Cortana is the name of the interactive personal assistant built into Windows 10. You can give her instructions and talk with her by using your voice or by typing. This page introduces Cortana for beginners.
A Chat with Cortana
Here’s a short video (from 2016) to show you the kinds of things Cortana can do to help you. Unfortunately, now revisiting this Cortana for beginners page in 2020, the novelty for various personal assistants, like Cortana, has worn off. I still hope that Cortana will continue to evolve. When personal assistants can sound and interact more naturally, and recognize different people in groups, etc., there will be a lot of fun to be had. Until then, most progress has been a little predictable.
How to find Cortana (See also How to Use Cortana)
There are six main ways to find Cortana:
Using the keyboard:
Press the Windows key + S (for Search).
Press the Windows key + C (for Cortana) to open Cortana in listening mode. (Set this option in Cortana settings.)
Press the Start key and type Cortana, then press Enter (to get into Cortana settings).
Using a mouse or touch:
Click on the Cortana icon in the taskbar.
Click the Windows icon and search for Cortana in Apps.
Using your voice:
Say ‘Hey Cortana‘ via your microphone. (Set this option in Cortana settings.)
Cortana’s many talents
To get an idea of what Cortana can do to help you, press the Windows key + S on your keyboard to open Cortana. Then scroll down inside Cortana until you get to the Tips & tricks section. As you scroll down to this section, you will notice that Cortana displays, ‘Here are some things you can ask me to do.’ If you click the See more tips option, Cortana will list more tips & tricks.
As you can see, there are many things that Cortana can d. Clicking on these listed items will show you an example of typical commands you might say for each one.
(I’ve extended the size of the Start Menu to have Cortana list more tips & tricks for this image example.)
Setting up Cortana
You can quickly set up Cortana and help her to get to know you. In the Notebook section, you can go through the different categories and choose any options which relate to you.
Also, in the Cortana Settings tab, you can see the ‘Other privacy settings’ link.
This tab gives you the option to choose, adjust, or delete what Windows and Cortana learn about you.
How to use Cortana in Windows 10:
To search with Cortana in Windows 10, you can simply type the keyboard shortcut Windows + S. Then you can type in the search field, or click on the microphone icon and say a command.
Windows + S – Search (including Cortana)
Manual Listening mode
Windows + C – Cortana (Listening mode)
To activate Cortana in listening mode only (like I did in most of the video), you can use the keyboard shortcut Windows + C. Set this option in Cortana settings:
Then you can say a command or question while she is listening. (You will need a microphone.)
If you prefer to call Cortana without using the keyboard or mouse, go into the Cortana settings and choose ‘Let Cortana respond to “Hey Cortana.”‘. Then when you want to use Cortana, just say, “Hey, Cortana.” (You will need a microphone.)
Clicking on the Cortana icon in the taskbar will also open Cortana.
Latest from Microsoft (2020)
Microsoft has announced that in the next release of Windows 10 (spring 2020), we should see some changes to how Cortana works, as she evolves into a personal productivity assistant in Microsoft 365.
Help improve Cortana
Be sure to post feedback to Microsoft of the kinds of things you would like Cortana to be able to do, by using the Provide feedback tab.
This is the Cortana for beginners page. What do you think about Cortana and digital personal assistants in general? How would you like to see Cortana evolve? Let us know in the comments.