Microsoft’s digital assistant Cortana was one of many main additions to Windows 10 when it first got here out. But it was launched again in December 2015, and it’s modified fairly a bit since then. Over the years, it’s had new options added, after which others taken away. Depending on which model of Windows you’re utilizing, it might be built-in instantly into the Windows Search field, or run as a wholly separate app.No matter which model you utilize, although, it’s a really useful gizmo and may do rather a lot for you, together with alerting you to imminent conferences; looking out your PC and the online; telling you concerning the climate, information, and sports activities; and much more. To assist you get essentially the most out of Cortana, I’ve put collectively a few of my favourite suggestions for utilizing it — together with utilizing Cortana to handle your Google Calendar and to ship you reminders.Note that this text covers suggestions for Cortana within the Windows 10 May 2021 Update (model 21H1), so if in case you have a special model, issues might look totally different or might not work. If that’s the case for you, see the “Cortana and search” part of Computerworld’s “Windows 10 cheat sheet” or the Cortana part of our Windows 10 May 2020 Update evaluate.Cortana basicsBefore we head into the ideas, we must always cowl a little bit of background. Cortana was once built-in within the Windows search field: Whether you carried out a search by talking or typing, the outcomes had been delivered within the Cortana pane. But that’s modified over time. First, Microsoft separated Cortana from the Windows search field. And then Microsoft went ever additional and turned Cortana into its personal app that works like every other Windows 10 app, together with operating in a resizable window that may be moved across the display screen.That’s the best way it really works now. So the one means to make use of Cortana is to run the app. You can begin it by clicking the Cortana icon within the taskbar simply to the appropriate of the search field, urgent the Windows key + C, or saying “Cortana.”Once you begin the app, to carry out a Cortana search, you say “Hey Cortana” and communicate your search, or click on the Cortana icon to the appropriate of the search field and communicate, or press the Windows key + C and communicate or kind.When you ask Cortana an easy query or situation an easy command, Cortana shows the outcome onscreen and reads it to you. However, in case you ask a extra sophisticated query that requires a show of internet hyperlinks, Cortana will present the hyperlinks within the Edge browser.IDG
Cortana shows the outcomes of your request and reads them to you.
In the earlier model of Cortana, you typically needed to fill out on-screen types to create reminders. However, the Cortana app now gives a chat-like expertise, so that you as a substitute communicate or kind utilizing plain English phrases. Cortana might ask inquiries to make clear what you need achieved, inform you it’s created the reminder, or say it may well’t create the reminder. As with chat or texting, it shows your earlier interactions, so you may scroll again and see your questions and Cortana’s solutions.You might have to customise Cortana so you may activate it by voice or by urgent the Windows key + C. To do it, you first want activate voice activation in your PC, and permit Cortana use be activated by voice. Go to Settings > Privacy > Voice activation and transfer the slider from Off to On below Allow apps to make use of voice activation. Then scroll all the way down to “Choose which apps can use voice activation” and below Cortana, transfer the slider to On for Let Cortana reply to “Cortana” key phrase. If you need Cortana to reply even when your PC is locked, transfer the slider to On for Use Cortana when my system is locked.After you’ve achieved that, you’ll must activate permissions in Windows 10’s settings app. Go to Settings > Privacy > Microphone. If you see the message, “Microphone access for this device is off,” click on the Change button and transfer the slider to On. Then within the Allow apps to entry your microphone part flip the slider to On.You may also take away the Cortana button to the appropriate of the search field. Right-click the taskbar and uncheck Show Cortana button from the menu that seems. (You may even flip off the search field on this means. Right-click the taskbar, choose Search, and click on Hidden.)One closing be aware earlier than we start: Cortana’s capabilities had been considerably scaled again within the Windows 10 May 2020 Update. It can now not play music, management streaming video companies like Netflix or Hulu, management sensible dwelling home equipment, or do different consumer-oriented duties. And it may well’t do many smaller duties both, corresponding to creating location-based reminders — for instance, having it inform you to purchase Cherry Garcia ice cream if you’re at a Whole Foods retailer.Those conversant in earlier variations of Cortana will probably discover that it has been stripped down in one other means as effectively. There’s now not a pocket book that allows you to do issues such view and edit your reminders. In many instances, you merely can’t do