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The era of digital assistants is upon us. If you don’t use it already, it seems only a matter of time until you’ll want to know how to direct Windows’ Cortana.

Cortana promises to outshine other digital assistance suites by delivering exceptional compatibility with third-party apps. That means we’re not witnessing the full power of the blue-hued digital assistant just yet, but there are still some basic things everyone should set up to get the most out of Cortana.

Configure settings in Notebook

Most of the Cortana program’s essential settings can be configured in Windows 10’s Notebook. Notebook is available from the Start menu when Cortana is running. To access it, start Cortana, click the Windows icon in the bottom left to expand the start menu, and then click the notebook icon, which is located below the home icon on the left of the menu.

The Notebook has two sections in addition to the settings menu. These are About Me and Connected Accounts. In the About Me section, you can configure your personal user settings, such as what Cortana will call you and the GPS coordinates to use for your home. Go through each of the settings here to make sure they’re correct. This way, other Cortana features will work as intended.


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You will also want to connect Cortana to your Microsoft Office account if you have one. Click Connected Accounts from the Notebook section of the start menu. Office should appear automatically, along with other programs that Cortana can sync with, which you can choose if you want.

The final thing you should do here is enable and configure the “Hey Cortana” feature, which will listen for your voice or respond to anyone’s voice in general. This will allow you to give Cortana verbal commands without clicking or tapping.

Run a web search

Searching the web using voice commands seems to be the wave of the future. Microsoft is already bragging about how popular searching using voice commands seems to be with people, and a full quarter of searches submitted to Bing today are already performed using voice.

Cortana is happy to oblige. Just use “Hey Cortana” and then ask your question. She’ll pull up the best results from Bing and show you what was found.

Track your travel plans or incoming shipments

Cortana makes a great travel companion, particularly if you use Microsoft’s built-in tools to manage your travel arrangements. Tell her to check the status of your flight using the flight number, and she’ll follow up with you shortly with a full report.

Cortana can also let you know where your packages are in a similar fashion. Just let her know the tracking number of the package for an update about where it’s currently located and how much longer you’ll need to wait.

Find and answer emails

There are a number of different ways you can use Cortana to reach inbox zero. In addition to simply finding an email quickly with Cortana, you can also use Cortana to compose a new email or set reminders so you don’t forget to respond to messages in your inbox.

Check the weather

Cortana can give a 24-hour or 5-day forecast at your behest. Traveling somewhere with different climate conditions? Ask her what the weather’s like there — she shouldn’t have any trouble letting you know.

Convert numbers and make translations

Those pesky English to metric conversions are confusing no matter what clever website you use to do them. Cortana lets you do away with all that. Just let her know you want to convert inches to millimeters and she’ll do all the math for you and deliver an answer.

Curious about how to translate an English phrase to German? Cortana has a built-in translation feature. It’s probably not a good idea to put your life on it, but for small things and quick questions, it’s quite helpful. Where was all this stuff when I was in school? Today’s youth have it good!

It’s been roughly a year since Cortana became an integrated part of Windows. Integration with the world’s most widely used operating system could be the perfect way to kick-start Cortana’s growth into an extremely capable digital assistance suite. Only time will tell.

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