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How to open websites by voice with Cortana

You seem to keep finding new things while playing with the Windows Phone 8.1 Preview for Developers! Did you know that you could open websites by voice with Cortana? WPCentral forum member, jrdatrackstar1223, has recently discovered this feature. It requires a few steps to get it working, so head past the break to watch our how-to video.

You simply can’t tell Cortana, “Open Android Central,” for example. For some odd reason, you need to pin websites to the home screen before Cortana can open them with your voice.

  1. Open Internet Explorer and go to your favorite website.
  2. Click the three dots on the lower right corner and tap ‘pin to start.’
  3. That’s it! You can now press and hold the search button from anywhere and ask Cortana to open the website.

For example, we’ve pinned Android Central to our home screen. After doing this, we’re able to tell Cortana, “Open Android Central.” Cortana then goes straight to the page we have pinned.

We’re not sure why pinning the websites is a requirement. If you try to ask Cortana without pinning the sites, Cortana just performs a web search. It’s not a big hassle, though, because the website you want to open is usually the first result.

The implementation isn’t perfect. We found a couple of websites that did not work. Some examples are the Windows Phone Reddit page and BuzzFeed. When you pin websites to the homescreen, Cortana uses the pages’ titles when listening to commands. If the web developers use an unusual format, Cortana will have a hard time opening it. For example, the title for BuzzFeed’s mobile page is “http--www.buzzfeed.com--s=mobile” instead of “BuzzFeed.”

Will you be using Cortana to open websites? Let us know in the comments! Don’t forget to thank jrdatrackstar1223 over at the forums for sharing this cool tip.

Forum post: Cortana can open websites by voice

Mark Guim is Video Editor at Windows Central. He switched to Windows because the MacBook Pro isn't Pro enough. You can follow him on Twitter at @markguim.