the issues with Cortana that you simply used to arrange by the pocket book — the assorted shopper duties, notably.We’re watching Cortana carefully, although. So test again repeatedly in case Microsoft decides to present it some extra energy sooner or later.1. Use natural-language queriesCortana is rather a lot smarter than you assume: It allows you to use natural-language queries — in different phrases, make requests of it utilizing plain English (or no matter your language is), slightly than having to make use of particular phrases.For instance, to ship an e mail to a contact, you may say, “Send an email to Jane Doe.” Cortana will look by your contacts, discover the particular person to whom you need to ship the e-mail, after which allow you to fill out a kind onscreen to create and ship the e-mail with out having to enter a mail app. If you’ve linked your Outlook account to a different account, corresponding to a Gmail account, it is going to look by that as effectively. And if it finds a number of matches for the particular person’s identify, it is going to ask you which of them tackle you need to ship the mail to.2. Set and use remindersOne of Cortana’s most helpful options is the best way by which it may well remind you about duties or upcoming occasions. It’s quite simple to set a reminder — simply say or kind in plain English what you need to be reminded about — for instance, “Create a reminder for my weekly Wednesday 1 pm Zoom meeting.”IDG
To create a reminder in Cortana, simply communicate or kind in plain English.
In order for Cortana to pop up alerts concerning the reminders you’ve set, you have to activate Windows 10’s notification function. To do it, go to Settings > System > Notifications & actions after which flip the slider on within the Get notifications from apps and different senders part.Note that in case you don’t give Cortana sufficient info to create the reminder, it is going to ask you a follow-up query. So in case you say “Create a reminder for my weekly meeting” however don’t specify at what time you need to be reminded, Cortana will ask “When should I remind you?” Speak or kind the reply, and your reminder will probably be created.You can set reminders in the identical means for time and contacts. If you need to be reminded to fill your automobile with fuel tomorrow morning, for instance, say or kind “Remind me to get gas tomorrow morning.” A display screen will pop up asking for extra particulars, corresponding to the precise time and whether or not it needs to be a recurring reminder.IDG
You can ask Cortana to create reminders primarily based on the time of day.
You may also inform Cortana to remind you to do one thing if you work together with somebody in your contact e-book. So if you wish to remind your self to ask your pal Lydia a couple of dinner invitation, say “Remind me to ask Lydia about a dinner invitation.” A display screen pops up asking for the contact’s identify if Cortana didn’t acknowledge it. Then the subsequent time you ship or obtain an e mail with that particular person, you’ll get the reminder.When you’ve set a reminder, and it’s time for the reminder to provide you with a warning to do one thing, the alert doesn’t come through Cortana. Instead, it’s despatched as a Windows notification.In earlier variations of Cortana, you may simply view, handle, and edit your reminders through Cortana’s pocket book. But Cortana now not has a pocket book, and so it’s not simple to do anymore. However, you are able to do it utilizing a little-known Microsoft instrument referred to as To-Do. Head to https://to-do.dwell.com/ and log in utilizing your Microsoft account info. (You can set up the Microsoft To Do app from the Microsoft Store in case you favor to make use of an app slightly than do it on the net.)Click Tasks and also you’ll see a listing of your whole reminders. Click any reminder, and you’ll edit it, for instance by having it repeat, altering the day and time, including it to your calendar, dismissing it, and so forth. IDG
If you need to edit your reminders, you’ll must do it utilizing Microsoft To Do. (Click picture to enlarge it.)
3. Manage your Google Calendar with CortanaWindows 10 features a built-in calendar app that works with Cortana. However, in case you’re a Google Calendar person, you will get Cortana to combine with that as effectively, so you should use Cortana to create and edit appointments, and present you your schedule with Google Calendar in the identical means as you do with the built-in Windows 10 Calendar app.To do it, you first have to combine your Google Calendar with the Windows 10 Calendar. First, launch the Calendar app by typing calendar into the Windows 10 search field, then clicking the Calendar app icon that seems.Next, click on the Settings icon on the decrease left of the Calendar display screen — the icon is within the form of a gear. When the Settings pane seems, choose Manage Accounts > Add account. From the display screen that seems, choose Google. You’ll be requested to check in along with your Google account info. Follow the prompts to create the account. IDG
You can create an appointment in your Google Calendar utilizing Cortana in case you add your Google account info. (Click picture to enlarge it.)
