The 9 Best Cortana Windows 10 Features to Try

Control your Windows 9 PC with these Cortana voice commands

Microsoft's Cortana is similar to Apple's Siri and Amazon's Alexa. You can use Cortana to perform a variety of functions from answering search queries to controlling your smart home devices. Here are 10 useful Cortana features that you should be using today.

Instructions in this article apply to Windows 10.

Cortana screen abstract
Mladjo123 / Wikimedia Commons
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Open Windows 10 Apps With Your Voice

Screenshot of Cortana responding to request to open Word

Anyone who uses Cortana on an Xbox One video game console will know that it can be used to open games and apps with your voice. Very few people are aware that this same functionality is present on Windows 10 PCs and tablets. Simply say "Hey, Cortana. Open (app name)" or "Hey, Cortana. Go to (app name)" and watch your chosen app open before your eyes.

What We Like
  • Faster than manually navigating Start Menu.

  • Don't need to minimize open windows.

  • Will open most apps.

What We Don't Like
  • Doesn't work with all apps.

  • Might not recognize programs downloaded from a website.

  • Sometimes requires clarification on similar apps.

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Create Reminders With Cortana

Screenshot of Cortana creating a reminder

Cortana can be used to quickly make reminders for a future time or when you get to a specific location. For example, you can create a reminder by saying "Hey, Cortana. Remind me to renew my passport on April 15th" or "Hey, Cortana. Remind me to call David at 3 p.m."

You can also create reminders manually by opening Cortana, clicking on the Notebook icon on the left menu, and then tapping Reminders.

What We Like
  • Syncs to the Cortana iOS and Android apps.

  • No need to open calendar.

  • Pop-ups provide visual reminders.

What We Don't Like
  • Reminders remain hidden.

  • Inconvenient to keep track of your tasks at a glance.

  • Only recommended for major events.

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Control Your Philips Hue Lights With Cortana

Screenshot of "turn on the light" Cortana command

By connecting your Philips Hue lighting system to Cortana, you can use the digital assistant to control your home's lights by using a variety of voice commands such as "Hey, Cortana. Turn on the lights" or "Hey, Cortana. Dim the lights."

What We Like
  • Relatively easy to connect.

  • Simple to use.

  • Controls other smart home devices, as well.

What We Don't Like
  • Restricted to very basic controls.

  • Limited customization.

  • Creating device groups is not straightforward.

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Look Up Words While Browsing the Web

Screenshot of "Ask Cortana" in Microsoft Edge

Cortana is available from directly within the Microsoft Edge internet browser and can be used to quickly look up words or phrases.

To do this, all you need to do is highlight a word or phrase on a webpage, right-click on it with your mouse, and tap on the Ask Cortana about the prompt. Cortana will then perform a Bing search and display the results in a small window within Edge.

What We Like
  • Look something up without having to open a new browser tab or app.

  • No need to stop working or browsing.

  • Learn new information quickly and easily.

What We Don't Like
  • Only uses a Bing search.

  • Only available in MS Edge browser.

  • Results can be unspecific.

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Ask Cortana About Weather Forecasts

Screenshot of Cortana answering "How cold will it be tonight?"

Asking Cortana about the weather is one of the fastest ways to check the forecast on your Windows 10 computer or smartphone. Just say "Hey, Cortana. How's the weather today?" or "Hey, Cortana. What's the weather like in Tokyo, Japan?" and she'll display a detailed weather report on your preferred location.

What We Like
  • Understands a variety of weather-related questions.

  • Ability to give specific details.

  • Able to provide general forecast.

What We Don't Like
  • Requires internet connection.

  • Requires location information.

  • Does not understand all terms, such as "how cold will it be?"

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Cortana Can Do Quick Currency Conversions & Math

Screenshot of currency conversion using Cortana

Ever needed to quickly convert some dollars into another currency or perhaps work out how much 5kg is in pounds? Cortana can perform calculations relating to finance, weight, temperature, and math in a matter of seconds. "Hey, Cortana. How much is 100 American dollars in euros?"

What We Like
  • Supports conversions for every major currency.

  • Supports a variety of popular cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Litecoin

  • Calculates complicated numbers.

What We Don't Like
  • Conversions are done via Bing.

  • No options to customize the source of the calculation.

  • Might not appeal to professional traders.

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Ask Cortana for Directions

Screenshot of finding nearby businesses using Cortana

Ever needed to search for directions but dreaded inputting the entire location name and address in by hand? Cortana solves this inconvenience by letting you ask for directions to a location with a basic voice prompt. Whenever you need help finding a place, ask Cortana "Hey, Cortana. How do I get to (place name)" or "Hey, Cortana. Where is (place name)?"

What We Like
  • Works on Windows 10 and mobile apps.

  • Useful for travel or finding nearby businesses.

  • Provides other information, such as phone number and hours.

What We Don't Like
  • Must be connected to internet.

  • Requires location access.

  • Requires Maps app installed.

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Play Music Using Your Voice and Cortana

Screenshot showing music services available in Cortana

By connecting your Spotify, I Heart Radio, or Tune In account to Cortana on your Windows 10 PC, you essentially make your computer a smart speaker that can control your music. To add Spotify to Cortana, open Cortana and click on the Notebook icon. Tap on Manage Skills and then Connected services and click on Add a service to select Spotify from a list of available services.

Once connected, you can use "Hey, Cortana. Play (song name) on Spotify" or "Hey, Cortana. Play (playlist name) playlist on Spotify" to get some music started. You can also say "Hey, Cortana. Pause/Play/Skip track" to control the music with your voice.

What We Like
  • Hands-free control.

  • Don't need to open browser.

  • No need to close other apps.

What We Don't Like
  • Music might interfere with use.

  • Spotify account required.

  • Must add music service in Cortana app.

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Create Calendar Events With Your Voice

Screenshot of using Cortana to add calendar event

Cortana can create events for you in the Windows 10 Calendar app. All you need to do is say "Hey, Cortana. Add a (meeting/party/event) on (date) at (time) to calendar" and she'll ask for you to confirm the information before locking it in.

What We Like
  • Adding an event to your calendar is fast.

  • Enter date and details using voice.

  • Multiple calendar options available.

What We Don't Like
  • Might need to manually edit the information entered.

  • Must set up calendar.

  • Must sign in to calendar account.

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