141 Comments
  • The reason this works is that tiles are treated as first class apps by the voice-activated app launcher. So if a website has a tile then the voice launcher picks it up automatically.
  • Cool...Cortana also opens your games.
  • indeed, i find it strange wpcentral guys wouldn't know this, well said mate
  • Who said we didn't know? LOL
  • HAIL HYDRA!
  • I made a comment about that a couple of days ago on your comparison of Siri vs google now vs Cortana, saying that it was possible to open web pages from Cortana as long as you have them pinned it's nice to see that you guys found it also!
  • isn't it you can open website by saying "open microsoft dot com" ?
  • Usually when people say ''For some odd reason'' they are unsure what the actual cause is. And if you knew, then wouldn't it make sense to explain this in the article?   Btw, I love that WP8.1 lets websites be pinned as (live) tiles just like on Windows 8. WP8 just took a snapshot of the actual webpage, which looked ugly on a startscreen.
  • "We’re not sure why pinning the websites is a requirement."
    Mark Gum said that!
  • So did Mark Guim! ;)
  • It was the font's fault, couldn't see the "i" in there! "Gum" is a fun last name too, though.
  • The video sa says that you didn't know why or how this works.
  • Ask Cortana, "Cortana do you know Siri?"  See what she says!!!  LOL
  • "I want to reach out but all they gave me is iPhone 3g" lol
  • +1020!  I died laughing yesterday when I heard that!
  • Yeah, this one is hilarious. I think Cortana is full of a character :)
  • Yes Sir! +1020
  • LMBO!
  • Haha, good one :))
  • I think her response will be "As a matter of fact, I do and she's a bya*h!"
  • Also ask her whether she knows Google Now, and what she says. :D
  • Mark can u please show us more on the IE browser?? Having a lot of problems with it. Keeps on reopening with a blank page, closes all tabs when I back out,etc. Is there a way to make it like it behaved on 8.0?
  • IE (10,11) always opens with a blank Tab...if this is what you mean.
  • On wp8.0, it reopens with last page visited.
  • I see...but opens the last tab after I close and re-open it.
  • That's what I want but mine doesn't work that way. Don't know why. Do u think there's a setting for it?
  • I don't see any setting for this...do u have address bar button set to Tabs?
  • Yeah.....they all on default, haven't changed anything. Another thing I wanna know, when u open a new tab, does pressing the back button closes that new tab and switch to the old? Why can't O have my new tabs opened when I press back. Pressing back everytime closes all tabs.
  • That's because you use the Back button too much. You're not in WP8 anymore. Try using the Multitasking View and use the Close button at the top right corner. Of course, AFTER closing the last used tab.
  • Yeah I agree with u but I thought they said the back button no longer closes apps but suspends them. Well some how mine is still closing apps except a few like facebook. Is this normal or my 920 has a problem. So far WP8.1 is running perfectly on it except my hiccups with IE.
  • You have to let Internet Explorer run in the background.
  • Yes it is. Been told to hit the start button but for someone from wp7, I'm stuck with the back button. I even press it before I know I did.
  • There is a mistake here.
    If you ask yourself why this implementation for this feature the answer is very simple:
    this feature is not designed for this purpose.
    If you want to open a website with voice commands, you can't and isn't a requirement to pin it on the start screen.
    The goal of this feature is to open the secondary tile of every apps.
    Try yourself, open for example Tripadvisor, or any other apps that have secondary tile (the primary tile is the tile that launch the app, the secondary tiles are all the tile of an app that open particular pages of that app, for example if you pin an hotel of Tripadvisor on your start screen you have a secondary tile) pin on the start screen an hotel and ask to Cortana to open that tile (the name of the tile is on the tile itself).
    When you pin a site in the start screen, at the end, you are making a secondary tile of IE. So the possibility to open site with voice commands a "side effect"...
  • Isn't that exactly what I said?
  • Yes, but in a less awesome way
  • Cortana calls me "dude" but always opens up pornhub when I tell her to open facebook!  o_O
  • ...
  • She studied your "interest" for sure
  • Ms. Patriot Act!  LOL
  • Guess you got pornhub bookmarked as facebook
  • No I don't go on porn hub!
  • +100
  • I have yet to hear her say my name
  • Give her some shots
  • Well, Cortana certainly is innovative, even for a beta version. Windows Phone is so much fun now. I wish they'd used Cortana's actual avatar from Halo.
  • They are.  It's just not fully implemented yet.  Both Microsoft and Jen Taylor confirmed this.
  • Source, please?
  • Uh, when? Source?
  • I like the halo but they cold have done somthing more visually.  This visualization 50 second in is pretty sweet. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iB6pWs46GY8 I hope in the future they gives use a rage of visuals to choose from. It keeps it fresh. 
  • How to keep saved games on cloud? Is it not available yet?
  • Once apps support it, yes.
  • okay
  • How to keep on topic? Is it hard still?
  • LOL Sam Ask Cortana, "Cortana do you know Siri?"  Listen to what she says!  LOL
  • Lol. Evidently, it is for some.
  • Sorry Sam, i dont know where to ask this question
  • The official forums are a good place to start.
  • Official Forum App for WPC?
  • http://www.windowsphone.com/s?appid=e6c3c78a-4382-e011-986b-78e7d1fa76f8
