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shotglassHey, welcome back to another Windows 10 Shots blog post.  I hope you read last week’s post, Windows 10 Shots – The Setup.

As I mentioned last time, with most shots after about a handful things will start to get a little hazy.  But, with Windows 10 Shots (this new series of posts), the hope would be that the opposite would happen.  That clarity and insight into the highly anticipated release would free your mind to great new features and power of Windows 10.

Today, let’s talk a little about the Microsoft’s new virtual digital assistant, Cortana.  You are probably familiar with Apple’s Siri, or even Google Now.  Well, Cortana is very similar but built right into Windows 10, both desktop (tablet, laptop) and windows phone (and soon, Xbox).  What?  Not a Windows fan?  Well, guess what?  It is even available on Android and coming to iOS.  Boom!


You might be asking, “Cortana? Why did they decide on Cortana?”  There is a really cool answer to that question.  It is a video game character.  You might have heard of the legendary video game franchise Halo, (and also 1 of 16 billion dollar Microsoft companies)

In an article on the NBC News website,

Windows Phone chief Greg Sullivan spoke with NBC News about why the company named Cortana after a video game character — and how “she” represents the Microsoft vision under the company’s new CEO Satya Nadell.  “She’ll get to know me, and she won’t give me the same answer that she’d give you…the Cortana character was a great description of the helpful, intelligent, intuitive character that you get to know and trust over time.”

Basically, she continues to learn more and more about you as you talk (or even type) to her.  You even have the ability to update a notebook full of your favorite things so she can keep you updated on your interests.

Let’s see where we can find Cortana and adjust her settings to get this Cortana review started.

Start Menu

By default, Cortana should be on your start screen.  Navigate to your start screen and look for your Cortana tile.  To start working with her, you just simply click the icon.


If this is the first time you have run Cortana, she will prompt you for your name and search the deepest part of the web to find information, or dirt, on you.  (Kidding about the dirt).


You may also have noticed that the circle icon that represents Cortana is also on your taskbar.  Clicking the icon will open up Cortana as well.


Microsoft Edge

Cortana can even help you while surfing the internet in Microsoft Edge.  Simply start typing and if Cortana can give you information, she will present it to you.  For example, type weather in the address bar and she will find your current location weather information without even asking you.


Another really nice integration with Microsoft Edge is the ability to have Cortana find more information about something you find while on a web page.

For example, let’s say you are a huge music fan and started to read on MSN.com about the 2015 MTV Video Music Awards (VMAs) fashion hits and misses.  As you are looking thru the article, you see a picture of Kanye West and Kim Kardashian.  You think to yourself, “I wonder how old Kim Kardashian is, or how much she is worth?”  Well, why not ask Cortana?  All you have to do is simply highlight Kim Kardashian, right click and select, Ask Cortana.


You will notice that from the right side of the browser, information slides out about Kim Kardashian.  You can see photos, bio information like her age, her net worth, siblings, movies and TV shows in which she was involved, as well as links to Wikipedia, IMDB, Instagram, Twitter and more.


I was reading an article on Reader’s choices for fast-casual restaurants and at the top of the list (and the top of mine too) was Chipotle Mexican Grill.  It made me wonder who the founder was and how they are doing as a company.  I highlighted, Chipotle Mexican Grill in the article, right clicked and chose Ask Cortana.  This is what happened:


I was able to quickly find the owner and how their stock prices were doing in the market.  Not only that, but it found the closest Chipotle to me, with hours of operation with the ability to call or get directions.

Hey Cortana

I hope you are starting to get excited about who Cortana is and how she can start to make an impact on your daily surfing experience.  However, in the real world, if you have an assistant, you generally have the ability to ask them, with your voice, to do things for you by simply calling their name and making your request known to them.

Guess, what?  Cortana can do that too.  You can enable Cortana to listen for your voice (or anyone’s for that matter) and respond to you.  Meaning that she is constantly listening for you to ask her something.  This isn’t on by default, so you have to enable it.  Let’s do that first.

Go to your start menu and search for Cortana.  You should see the Cortana & Search settings item show up on the top of the list of results.  Select Cortana & Search settings.


The settings options for Cortana will be opened.  Look for the option to turn on Hey Cortana and select it to be On.


NOTE: If you want the full experience of Cortana, my suggestion would be to turn everything on, but that is just me.  You can adjust what Cortana knows about you on the web by selecting, “Manage what Cortana knows about me in the cloud.”

