Microsoft’s own virtual assistant, Cortana, is one of the best feature introduced in Windows 10. The artificial intelligent tool offers lots of features to enjoy using your computer, get information on your finger tips and improve your productivity at work.
Most of us, however, aren’t aware about Cortana’s features, tips and tricks that can make our lives easier. That’s why, in this post, I’m compiling the ultimate list of tips and tricks to help you get most out of Cortana in Windows 10 — on desktops and mobiles.
Note: Cortana commands, when spoken out, should start with “Hey Cortana, …“
1. Make Specific Searches
Cortana is smart enough to show you the best matches at the top of the result list, but that can’t be satisfactory for every situation. That’s why, it provides options for you to take control of your searches.
To get the customized and most relevant results, narrow down your search query by using specifics such as:
Search using file names, wildcards (? and *) and extensions (for example: .doc, .exe, etc.) and standard arithmetic operators
Search in a specific location including OneDrive, the Internet, Windows Store or local storage drives (like C:)
Search in a specific category by writing a category followed by a colon (:) and your query to get category-based results. Here’s the list of categories (as examples) to take hints from:
- Apps: Edge (shows various apps in the Windows Store)
- Documents: Report (shows all similar-named documents)
- Folders: Blog (shows all ‘blog’ named folders)
- Music: Bob Dylan (shows all related songs and albums)
- Photos: Birds (shows images with the similar names)
- Settings: Region and Language (shows the asked settings)
- Videos: Vacation in Venezuela (shows all similar named videos)
- Web: Windows 10 (shows info related to this query from the web)
2. Track Couriers and Flights
As a smart assistant, Cortana also tracks flight numbers and courier packages via their tracking numbers.
It auto-tracks the flights and couriers with the details found in your configured email. You can also track the information manually if it’s not found in your email.
The tool allows tracking couriers from services like DHL, UPS, FedEx, etc. and retailers like Amazon, eBay, Walmart, etc., and supports various known flight operators.
Follow these steps to track flight or courier information manually:
- Type the flight or courier tracking number in the Cortana’s search box
- After Cortana validates the information, click on Track your package (this step is only for courier packages)
- You can see the search result under Best match
3. Set 3 Types of Reminders
You can set up time-based, location-based or person-based reminders using Cortana on your PC, and get the reminders on your mobile device.
Time-based reminders are of course based on time, whereas location-based reminders are based on the tracked location on your mobile device. If it is a perso-based reminder, the reminder will pop up when you receive a call or message from that person.
Follow these steps to set the reminders:
- Click in the Cortana’s search box, then type or say the reminder query
- Click on Set a reminder, then Cortana asks for person, place and time
- After setting the required information, then click on Remind button
Here are few example queries to set the reminders:
- “Remind me to pick up the dry cleaning at 8PM day after tomorrow“
- “Remind me to buy the watch for John on 25 December this year“
- “Remind me to congratulate when Sandhya calls or messages me“
4. Question for Technical Support
Cortana helps you get technical support for specific queries and provides the asked information within its app window. Your queries may also be redirected to the Windows Help & Support tool, Microsoft Bing (search engine) or Microsoft’s support pages on the Microsoft Edge.
Here are few example queries to get technical support:
- “How do I connect to Wi-Fi?“
- “How do I create a backup?“
- “How do I change my background?“
5. Translate Words and Phrases
Cortana can translate phrases and sentences in 50 different languages. You’re required to type or speak the phrase (as a query) in the Cortana’s search box and the artificial intelligent tool would give the response back.
Follow these steps to translate using Cortana:
- Click in Cortana’s search box
- Type “Translate“, then enter the phrase and “to French” (in case you want to translate the phrase to French)
Here are few example phrases or queries for making translations:
- “How do I say good morning in French?“
- “Translate hello there to Spanish“
6. Send Text Messages from PC
Cortana comes to rescue if you want to send a message when you’re away from your phone or too busy to pick up. You can still use this tool to send a text message from your PC (which is actually sent from your phone).
Follow these steps to send a message:
- Open Cortana and in its search box, type “Send text to“
- Type name of the person from your contact list and press Enter
- Then type your message in the message box and click Send button
In case it’s a new number (not listed in your contacts), then you need to add the number in your contact list first. To do this, you can install People app in Windows 10 and save the number there (it synchronizes with your phone).
7. Search using Natural Language
Cortana is interactive and user-friendly, and allows making queries in natural language — same as Apple’s Siri and Google Now. This means you can speak with Cortana same as you do with a human and it’ll give back responses.
You can follow these steps to search in natural language:
- Type or speak your query inside the Cortana’s search box
- Cortana will auto-understand the context and answer your query
Few examples for searching using natural language:
- “Find documents for yesterday“
- “What’s the weather today?“
8. Identify Music and Songs
Cortana has got various tricks up its sleeve and identifying music or songs is one such awesome feature. It not only can listen to and identify music, it also can search the web for additional details and description for the playing music or song.
You can achieve the same using the following steps:
- Click inside Cortana’s search box
- Click on the musical note icon in the top-right corner (look under More, if it isn’t visible or available directly there)
Or you can simply ask such queries to do the same:
- “What song is playing?“
- “What’s the name of this song?“
Cortana will show the song or track title, album name and more details. You can click on the song to purchase the song or its album from the Windows Store.
