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Get more done with these Cortana tips and tricks for Windows 10

Cortana on Windows 10 is always ready in the taskbar, or a voice command away, to help you with virtually anything you need. Similar to Google Now and Apple's Siri, Microsoft's digital assistant can create reminders, schedule appointments, track packages and flights, suggest recommendations, find files, and even tell you a joke when you're feeling bored.

The fact is that if you haven't been using Cortana, you've been missing out on many cool things you can do. Although there is not a "master list" of everything you can do with the assistant, here's a list with some of the most productive tips and tricks you can do with Cortana on Windows 10.

How to use Cortana to manage your calendar

Similar to a really world assistant, Cortana can also do an excellent job managing your calendar using the Calendar app.

To create a new calendar event, do the following:

  1. Open Cortana.
  2. In the search box type the following command: Create a calendar event and press Enter.
  3. Enter the information for the event.
  4. Make sure to add it to the correct calendar.
  5. Click Add to complete the task.

If you want to use voice commands, you can simply say "Hey Cortana", or click the microphone icon in the search box, followed by the command. Here are some examples:

Viewing calendar events

  • "What's on my calendar for today?" or "How's my schedule like this week?"

Adding new calendar events

  • "Add dental appointment for tomorrow at 4 pm" or "Add business meeting for Friday at 9 am"

Moving calendar events

  • "Move dental appointment to Tuesday 11 am" or "Move business meeting to tomorrow 2 pm"

Remember that you can always type your voice commands in the search box, instead of saying them aloud. It's all the same for Cortana.

How to use Cortana to create notes

Sometimes, you don't need to create a reminder. You only need to write down something you don't want to forget. For those times, you can use Cortana to create a quick note.

To create a note, do the following:

  1. Open Cortana.
  2. In the search box type the following command: Create a note (or "Create Meeting note", if you want to specify a name) and press Enter.
  3. Enter your note.
  4. Click Add to complete the task.

Once you created your note, Cortana will save it into the OneNote app. You'll then need to open the app on your PC or phone to view or edit it.

If you want to use voice commands, you can simply say "Hey Cortana", or click the microphone icon in the search box, followed by the command. Here are some examples:

  • "Create a note."
  • "Create Meeting note: I need to update the spreadsheet."

How to use Cortana to manage alarms

You no longer need to set an alarm manually on your watch or smartphone. You can now use Cortana on your PC to do this, and the information will sync across devices.

To set a timer, do the following:

  1. Open Cortana.
  2. In the search box type the following command: Create an alarm and press Enter.
  3. Set up your alarm.
  4. Click Set to complete the task.

If you want to use voice commands, you can simply say "Hey Cortana", or click the microphone icon in the search box, followed by the command. Here are some examples:

Creating an alarm

  • "Set an alarm for Tuesday at 5:30 am" or "Add an alarm for Mondays at 5:30 am" or "Set an alarm for every day at 5:30 am"

Viewing alarms

  • "Show my alarms" or "Show alarms"

Removing alarms

  • "Turn off the alarm for 5:30 am" or "Stop alarm for Tuesday at 5:30 am"

Of course, you can always manage your alarms using the Alarms & Clock built-in app.

How to use Cortana to set a timer

Are you baking a delicious cake? Or you just need a countdown to zero for a particular amount of time. Now you don't need a separate timer in the kitchen. You can use Cortana to set up a timer for anything you need.

To create an alarm, do the following:

  1. Open Cortana.
  2. In the search box type the following command: Set a timer and press Enter.
  3. Set up for how long you want your timer.
  4. Click Start to complete the task.

If you want to use voice commands, you can simply say "Hey Cortana", or click the microphone icon in the search box, followed by the command. Here are some examples:

Setting a timer

  • "Set a timer for 10 minutes" or "Start timer for 10 minutes" or "Create a timer for 10 minutes" or "Set countdown for 10 minutes."

Viewing timer

  • "Show timer"

Canceling timer

  • "Stop timer"

Note: You can only create one timer at a time. If there is a timer already started, Cortana will prompt you to restart it with the new time.