Okay, so, if you have already trained Cortana to recognize your voice, we should be able to try it out.  Say, “Hey Cortana.  Are you there?” Well, what did she say? Hi? Yep!


Let’s try something else quick … “Hey Cortana, remind me at 3pm today to call dad.”  You should see something like this …


From here, you can say Yes, No or Cancel.  You can also click on Remind or Cancel.  If Cortana didn’t hear you quite right, you can click on the boxes on the top and change the values.

NOTE:  You can always type to Cortana as well.  Just simply enter your questions, reminders, etc.

Quick Tip:  Play some music on the radio or playlist on your computer and say, “Hey Cortana, what song is playing?”  What happened?


If you recall, earlier in this post, I mentioned that Cortana will use a notebook full of information about you to help you do tons of things.  You might ask, “Where is this notebook?”  Great question!

Open Cortana and select the Notebook icon on the menu.


From here, you can update your notebook with information about you that you want Cortana to know.  Tell here your favorite sports teams, type of news you want to hear about, weather information, travel information, etc.

For example, here is what I have setup for Sports, Eat & Drink and Weather:


Once you have all your information setup in your Notebook, Cortana can now report to you information about your interests.

Bring up Cortana and Select the Home button and she will give you a summary of important things based on your notebook and your calendar.



If you want to see a list of your reminders, simple select the Reminders Icon.  You can even sort them using the filers:  All, Time, Place and Person.



What if you wanted to find pictures that you took last week?  “Hey Cortana, show me all my pictures from last week.”


Notice that Cortana will search your OneDrive and your current machine for pictures that match your search.  You can even ask her for the last document you opened.  “Hey Cortana, what was the last document I opened?”


Pretty nice huh?  Remember, she won’t only search your device, but she will also look on OneDrive for you as well.

Third Party

Another great feature of Cortana is the ability for third party applications to integrate with her.  You saw this when we created a reminder.  So, for example, you may want to have Cortana play the smash hit song by Taylor Swift, “Bad Blood” from your music collection. You would say, “Hey Cortana, Play Bad Blood.”  Or maybe you know that “Uptown Funk”, by Mark Ronson, is on a playlist of yours.  You would say, “Hey Cortana, Play My Fav playlist”.

This is a very powerful feature.  Image a chess game where you could tell Cortana where to move next.  Or being able to ask Cortana to text a friend for you.  Or, let’s say you have the iHeartRadio application installed and you want to have it play music from Lady Gaga.  You can simply say, “Hey Cortana, iHeartRadio, listen to Lady Gaga.”  Boom!  iHeartRadio starts up and does a search for Lady Gaga stations.


What Can I Say?

So, about now, you should be wondering, “This is exciting.  What else can I have Cortana do?”  There is an easy way to get started on some of the great things Cortana can do for you.

First, say, “Hey Cortana, what can I say?”  Cortana will give you a small list of things she can do.


From here, you can select one of the categories to see examples of what you can ask Cortana.  For example, let’s select Sports.  Notice you can ask for schedules, scores or even ask for a prediction of who will win the game!  Try it.


Microsoft has been very dedicated to increasing Cortana’s vocabulary and what she can do for you.  Just ask her for a joke, “Hey Cortana, tell me a joke.”  Or, “Hey Cortana, sing me a song.”  Better yet, ask her, “Hey Cortana, what does the fox say?”  (Try…dog, cat, duck, etc.)   So, not only can she be productive, she is fun too.


BONUS!  Cortana Button!

CortanaButtonFor an extra fun read on how you can summon Cortana at the click of a button, check this out!  I will definitely be getting a few of these when they come out!  How about you?



So, to summarize, Microsoft’s digital assistant, Cortana, can do a lot of things.  If you aren’t already sold out on another platform, Cortana integrated into Window 10 opens up a lot of possibilities on the Phone, PC, Laptop, tablet and soon, Xbox.  Integrated with your notebook, Microsoft Office and other third party applications, Cortana will be able to help you be more productive than you ever have in the past.

Well, I tried to keep it short and simple, like a good shot, but I think I got a little too verbose.  I could probably break this up into multiple shots but sometimes it is nice to have once place with all the information.

If you liked this Cortana review, please share it with others and don’t forget to come back for a new feature focused Windows 10 Shot.  Because remember, just like drinking, “1 shot”, probably won’t affect someone, but multiple shots, well, that changes everything.

BONUS:  If you are a software developer be on the lookout for a blog post coming soon that will show you how to integrate Cortana into your application.

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