That’s all it takes. From now on, your Google calendar will sync with the Windows 10’s Calendar app. So, for instance, in case you ask Cortana to “create appointment,” you’ll have the ability to inform Cortana the main points, together with the date, time, and goal. If any info Cortana wants is lacking, it is going to ask you, and also you merely want to offer the reply. Cortana will add the occasion to your Calendar. Regardless of which calendar you add an occasion to, each Google and Windows 10 Calendar will stay in sync.Also, if you ask to see your schedule — corresponding to by asking “What’s my schedule today?” — Cortana will present you the occasions from your whole calendars, together with Google.One draw back is that you could’t add occasions to sub-calendars on Google Calendar (like “home” or “work”) with any common success. Sometimes it really works, and generally it doesn’t.4. Use alternate serps and browsers with CortanaThe newest model of Cortana is designed for duties corresponding to setting reminders, interacting along with your calendar, and related duties, nevertheless it additionally solutions many common questions, corresponding to “Why are deepfakes dangerous?”It does this through the use of Microsoft’s Bing search engine to do the search. Bing then sends the outcomes to Cortana, and Cortana reformats the knowledge and reads and/or shows info from the primary search outcome. You may also click on the See extra hyperlink on the backside proper to see the knowledge on the Bing site. Microsoft’s Edge browser shows the outcomes.In some cases, Cortana gained’t give a solution to your question, and as a substitute responds with a phrase corresponding to “Sorry I don’t know the answer to this one.” In that case, Cortana will give you a hyperlink that you could click on on to be despatched to a Bing seek for the query, which will probably be displayed in Edge.(Note: I did an investigation and located that Cortana gained’t inform you even essentially the most primary details about defending your self towards COVID-19, together with whether or not masks assist defend towards the unfold of COVID and whether or not vaccines are efficient towards COVID. It gained’t even reply the query, “Will the COVID-19 vaccine implant a microchip in me?” or whether or not measles or polio vaccines work, although it is going to give you recommendation on what to do in case you get a chilly. For particulars, see “Cortana is AWOL in the war against COVID-19 disinfo.”)If you like, if you click on a hyperlink in Cortana you may have totally different browser than Edge show the outcomes. It’s simple to do. Just change your default internet browser. To do it, go to Settings > Apps > Default Apps and scroll all the way down to “Web browser.” Click the Microsoft Edge icon. It will show the browsers you’ve put in. Click the browser you need to use, and from then on, Cortana will use that browser to show outcomes of searches. And it is going to even be your default browser for utilizing Windows generally.Even if you try this, although, Cortana will nonetheless use Bing to carry out the search. You can, although, as a substitute have Cortana use Google, DuckDuckGo, Yahoo, or Baidu to carry out the search. To try this, you’ll additionally must make your default internet browser both Chrome or Firefox.If you need to change from Bing to an alternate search engine and use Chrome as your default internet browser, first comply with the above steps to inform Windows to person Chrome as your default browser. Then launch Chrome and set up the Chrometana Pro extension. Ignore the directions about having to obtain and use a program referred to as Edge Deflector — you solely want to do this if in case you have a Windows 10 model earlier to the May 2020 Update.Click the Chrometana Pro extension on the upper-right of the display screen in Chrome, then select your new default search engine for Cortana. From now on, your internet searches launched from Cortana will use no matter search engine you select and can show the ends in Chrome.IDG
The Chrometana Pro Chrome extension redirects your Cortana searches to Google, DuckDuckGo, Yahoo, or Baidu slightly than Bing.
Note that there’s additionally a model of Chrometana Pro for Firefox. To use it, first make Firefox your default internet browser, then set up Foxtana Pro in Firefox, and use the identical directions outlined for Chrometana Pro for Chrome.This article was initially printed in March 2016 and most lately up to date in September 2021.
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