How to use Cortana to play or search music

Cortana is very good at playing DJ. Thanks to its integration with the Groove Music app, you can command the assistant to play music randomly, by artist, album, or genre.

If you want to use voice commands, you can simply say "Hey Cortana", click the microphone icon in the search box, followed by the command, or you can also type the commands in the search box. Here are some examples:

  • "Play Bon Jovi"
  • "Play Rock" or "Put some Rock music"
  • "Play music" or "Shuffle music"
  • "Play Burning Bridges by Bon Jovi"
  • "Stop music" or "Pause music"
  • "Play next" or "Next track"

Similar to Shazam, Cortana can listen and figure out the information of a song currently playing on the radio, simply open the assistant and say:

  • "Hey Cortana: What's playing?"

Or you can click the music icon on the top-right. Once the assistant recognizes the song, it will pull its information, and offer to purchase the song in the Store.

How to use Cortana to open apps or websites

Cortana can quickly help you to open any app installed on your device, including Windows Store apps and desktop applications.

If you're using voice commands, such as with the "Hey Cortana" feature, you can simply say:

  • "Hey Cortana: Open Photoshop" or "Hey Cortana: Open Calendar"

In the same way, Cortana can open websites without you having to lift a finger, simply ask:

  • "Hey Cortana: Open Microsoft.com"

Keep in mind that Cortana can recognize a vast number of URLs, but sometimes, it will open a Bing result page instead of going straight to the site.

Interesting enough, you cannot type the voice commands mentioned above to open apps. If you want to open an app using a mouse and keyboard using the Cortana search box, simply type the name of the app and press Enter.

How to use Cortana to send a text message from your PC

Cortana not only integrates with the desktop version of Windows 10, but with Windows 10 Mobile, and iPhone and Android using the Cortana app. This cross-platform integration allows for some more useful features, such as sending text messages from your PC to anyone in your contact list through your phone.

To send a text message from your PC using Cortana, do the following:

  1. Open Cortana.
  2. Type Send a message and press Enter.
  3. Click the "+" button to add a person from your contact list.
  4. Enter your message.
  5. Make sure the SMS option is selected.
  6. Click Send to complete the task.

If you're using a Windows 10 Mobile handset or Android phone with the Cortana app installed, you can send a text message from your PC using the following voice command example:

  • "Send text to Mary: I'll be late for dinner"

How to use Cortana to send a quick email

Similar to sending text messages, Cortana can also send quick emails to anyone in your contact list.

To send a quick email using Cortana, do the following:

  1. Open Cortana.
  2. Type Send an email and press Enter.
  3. Click the "+" button to add a person from your contact list.
  4. Type the subject and message.
  5. Make sure to select the correct email account you want to use.
  6. Click Send to complete the task.

If you want to use voice commands, you can simply say "Hey Cortana", or click the microphone icon in the search box, followed by the command. Here's an example:

  • "Send email to Mark: I'll be late for our meeting on Tuesday"

How to use Cortana to do math and conversions

You don't have to open an additional app or the web browser to do math or when you need to convert currencies, weights, or any measurements.

To use Cortana to do basic math, you can use natural language voice commands like in the examples:

  • "Covert 2.7 cups to fluid ounces"
  • "How many miles in 2 Kilometers"
  • "What's 20% of $130"
  • "45 * 2 / 5"

While you can also use voice commands to do math, you can even do more advanced math by typing the operation or equation in the Cortana search box in the taskbar.

Here are some examples:

  • "5x - 6 = 8"
  • "-4x + 2 = 0"
  • "(12.5 * 2.45) / 10"

You can even click the answer to open Microsoft Edge and get more information.

This is a powerful feature that will come in handy in many scenarios, such as when you need to calculate the tip to leave after eating in a restaurant. When you're buying something on sale, and you want to know exactly the money you're saving. When you're cooking, and you need to convert measurements, and of course when you're at school or doing homework.

How to use Cortana to find facts

Cortana is not only math-smart but fact-smart too. For example, if you're dying to figure out how old is Brad Pitt, the height of Mount Everest, or almost any other fact, you can ask Cortana.

To find facts using voice commands with "Hey Cortana," you can simply open Cortana and use the following command examples, or you can also type the commands in the search box.

