up correctly, you’ll be able to tell Cortana to remind you to pick up a book next time you’re at your parents. She can also search Bing for important information such as weather reports (although she will display these by default whenever summoned) and news. Following future updates, you will be able to add an appointment into your calendar and use Cortana to send emails messages.

It seems likely that in her final incarnation in the general release version of Windows 10, Cortana will be able to make calls through Skype, as well as launch and perhaps even close applications.

Will Cortana be able to react to dictated notes in OneNote or full documents in Word? The smart money says yes, which could be a massive blow for Dragon Naturally Speakin

Cortana On Windows 10 vs Windows Phone 8.1

Cortana will of course be available on Windows 10 on mobile devices, but at present this isn’t available. As such, we’re looking at a future version of Cortana in a brand new setting, and comparing it to the current version.

However, the results are extremely encouraging. While there are updates still to come to get Cortana up to speed – and compatible with territories around the world – it’s clear that in her current form, the intelligent personal assistant is already geared up to provide a revolutionary new interface for desktop users.

She’s already become a vital tool for Windows Phone 8.1 users Cortana Talks Back: Laugh, Cry & Love With Windows Phone's Digital Assistant Bored with no one to talk to? Why not strike up a conversation with your Windows Phone? These cues will make Cortana talk. Read More . Her conquest of Windows 10 owners seems assured…

Have you tried Cortana on the latest Windows 10 preview? Tell us what you think, and how useful you can see it becoming.

Related topics: Microsoft Cortana, Virtual Assistant, Windows 10, Windows Search.

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  1. Anonymous
    September 23, 2015 at 5:03 pm

    I activated the Cortana in my Windows 10 Pro, so that her circle does not appear when I call Hey Cortana, but she shows the results that I ask her the problem and it does not appear the Blue Circle moving while you think the result.

  2. Anonymous
    August 4, 2015 at 8:34 pm

    Now that windows 10 are here for computers. It's more GPS specific about time and place. Many have stationary computers, or on LAN, without a windows phone. Then you ask about the directions in windows 10, or where do you live; then you live about 4 miles from home. A little misplaced statement. They did forgot about the stationary computers that normally don't use GPS.

  3. dragonmouth
    January 31, 2015 at 7:45 pm

    Does Cortana ever call the Mother Ship with all this new data it has learned from and about you?

    • Christian Cawley
      February 10, 2015 at 7:02 pm

      I think we can guess the answer, although Microsoft has never been explicit about this.

  4. Lisa
    January 31, 2015 at 6:20 pm

    So far Cortana has answered all of my 10 year-old's math problems correctly. Pretty slick! He figured her out while mom was still fumbling with the instructions. Aside from the embarrassment of not being smarter than my son, I really like her! She even tells you where she lives ("in the cloud, whatever that means") and how old she is (older than crowd sourcing) it.

    • Tina Sieber
      February 11, 2015 at 7:31 pm

      Yeah, Cortana is really fun to play with. Did your son get some more fun information out of Cortana?

  5. Muhammad Adil
    January 31, 2015 at 10:22 am

    Windows phone user here. Keep up the good work Christian.

  6. Tim
    January 31, 2015 at 1:57 am

    I'm seeing a link to download a paid app. Is that to be expected?

    • Christian Cawley
      February 10, 2015 at 7:02 pm

      Where are you seeing the link, Tim?

    • Tim
      February 20, 2015 at 12:11 am

      When you search as described in your article, the first item that comes up is an app called "Cortana Assistant". I've been unable to activate Cortana using the method you describe as well, so I'm not sure what I'm missing.

    • Christian Cawley
      February 24, 2015 at 3:30 pm

      Are you tapping enter to search? Or just entering the search term?

    • Tim
      February 24, 2015 at 4:06 pm

      Hi Christian,

      I was entering the search term and pressing enter. When I do that, Bing comes up with the search results and shows the paid app as the first result.

    • Tim
      February 24, 2015 at 4:29 pm

      When I type "Cortana" in the search box, Bing appears with search results. Not sure what else I'm doing wrong?

    • Christian Cawley
      February 24, 2015 at 5:09 pm

      If you press Start, then type, you should see Cortana. Does this happen? (Don't press search.)

    • Tim
      February 24, 2015 at 6:12 pm

      No, I see the following:

      Cortana guide (with "Install App" underneath)
      Commands for Cortana (with "Install App" underneath)

      Then I see a listing of search results which match Cortana. I do not see the same "Cortana (search my Stuff)" option you show in your screenshot.

    • Christian Cawley
      February 24, 2015 at 7:23 pm

      Okay, which build of Windows 10 are you using?

    • Tim
      February 24, 2015 at 11:15 pm

      The wrong one, apparently. Just ran Windows Updates and lo and behold, there she is. Thanks!

    • Christian Cawley
      February 25, 2015 at 7:01 am

      Great news! Glad you got it sorted out :)