Do note that there exists few regional restrictions for this feature and Cortana may not identify music in non-supported regions and instead reply “I’m sorry, I don’t recognize this song, Try again.“
9. Calculate and Convert Numbers
Cortana, apart from its other features, can help you do basic arithmetic operations and simple conversions.
The tool can convert between various numeric units such as currencies, temperature, length, weight and liquid quantities, etc.
You can perform the following steps to calculate or convert:
- Click in the Cortana’s search box
- Speak or type “Calculate” or “Convert“ followed by your query
Here are some example queries to do the same:
- “Calculate 8 + 2 – 10 / 10“
- “Tell 30000 * 60 * 60 * 30“
- “Convert 10 USD to EUR“
- “What’s 90 meters in inches?“
10. Find Facts and Get Answers
Cortana can even become your tutor and help you find information quickly than ever. The assistant can give you basic information on several topics and niches including but not limited to important public figures, definitions, public holidays, movie information, travel destinations, currencies, time zones, etc.
Here’s some example queries Cortana can reply:
- “Who is Bill Gates?”
- “When is Labor Day?“
- “Define superfluous“
11. Find Places and Get Directions
Cortana can help you locate an address with turn-by-turn directions using its companion app, Maps. Do note that this feature requires you to have Maps pre-installed in Windows 10 and if not, you can get it from the Windows Store.
Here’s what you can do to get directions using Cortana:
- Type or say “Directions to” followed by location in the Cortana’s search box
Here are few example queries for getting directions:
- “Directions to Bloomington“
- “Directions to Central Park, New York City“
12. Send Emails Straightaway
Cortana lets you send emails directly without opening an email client or a browser. Using this feature, you can simply speak your mail requirements and your personal assistant would send that mail. Do note that for this feature to work, your email account must be configured with Cortana.
Here are the steps to send an email using Cortana:
- Click inside the Cortana’s search box
- Type or say aloud “Send an email to” followed by the recipients
- And, type or speak “saying” followed by the email’s body/content
- After composing the email, you can edit by saying “make changes“
- At last if all information is good, simply say “send” to send the email
13. Create Calendar Events
Cortana can help manage your calendar, allowing you to create meetings and events without opening the Calendar. It will create an event with the information provided by you (and even ask for more if it thinks the info is incomplete).
It will also remind you of the set meeting or event as scheduled.
Here is how you can do the same:
- Click in the Cortana’s search box
- Type or say “Add a meeting“ followed by date and time “to calendar“
Few example queries to create calendar events:
- “Add a meeting for Monday at 4PM to calendar“
- “Add an event for tomorrow at noon“
14. Use Cortana inside Edge
Cortana integrates with Microsoft Edge, the default browser on Windows 10, to ease and personalize your browsing experience.
While using the browser, you will see Cortana’s icon popping in the address bar, clicking which you can interact with your virtual assistant. Cortana may appear when you search or browse for dining out, shopping online, listening to music, watching videos, etc.
To run this feature, you need to activate the same in the Edge browser:
- Click on Options (three dots) button and click on Settings.
- Scroll down in the right sidebar and click on the View advanced settings button.
- Scroll down again there until you see Privacy and Services section.
- Toggle on the option Have Cortana assist me in Microsoft Edge.
15. Set Alarms & Reminders
Cortana can even set alarms and reminders to keep you organized. Using this feature, you can simply speak out to Cortana for setting, editing or cancelling alarms and reminders without opening any such application manually.
Follow these steps to set an alarm or a reminder:
- Click in the Cortana search box
- Speak out or type “Set alarm for” or “Set reminder for” followed by the date and time to set alarm or reminder respectively
To edit/change the configured alarm or reminder, say or type “Edit alarm for“ followed by date and time, and to turn off the set alarm or reminder, say or type “Turn off alarm for” followed by date and time to the virtual assistant.
16. Displays Song Lyrics
Cortana can help whenever you’re watching some music videos or just remembered some song from the past, for which you’d like to check out the lyrics. This task is as easy as asking or querying any other thing from Cortana.
This is how you can see the lyrics of a song:
- Click in the Cortana’s search box
- Type or speak “Lyrics of” followed by song’s title and “by” the artist’s name
Here are few examples of queries for getting lyrics:
- “Lyrics of Numb by Linkin Park“
- “Show me lyrics of Same Old Love by Selena Gomez“
17. Control your Computer
Cortana can also help control your computer and change basic configurations just by reaching out to the assistant. You can give simple commands to control your computer including things like launching apps, controlling hardware, etc.
This is how easily you can do the same by typing or speaking:
- Click in the Cortana’s search box
- Type or speak out the magic words (aka command)
Following are some examples to do the same:
- “Turn off Wi-Fi“
- “Open Control Panel“
- “Change the wallpaper“
18. Check News and Updates
Cortana also provides you with the latest news and updates and random updates based on its analysis. You can set your interests so that it shows news and updates that are relevan to you.
Do these steps to get news and updates:
- Click inside the Cortana’s search box, then type “News”
- Open Cortana and click on the Notebook icon on the left
- Among the shown cards, choose News option
- Toggle on or off the settings per your interests