The 10 Best Cortana Windows 10 Features To Try

Control your Windows 10 PC with these Cortana voice commands

ASUS laptop showing Cortana screen in Windows 10

Microsoft's Cortana is very similar to Apple's Siri and Amazon's Alexa and can be used 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 when you're working with Windows 10.

01
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Open Windows 10 Apps With Your Voice

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

  • Using Cortana to open apps is much faster than manually navigating Windows 10's Start Menu or minimizing all of your open apps to click on a Desktop shortcut.

What We Don't Like

  • While this Cortana voice command will open most apps you've downloaded from the Microsoft Store, it doesn't work with all apps yet and it may not recognize programs you've downloaded from a website. 
02
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Create Reminders With Cortana

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

  • Reminders made with Cortana on a Windows 10 PC will sync to the Cortana iOS and Android apps which makes it possible to receive these reminders while out and about, not just when you're at home on your computer.

What We Don't Like

  • Cortana reminders remain hidden away within the Cortana app once they're created, making it inconvenient to keep track of your tasks at a glance. They're really only recommended for major events that you don't want to forget, not day-to-day routines that you'll need to check several times a day.
03
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Control Your Philips Hue Lights With Cortana

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

  • Connecting Cortana to your Philips Hue lights is relatively easy. All you need to do is open Cortana's Notebook, click on Manage Skills, and then add Philips Hue to the list of Connected services via the suggested list.

What We Don't Like

  • Cortana's control of Philips Hue lights is restricted to very basic controls. Alexa and Google Home offer much more customizability.
04
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Track Deliveries & Flights on Windows 10

Want to track a package or flight? Simply click on the Cortana icon in your Windows 10 taskbar, copy and paste the number of the flight or tracking number into the search field, and Cortana will keep you up to date on a package's location changes or any potential flight delays.

Tip: You can stop Cortana from scanning your emails by following these steps: 

  1. Go to Settings.
  2. Select Cortana.
  3. Select Permissions & History.
  4. Select Manage the information Cortana can access from this device and uncheck Contacts, email, calendar and communication history.

What We Like

What We Don't Like

  • Cortana can automatically pull flight numbers and package tracking information from connected email accounts which some may find to be an invasion of their privacy.
05
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Look Up Words While Browsing the Web

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 prompt. Cortana will then perform a Bing search and  display the results in a small window within Edge.

What We Like

  • This is a great way to look something up without having to open a new browser tab or app.

What We Don't Like

  • Cortana only uses a Bing search for this function which may frustration those who prefer Google or another search engine.
06
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Ask Cortana About Weather Forecasts

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

  • Cortana understands a variety of natural weather-related questions so you can ask her specific questions such as "Is it going to rain tomorrow?" and "What are the chances of it snowing today?" or even "Is tomorrow a good day to go to the beach?"

What We Don't Like

  • Like a lot of Cortana features, asking about the weather does require an internet or cellular connection to work.
07
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Cortana Can Do Quick Currency Conversions & Math

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

What We Don't Like

  • Currency conversions are done via Bing and there are no options to customize the source of the calculation which may not appeal to professional traders who like to use specific programs. It is a good option for a casual price check though.
08
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Ask Cortana For Directions

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

  • Asking Cortana for directions works on Windows 10 and in the iOS and Android apps as well so it can be a very useful tool when traveling.

What We Don't Like

  • Cortana's directions do need an internet or cellular connection to work so if you're on holiday and without a signal, you may need to use another app that supports offline maps.
09
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Play Spotify Music Using Your Voice and Cortana

By connecting your Spotify 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 of music is great for when you're cooking or doing some other task that prevents you from manually controlling your tunes.

What We Don't Like

  • If the music is playing from a speaker which is near your computer's microphone, Cortana can have a hard time hearing your voice commands and may not register you at all. She can also misunderstand what you say and play the incorrect song or artist.
10
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Create Calendar Events With Your Voice

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 much faster with Cortana than manually opening the app, finding the date, and entering the details.

What We Don't Like

  • You may find yourself wanting to manually edit the information afterwards anyway, which is counterintuitive.