  • Oh shut up with the Cortana news, I'm jealous... I'm stuck with stupid HTC 8x which can't switch freaking languages...
  • Oh is that why all the tips never worked for me?!
  • Is you mad?...or nah?
  • Sorry to hear that, I've read about your issue in the forums very depressing indeed, I kind of wish you get a Lumia 1520 or 930 to actually experience Windows Phone the way it was intended, hope you get some cash together soon. :)
  • I hope to get one too, by winning the app competition with my next app :D
  • Even after updating to 8.1? How's that so?
  • Simple. HTC apparently forgot to add US language to the ROM. At least I still got this very nice and fast shape writing and action centre...
  • II had to flash a Brazilian fw for my Lumia 620 for the very same reason. Dunno how the deal is with HTC but with Nokia you get some edge by using their Service tools. Turns out, there were no US English firmwares (since the phone wasn't available in US officially) but the Brazil firmware worked just fine after I did the update.
  • Actually you don't lose anything. Cortana doesn't have many functions, it works slow and... does anyone really use voice assistants? I've never seen anyone using it. I think it's just useless feature being there only to catch up with competition (there's still a long road to achieve this - especially when talking about apps)
  • Do you drive? Do you often put reminders when on the go? If so, this is a godsend. Just because you don't use it, don't mean it is useless for all.
  • Can you clarify? I have an HTC 8x and I can switch languages.
  • Yeah you are probably in United states, but other phones can't switch phone language only keyboard region and speech
  • Android central?
  • Of course, to give a shout out to a sister site. You've already got the official WPC app, so you don't need any advice on how to open that via voice. *hint hint*
  • Not using Cortana yet as in the UK, but storing these articles for future use. They will be very helpful. Thanks.
  • You can indeed get Cortana
    I'm from Denmark and i have it. You have to change region + language and then reboot.
    Hope that helps :-). Edit: You have to set region to USA and language to English (USA).
  • I live in the bundocks / hinterlands of Southeast Asia and I have Cortana by setting my language and region to USA. I should really be setting it back to my region but can't let go of Cortana LOL! 
  • Thank you for the info. I have not put Cortana on yet as I use my Bluetooth headset to start apps etc in the car. Press and hold the Bluetooth call receive button until you hear a beep. Let go and the "Listening" mode comes up on the phone, I can then say "open" "start" etc, like open bbc news. This is great for the car as I can get most things to start from pressing the Bluetooth button, no need to touch the phone. Also if I get a call I can just say answer or ignore. Using 920 and plantronics headset. Not sure if Cortana will work with this. I will have to give it a try :D
  • Okay, have installed Cortana and working with the Bluetooth headset as above ❤❤
  • Cortana this, Cortana that. Please stop torturing us who don't have Cortana xD
  • Seriously?
  • He probably has an Android, don't be jelly
  • Nope, I have HTC 8s that supports only English UK as default language, I can't set it to US (so no Cortana).
    P.S. I'm am huge hater of Google ;)
  • Sorry, I would say Google now is second to none. I don't need to touch my phone 6 times to use voice search. In fact my phone can be in another room and I can set my alarm. What? I didn't stutter!
  • Ps. Im a huge fan of Windows phone. ;) stupid fan boy
  • Just consider it a preview, like the countless articles they did before 8.1 launched at all =)
  • Is this a MACBOOK  behind the phone ?
  • Microsoft is a devices and services company. We need Mark to know what it's like using Windows Phone and a Mac :p
  • Didn't work for me at all (Android Central and PocketNow), but I have the mobile sites pinned. Does that make a difference?
  • Don't meant to insult your intelligence, are you on WP 8.1? Or 8?
  • 8.1
  • Not something I'll be using until officially available in the UK, but I'm still curious about one aspect. As I wouldn't want pinned webpages clogging my start screen, does this still function if you bundle them all in a start screen folder?
  • No that doesn't work. But you have to remember, Cortana is still in beta stages.  It's quite possible she'll be able to open websites by the time it officially launches.  It'll also have her real voice too.  :)
  • If i have a website pinned to my home screen then why the **** i would ask Cortana to open that website.. And how many websites should i pin to my home screen to use this feature....
  • I was thinking this as well. Of it's pinned I'll just touch it
  • Because I like to tell the phone to open it, just to remind it I'm the alpha male
  • Yep agreed. If they require you to pin it, then its a pointless feature. If it could tap in to your favourites it would be a much more useful feature
  • When I use Cortana I said "Play Fuck LA by schoolboy q” and she brought up RedTube...
  • Lol
  • To be honest, what I take away from this is not Cortana misunderstanding you, but that you pinned RedTube to your Start Screen, or even went so far as to download a RedTube app. Says more about you than Cortana, really. Not a sermon, just a thought.
  • I was talking about search result's and I have safe search disabled because of my debate class were debating about prostitution and it blocks everything with it enabled. That's why it most likely brought up RedTube.
  • Ahh, I get ya now. That's why I keep SafeSearch on. I once uttered the command, "Play Girl on Fire," and Cortana searched "girl in porn." O_O Thank god for SafeSearch. But needless to say, I deleted my search history afterwards. :P Cortana is amazing, expect for the times she isn't.
