Cortana is built in to Windows 10 and is branded as a ‘personal assistant’. Don’t book a romantic business liaison yet though, it’s not that type of personal assistant! Basically the main purpose of Cortana is to help you find things on your PC or on the internet. That said it can also do other things such as manage your calendar, give you a weather forecast or even tell you jokes (awful ones at that).
So is Cortana an essential new tool or quirky gimmick? I’ll let you decide as I think this is down to personal taste. Generalising I can see the utility being more popular with the younger generation, as those of an older generation (like me) are less likely to feel comfortable talking to our computers.
You’ll find Cortana on the lower left of your Windows 10 status bar. To start using Cortana you can either type a question in the search box or click on the microphone icon to the right and talk to it out loud. We’ll take a look at using the microphone to communicate but for those without one then you can achieve the same results by typing the commands in rather than saying them out loud. A webcam microphone works fine and this is what I use at home.
You can now speak to Cortana. Try asking for the latest weather.
Say out loud, slowly and clearly “Weather forecast”
Cortana should provide the latest weather forecast and it will not only show it but also read it out to you over your PC speakers.
You can use this technique to search for things on the internet too.
Click the microphone again and say out loud “go to BBC” and you’ll see a web browser open with search hits for BBC.
Sadly, results are pretty hit and miss. Here’s what happened when I told it to “show map of Bourne town centre”.
Curiously a slight change to the words gave different results; “show map of Bourne” resulted in a web search page with the first hit a link to a map of Bourne.
One other thing you can do with the speech part of Cortana is to leave the microphone ‘open’ (or constantly on). This will then monitor anything that is being said in the room and if you precede a phrase with “Hey Cortana” then it will burst into life and try to action the next phrase you say. This setting can be found in the Cortana ‘notebook’ settings. Click on Cortana, then Notebook, then Settings and look for the Hey Cortana option.