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Your Questions Answered: A Guide to Using Cortana on Windows 10

Hey, Cortana

Did you know that Windows 10 comes with a built-in voice assistant called Cortana? Cortana works similarly to the voice assistants you can find on smartphones, or within a smart speaker.

Learn more about how you can use Cortana, what it can be used for, and how you can switch it on and off, below.

Activating Cortana

Getting started with Cortana is quite simple. All you need to use Cortana is a Windows 10 device, and preferably a microphone if you want to be able to speak to it. If you have a laptop, chances are you’ll already have a built-in microphone.

To get started, simply press the Windows key and type “Cortana.” Next, click “Cortana & Search Settings.”

Click to enable the following settings:

  • “Hey Cortana”
  • Keyboard Shortcut
  • Lock Screen

Once these are enabled, you’ll be able to say “Hey, Cortana!” to get Cortana’s attention. Alternatively, you can press Windows and the C key together.

If you’d like to type a question or command to Cortana instead, click the “type here to search” box in the Windows taskbar.

How to Use Cortana

Now that you have enabled Cortana, it’s time to learn how to use it! Thankfully, it’s very straightforward. To get started, either say “Hey, Cortana!” out loud, or press the Windows + C key together.

Cortana will immediately listen to your voice commands. Take a look below at the different commands and questions you can direct to Cortana. If you’ve used the smart assistant on your phone before, you should be familiar with some of these commands.

When you say a command to Cortana, you’ll usually get a pop-up screen showcasing the information you’re looking for, alongside a voice response from Cortana.

Search the Internet

If you aren’t asking a specific command or question, anything you say to Cortana will be sent to Bing, and search results will be brought up on Windows Edge. You can go into the settings to change the search engine to Google.

Ask About the Weather

You can ask Cortana about the weather in your current location, or ask about the weather in a specific area. Simply ask: “What’s the weather like?”

Open Specific Programs and Folders

Searching your own computer is far easier with Cortana. If you want to open Microsoft Word for example, simply say “Open Microsoft Word.”

You can also use Cortana to open specific websites. Ask Cortana to open the website and she’ll do it for you. Usually, you don’t have to be too specific with your requests here. Saying ‘open Photoshop,’ for example, will usually make Cortana open any version of Photoshop you have on your computer.

Use Cortana to Find Specific Files or Photos

Cortana is really good at finding very specific files or photos on your computer. All you need to do is ask Cortana to find a specific file.

Different commands can help you find different types of files. For example, asking Cortana to ‘find photos from last week’ will show you photos saved to your computer in the last seven days. Alternatively, you can ask Cortana to find specific files by name. A command like ‘find files named work portfolio’ will show all files with ‘work portfolio’ in the file name.

Cortana can even search your photos for specific images. Using the command ‘Find photos with cars in’ would help you to find car photos, for example.

While Cortana has access to a number of basic search assistant tools, it’s the tools that provide some kind of functionality within Windows 10 that really make Cortana stand out.

More Commands

There are dozens of commands Cortana can help you with. We’ve provided a big list of the most useful commands below. Cortana is capable of a lot more, so simply asking her various questions will often present some useful results.

  • Ask Cortana to do math for you! She can do calculations, work out percentages, and convert metrics.
  • Ask Cortana for the definition of a word.
  • Ask Cortana to translate a word or a phrase.
  • Use Cortana to create notes or shopping lists.
  • Get news by asking for the latest headlines.
  • Find nearby restaurants or places of interest.
  • Create reminders and alarms.

How to Switch off Cortana

If you don’t want Cortana to be on your computer, you can deactivate it completely. Follow the steps below to switch off Cortana.

  • First, press the Windows key.
  • Next, type “Cortana.”
  • Click “Cortana & Search Settings.”
  • Click to move “Let Cortana respond to Hey Cortana” to the off position.
  • Follow the same steps for “lock screen” and “keyboard shortcut.”

Using Cortana can feel a little strange at first, but once you’ve gotten used to it, it’ll completely transform the way you use Windows 10.

Despite Cortana being available since Windows 10 was first introduced, many people rely on their smartphone assistants. If you’re at your computer, why not take advantage of the software already presented to you?