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Your First Time Guide to Cortana on Windows 10

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Guide to Cortana on Windows 10

Unless you have been a long time user of Microsoft’s line of Windows phones, and let’s face it, how many people do you know that actually had a Windows phone, you may be surprised to learn about one of the newest features to come to Windows 10 – Cortana.  Cortana is just one of many new features to come to Windows 10 and is a part of the unification of Microsoft’s operating systems into one operating system for all their devices.

What Is Cortana

So what exactly is Cortana?  Basically, Cortana is a digital personal assistant that is now included with Microsoft Windows 10.  Think of it as Siri for Windows.  Cortana actually got its first start in video games, believe it or not.  Originally Cortana was the digital assistant you had helping you along the way in the game Halo.  She has made several appearances in the franchise and continues to be a major player in the series.

While she may have begun her life in video games, today Cortana is so much more.  Microsoft originally created its digital personal assistant for the Windows phone.  The idea was based largely on the video game character and, of course, the digital assistants from their competitors.  When it came time to name their newly created software, they decided to just keep the name.  So, Cortana was born.

For quite some time, Cortana has been available for the Windows Phone and functions much like Siri.  But with the release of Windows 10, Microsoft is now combining all of their operating system versions into one big release.  What that means for us laptop and desktop users is that Cortana has now come to Windows, and with it, comes a wide range of functionality that you may find useful, pointless, or maybe even just plain fun.

What Can Cortana Do?

So what can Cortana do for you?  Well the answer is, a lot of different things.  Using Cortana, you can set calendar events, check the latest weather conditions outside, search for restaurants and much more.  You can even have it perform searches on the Internet using your favorite search engine, although it defaults to Microsoft’s Bing search engine.  On top of that, you can even use it to open applications saving you from having to point and click your way through your computer, although currently there isn’t any way for you to close those apps when you are finished using them.

Basically, Cortana is the closest we have come to a Star Trek type interface on our computers.  How many of you remember watching Star Trek as the characters simply said Computer and then entered their query.  Now, we are a long way from full Star Trek like voice interfaces, but it is undoubtedly one of the closest interfaces yet, especially with its ability to open apps.  Will Cortana one day advance into a full voice interface?  Only time will tell.  Of course, competitors such as Siri may get their first.  No matter what, I think we are seeing the beginnings of a brand new interactive voice command interface that could one day alter how we use our computer.  But, for now at least, the mouse and keyboard aren’t dead yet.

How to Enable Cortana

So, Cortana sounds pretty good right?  But before you can use it, you need to enable it and get it ready to issue voice commands.  Just follow these simple steps to activate Cortana so you can start bossing your computer around right away.


1.  Next to the Start Button you will find a search field. Click that field and then click the icon that looks like a small notebook.


2.  Click on Settings.

3.  Click the switch to turn on notifications, reminders and suggestions from Cortana.


4.  For voice controls, click the switch to turn on “Hey Cortana.”

5.  Next, you can set whether or not you want Cortana to respond to anyone or just you.

6.  Click anywhere on your desktop to close the Settings Window.

That’s all there is to it.  With just a few clicks you are now ready to being using your new personal digital assistant.  But how do you use it?  Is it difficult or hard to get used to?  Let’s take a closer look and see.

So How Do I Use It?

Using Cortana is easier than you think.  On Windows 10, there are actually two different ways you can call upon Cortana to help you.  First, you can simply click in the search box on your Windows 10 bar and type in what you are looking for.  This can be anything from searching for apps or files on your local computer to anything that you may think of asking Cortana as well.  Secondly, if you have enabled all the voice functions when you enabled Cortana then all you have to do is say, “Hey Cortana, your question.”

Personally, the voice commands are the easiest way to use Cortana but, as with anything, it isn’t always the most convenient way of using it.  If you are in a noisy environment where other people are talking, Cortana may not be able to understand you properly to actually help you.  But, if it is relatively quiet and you are in range of your computers microphone, I think you will find the voice commands of Cortana to be much easier to use.

Questions You Can Ask Cortana

There are all types of questions you can ask Cortana while you use your computer.  These commands can help you get things done much faster and much more quickly and they can even be used for a little entertainment.  Let’s take a look at a few of the serious and funny questions and commands you can pose to Cortana.

Serious Questions

Below you will find a list of some of the more serious commands you can give Cortana to help you get a little work done.  On this list, you will find commands ranging from simply ones that allow you to make calls if you use a phone or a phone application such as Skype on your machine to more personal organization and Internet searching that help you get your work done much faster.

  • Call Son on speakerphone.
  • Call Wife at home.
  • Text Wife: “Text message.”
  • Show me messages from “name.”
  • Create a meeting with “name” at 2pm tomorrow.
  • Create a “meeting type” meeting today at 4pm.
  • Change my 1pm meeting tomorrow to 3pm.
  • Add “name” to my meeting with “name.”
  • Cancel budget review meeting.
  • What does the rest of my day look like?
  • What appointments do I have tomorrow?
  • What’s on my calendar for Friday?
  • When is my next appointment?
  • When is my next meeting?
  • When am I meeting with “name?”
  • Where is my next meeting?
  • What am I doing this weekend?
  • Remind me at 4pm to submit my time sheet
  • Remind me to buy gas when I leave work
  • Remind me to check the mail when I get home.
  • When my wife calls, remind me to ask her to pick up the kids
  • The next time I’m at the grocery store, remind me to buy eggs.
  • Remind me to buy concert tickets tomorrow.
  • Wake me up at 6 am tomorrow morning.
  • Set alarm for 7:30 am.
  • Wake me up in 2 hours.
  • Cancel alarm.
  • Show me pizza restaurants nearby.
  • Show me the nearest gas station.
  • What’s the weather today?
  • What’s the forecast for this weekend?

Funny Questions

In addition to all the commands out there that can help you find things you need or even help you get a little work done, there are a ton of different questions and comments you can say to Cortana that will get you a pretty funny response, offering you all kinds of entertainment in the process.  Below is a list of many different commands and questions you can post to Cortana that will provide you with a little bit of amusement and entertainment.

  • How old are you?
  • Good night.
  • Do you like Siri?
  • Why we are here?
  • Tell me joke.
  • Do you love me?
  • Are you male or female?
  • Which is better google or bing?
  • What is the best search engine?
  • Who created you?
  • Who’s your daddy?
  • Which is better playstation or xbox?
  • Which is better Cortana or Siri?
  • What’s your favorite music?
  • Talk dirty.
  • Knock knock.
  • What’s the best phone?


While many may say that Microsoft simply copied its competitors when creating Cortana, who cares?  There is little doubt that Microsoft needed its own personal digital assistant on its operating systems if it hopes to stay competitive as the market evolves, especially in the mobile space.  Of course, the inclusion on Windows used on laptops and desktops definitely makes it an added bonus.  Cortana is feature rich and can be very useful once you become accustomed to how you issue commands to the app, although it may be resource hungry making it more suited to mid-range or high-end laptops.  Before you know it, you will be creating calendar entries, scheduling meetings and even using it to find your favorite restaurant simply by issuing the simple voice command, “Hey Cortana.”

For those of you who are already fans of Cortana, what are your favorite questions to ask Cortana?  Let me know in the comments and maybe we can put together one of the best lists of both serious and funny commands for Cortana that users everywhere will not only find useful but will also enjoy.

By Matt Garrett

Matt is an IT professional with over fifteen years experience supporting network infrastructure and computers. An avid gamer, Matt enjoys his time playing and writing about his experiences both in the IT world and in the gaming communities. You can find more of his writing on our sister ShopNinja sites where he enjoys talking about anything and everything tech.

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