  • Surely if cortana can scan emails etc, it would have been wiser to have it scan your favorites.
    Not only would this be cleaner than pinning a million tiles, but it would stop certain sites from abusing the system, they're going to for sure.
    With favorites we tend to rename for easy recognition, doesn't it make sense to take advantage of that?!
  • She might do that soon.  You have to remember she's still in BETA stage and they are able to update her frequently without system updates. :)
  • I've noticed some lil changes going on (certain items in the settings), and I think that's awesome.
    Also great that feedback is actually being used by ms, been years getting annoyed by that head in the sand attitude.
    Big thumbs up for M.S. this year
  • My thoughts exactly... Even if they won't let you open websites you don't have saved anywhere, at least let Cortana user your favorites list. I really don't want to pin a billion tiles to my Start Screen. :/
  • If you pin the wpcentral website as a tile and have the wpcentral app, which will it open? Perhaps a menu?
  • She asks which one do you want.
  • So you pin the website. That means you're one tap away, right? But instead, let's tap and hold, speak, wait for the interpretation, and then arrive at the web site. Makes perfect sense.
  • I did pin to start too but deleted the pin.  I then asked Cortana to open WPCentral and it asked, "start which app?" I said "Internet Explorer" and WPCentral opened in the browser.  Same happened with crackberry.  But if you save the website to favorites, it doesn't ask what app should open it. It finds it in your favorites and opens it.  Its great for sites you always visit but I hope that when this facility is fully realized, it will know what a website is, short of what I put in my favorites that is. It could at least search through sites I've visited to see what I'm asking.  I don't intend to load up my start screen with shortcuts.    
  • Did you try to say it all in one sentence? Like: "Open WPCentral with Internet Explorer". What does that give you?
  • Awesome. What a pity, Cortana isn't available here in China, waiting for the Chinese version.
  • When I asked Cortana 'do you know siri' I got 'I know her but I don't KNOW her know her'.
  • More articles like this, and less articles about the latest way to customize your Start Screen!
  • Im sure Daniel Rubino started a website with voice in one of their reviews. It was cnn.com but do not remember if it was in the favorites.
  • But if i have it pinned, why would i need Cortana to open it for me?
  • Any one asked Cortana"what does the fox say?"
  • Cortnata doesn't disaapoint when you ask that question. 
  • Funny observation, the guy writes articles for wpcentral and he uses MacBook :))
  • Fast bring it in India
  • I don't have wp8.1 or cortana but can't u tell cortana open crackberry dot com?
  • "For some odd reason" really, WPC? Logical thinking allowed.
  • She can also launch music playlists tho it's really spotty
  • Why not just open it yourself since its pinned to the start screen? Makes no sense to ask Cortana if u have to go through all that.
  • Is cortana available in india? Can anyone tell?
  • I am from India using Cortana..Just change your region and language to US and reboot..
  • Most people visit the same sites everyday so pinning those to have access by voice isn't a burden. Also if you have lots of tiles accessing by voice when possible is quicker. I don't think Microsoft I done. Watch out now!!!
  • Why pin?? I just use RSS Central
  • @Mark I cannot do facebook checkin or posting tweets on twitter through Cortana. It does a bing search whenever I told her to do those..Please show us in a video..
  • Can Cortana search apps in the store?
  • That's great
  • It looks cool but useless unless you can run it without pushing the search button. The voice search only would be better. And it should work even when a smartphone is blocked. If you are going to look through sites on your smartphone, you have to tap the screen anyway. So Cortana is useless in this case at all.
  • I tried with WPcentral but it does not seem to work :/
  • This is cool but let's remember not to become too dependent.lol Of it's already pinned to your start screen just tap it. No, but this is pretty cool.
  • Why pin to start? Why not favourite?
  • ok
  • i wish if we could voice activate cotana when the phone is locked 
  • Now maybe a tip for sites that override my desktop setting and show me a stupid reduced functionality iPhone site on my 1080p display, twitter was easy enough with a web search (Bing) this site does it too but the format is actually good and I usually use the app anyway.
  • My phone is desparately slow and Cortana refuses to open any websites. And she is not working very well even when I Just want to call somebody...
    512mb devices are definitively very bad (Lumia 620)
  • If you've pinned the web site to your start screen then why even open Cortana? You have to select either the link to Cortana you've pinned to your start screen, or the search key to access her so all you're doing is adding an extra step just to ask her to do it. In the time it takes to access Cortana and then ask you would all ready be at the page if you just clicked the pinned address. Microsoft, maybe in a future Cortana update you could add favorite web sites in the Interests portion of Cortana so we could launch them through there and not need multiple shortcuts pinned to the start screen
  • Coolest tip of the day!!! Thanks!
  • awesome!  now with the saving passwords in IE and this, I can check my companies bank balance faster than on a tablet or desktop! woot!-thx