Archive | February, 2016

Hey, Cortana!

3 Feb

With the update to Windows 10, you may have noticed that directly to the right of your start button is something new. It’s generally a text box with “Ask me Anything” and may even have a little microphone icon directly to the right of it. What is this, you ask? Perhaps a better question would be, “Who is this?”

This is Cortana, your personal assistant in Windows 10. Now, you may be familiar with her if you’ve used Windows Phone 8 as well.

So here’s the big question: What does Cortana do?

Cortana can do a variety of functions. One of these, you’ve likely used before in a previous version of Windows. If you’ve ever searched for a file on your PC, or maybe a setting, this carries into Cortana. So, for example, let’s say that I need to find a Word document. I have a varieties of ways that I can search for this document. I would first tap or left click inside the text box, and then type the file name, or if I don’t remember the name, I can type a keyword that’s in the body text of the document.

You can also search for programs, applications, and settings this way. For example, if you want to find the setting to change the size of your mouse, you can type “mouse size” into the search box, and it will find the setting for you.

Searching for files and settings isn’t all that Cortana can do. She’s also able to help you set and manage reminders, check traffic, calculate math, track flights and packages, and even send emails. The best part about all of this is that she’s also voice activated, meaning that you can do all of this with a spoken phrase!

There are some things to keep in mind if you’re using Cortana’s voice activation. Firstly, she’s currently released to the countries of Spain, Italy, France, China, Germany, the United Kingdom, and of course the United States. The current languages available for Cortana are English (US), English (UK), Chinese (Simplified), Spanish, Italian, French, and German. If you want to use Cortana’s features in the additional countries and languages, you may need to complete the following steps.

  1. Go to Settings (Left click on your start button at the bottom left corner to open your start menu. Left click once on Settings.)
  2. Left click once on Time & Language.
  3. At the left edge, left click once on Region & Language
  4. Under Languages, select your current language
  5. Left click once on Options
  6. Left click once on Download Language Pack
  7. At the top left, left click the arrow to return to your Time & Language screen
  8. At the left edge, left click once on Speech
  9. The downloaded language pack should be available in the drop-down menu labelled Choose the language you speak with your device. Left click on the menu to open it, and left click on your chosen language.
  10. You may also need to check the box labelled Recognize non-native accents for this language if the chosen language is not your native language.
  11. Restart your device. (Left click on your start button to open the start menu – left click on power – left click restart.)

These steps should allow Cortana to become activated for her additional features. If you’re in a country where Cortana isn’t yet available, remember that you can still use her to search for files and settings in your PC.

Try these!

If you have full Cortana on your device, check and see if you have a microphone on your device. If not, you can find standalone microphones and headsets with microphones that plug in via USB port. If you have these features, try a few of these available options!

Set a Reminder

  • Left click on the microphone icon to the right of the Cortana text search box
  • Say, “Set a reminder for 3pm to do laundry”
  • When Cortana asks for confirmation, simply say, “yes.”
    • Bonus! If you go into Cortana’s Notebook at the left, you can select About Me and Edit Favorite Places to add locations such as “Home.” This plus GPS location features allow you to set a reminder for when you reach that location. Ie “Set a reminder for when I get home that I need to do laundry.” When you arrive at the location, the reminder will activate.

Send a voice-dictated email

  • Left click on the microphone icon to the right of the Cortana text search box
  • Say, “Send an email to <Contact>” <Contact> will be the name of the contact that you want to email.
  • Cortana will ask what you want to say. Dictate your message here.
  • Cortana will ask you for confirmation. Say yes.
    • Example: “Send an email to Mom, “
    • “Hi mom, just wanted to say hello. Love, Amanda.”
    • “Yes.”

Calculate a math problem

  • Left click on the microphone icon to the right of the Cortana text search box
  • Say, “What is 25% off of $41?”
  • See what Cortana answers.

Chat with Cortana

  • Left click on the microphone icon to the right of the Cortana text search box
  • Say, “Tell me a joke.”
  • See what Cortana says.
    • Additional chat options include:
      • “Sing something”
      • “What do you look like?”
      • “What are you wearing?”
      • “Who are you?”
      • “What do you do?”

These are just a few examples of what you can do with Cortana. She can recommend fitness workouts, she can check news, stocks, flights, facts, and more!

Even better, if you’re wondering, “How can I get Cortana on my smart phone?” Not only is Cortana available across all Windows 10 devices, including windows phones, she’s also available on iOS and Android as of December 2015.

Get to know Cortana, and she’ll act as your fully-voiced personal assistant!

Amanda Barham | Digital Workshop Host