Here are some examples:

  • "How old is Brad Pitt?"
  • "How tall is Mount Everest?"
  • "What's the longest state highway in the United States?"
  • "Who is Bill Gates?"
  • "Who founded Microsoft"

How to use Cortana to move with traffic

While driving or when you're about to leave your location, Cortana is also very helpful providing traffic information.

To get traffic information using voice commands with "Hey Cortana," you can simply open Cortana and use the following command examples, or you can also type the commands in the search box:

  • "What's the traffic like on the way home?"
  • "How long would it take to drive to JFK International Airport?"

Without leaving the app, Cortana will be able to provide estimated travel time, distance information, and a map of the route.

How to use Cortana to translate languages

Cortana is your personal translator too. The digital assistant can easily translate a wide variety of languages without you having to open another app.

To use the translation feature, do the following:

  1. Open Cortana.
  2. Type translate and press Enter.
  3. Cortana translator can automatically detect a foreign language, simply enter the text and see the translation in the box below.

If you want to use voice commands, you can simply say "Hey Cortana", or click the microphone icon in the search box, followed by the command. Here's an example:

  • "Hey Cortana: Translate Good morning to Spanish"

While in the translator, you can swap languages, listen to the translation by clicking the speaker icon, and you can also change languages manually.

How to use Cortana for technical support

While the digital assistant may not be able to replace IT support any time soon, it can be of technical assistance for many basic support scenarios, such as trying to install a new printer, change the desktop background, make a backup, and much more.

To use Cortana for technical support using voice commands with "Hey Cortana," you can simply open Cortana and use the following command examples, or you can also type the commands in the search box:

  • "How do I install a printer?"
  • "How do I project my screen?"
  • "How do I change my background?"
  • "How do I update Windows?"
  • "How do I make a backup?"
  • "How do I change default apps?"
  • "How do I change Privacy?"
  • "How do I connect a wireless device?"

Although these commands will work to get Cortana do the things you want, you're not limited to use the same exact commands we're showing you in this guide, you can use natural language and Cortana should be able to understand.

Remember that you can do a lot more with Cortana by customizing the Notebook.

Mauro Huculak is technical writer for WindowsCentral.com. His primary focus is to write comprehensive how-tos to help users get the most out of Windows 10 and its many related technologies. He has an IT background with professional certifications from Microsoft, Cisco, and CompTIA, and he's a recognized member of the Microsoft MVP community.

31 Comments
  • I just wonder, when will Cortana be officially available in other countries like in half of Europe..
  • Probably not so soon. The thing is, Cortana is (unlike Siri or Google Now) an assistent in the sense that she can take care of simple tasks. Siri and Google are more of executioners of actions (eg. Call Tom, set an alarm at 6am, etc). Cortana actually tries to enable you to book a lunch appointment, with booking the restaurant and have an Uber stand by at the right time. It is a road MS chose with its voice assistent. It's much more capable then the competitor's, but for it to work well it isn't enough to just speak the language in a country, it needs the entire cultural context as well. I will leave it up to you what you think of that, but for me it was one of the main reasons to go back to Android; finally able to call people and send text messages (via whatsapp) to friends and family while driving the car, without the use of hands. Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • Cortana is available worldwide, in English (and some other languages is specific countries). But Hey Cortana is unavailable if your device language doesn't match your region. And as djeero mentioned, no hands free dictation, etc. And that makes Cortana quite restricted while driving. But with all its drawbacks, Cortana is still a great experience on PC and mobile.
  • Calling people with Cortana always worked for me in the car as well as text messaging. The only difference is whatsapp. I don't use third party messengers regularly - a text is a text.
  • My cortana app is always crashing when I press the listening button
  • It wasn't doing this yesterday what happened???
  • Same thing happening with me.
    India Lumia 730 :'(
  • Is there any solution for this plz tell me
  • My tip: Ask her if she can beatbox. Enjoy
  • Hahah =)
  • good find :)
  • Wow. Two mentions of Bon Jovi! Wonderful!
  • Strangely, asking her to play an artist whose music I have works, but when I ask to play a specific album she says I need a groove subscription (even though I have the album and it was purchased on the MS store).
  • That is if she actually plays music... cause lately she just says something went wrong... And Groove had some "cant play it" issue lately... MSFT seems to be messing somwhere deep in their trnches while retrenching, and they cut a couple of wires so now nothing works...
  • Is a shame that the vast majority of these commands not works in other languages...
  • wow was listening to burning bridges this morning.
  • I have ZERO use for Cortana if I have to use a keyboard.  If I can't tell her/ask her, then I might as well shut her down.  Just like the Xbox.  It because virtually useless to me when Microsoft turned the Kinect into a doorstop and made the stupid dashboard impossible to read or navigate.  I despise Satya Nadella.
  • Are you referring to other languages? This isn't a jab at your grammar but simply at the content of your message. It's entirely unclear why you're complaining. I can only assume its due to lack of Cortana in your language, but you never actually state as such. This is one of the reasons languages are tricky. You can't even get a message across to another human, let alone a computer. That's the barrier that is slowing Cortana going to other languages. It's not simply translation. It's practically recreating the technology itself for each language. It took a long time to get English to work and it's going to take a long time for each additional language, and I'm sure resources are being assigned due to return on investment. So, Satya Nadella isn't choosing not to release Cortana to you. He's also simply following market trends. Developers didn't take advantage fo the Kinect at all and a very small minority of people used Kinect for gestures and what not. You don't despise Nadella. You despise the population at large for doing things differently than you and Nadella noticed this and is taking advantage of that information to improve his company and to improve the products for the most amount of people. That may suck for you, but its hardly a bad decision on his part. It's illogical to despise him for doing something that makes sense. Anybody who can run a business would do the same thing. Don't hate someone because they recognize reality for what it is. You can be disappointed, that's fine. I'm disappointed about a lot. I'm disappointed I had to switch to T-Mobile instead of Verizon because I'm more loyal to my phone than my network. I don't despise T-Mobile for not having better service, I understand why they don't have better coverage. I'm just disappointed in the reality of the situation.
  • You computer doesn't have a microphone? Let's blame software for that. It's all Satya fault for not putting a microphone on the computer you purchased or maybe it does have one and you didn't know how to use - whatever, let's blame Satya. You never needed to do a quick conversion for volume, distances, exchange rates? Oh, you launch the browser, navigate to Bing or Google, search for the conversion tool site, then enter the numbers with your keyboard and select what you're trying to convert. That's much faster and better than typing on that little Cortana box on the taskbar.
  • I want to know what happened to her shopping list. I can't seem to access that any more.
  • I think Cortana is more useful on phone than on PC..... It does work on PC but I find using keyboard and mouse more convenient. I would definitely use it on my phone but these i***ts in MS have not deployed all features to all regions!
  • When u r so lazy to do a simple search,u can do it while doing any other task, or change d music track, recognise any song etc....it's. Fun try for 10 days u will need it on 11th..
  • And now we have someone talking about laziness who cannot write "you are" but uses "u r" instead. Wake up, kid! And yes, I am missing Cortana in my region too. Simply switching the handset to English is simply not enough, because Cortana won't understand names in the Phonebook app etc. Go figure!
  • thanks for reminding us of what all Cortana can do
  • When I turn on Cortana and "Hey Cortana" on my Surface Pro 4, It freezes. So I have to disable it to prevent freezing. This is the case after I upgraded to Anniversary update! 
  • But the thing she can do best is "Sorry, something went wrong" - thats all she does on my phone and on my SP4. Phone is on Insider previews, SP is on official AU.
  • When I use Cortana to identify a song and I have a Groove Music pass can she not send me to Groove instead of the store? I'm not buying a song when I can download it as part of my Groove pass. So annoying.
  • I love how the music is Bon Jovi
  • You missed my second favourite thing! Try "Send Picture to PC" and Cortana will search your network and let you select which picture to send to which PC. Sadly, you can't send multiple pictures. This only works in Windows 10 AU.
  • I find her useless, and never use it, similar with the eye scanner, it struggles to work
  • It would help if Cortana worked when i try to check the settings in cortana in doesnt open and then jams up have to wait for about 10 minutes before it responds and the same again