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Secret Cortana commands you may not know

Cortana does a lot — some of it obvious, some of it not so. Microsoft's virtual assistant both manages to make life easier and more delightful across the Windows 10 line-up, appearing on both Windows 10 PCs and Windows 10 Mobile Phones. She's more than just Microsoft's answer to Siri and Google Now — Cortana is both proactive and reactive. There's so much that Cortana can do that it's near impossible to know it all. Here are a few not-so-obvious commands that reveal the true power of Cortana!

Emoji dictation

Cortana's text dictation is great no matter the application, and is highly useful for the times you really shouldn't be typing away. But sometimes just words won't do — you need some emoji! You can add one with ease with Cortana dictation — just say something like "smiley", "winkie", or "frownie" and Cortana will put the corresponding emoticon into your text.

Translation

Ask Cortana "How do you say "I need to get the airport" in Spanish?" and she will give you a prompt translation. You can, of course, replace the phrase and the language with whatever you want. Cortana can translate English to 50 languages, with more on the way (opens in new tab).

Search image and docs

On your PC, ask Cortana to "Show me pictures from last week" in order to pull up pictures from the corresponding time period. This also works with Word and Excel documents. Can't remember what you named the first draft of your essay? Ask Cortana to find it for you.

What's that song?

Cortana can essentially replace the popular song-identification app Shazam. If you hear a song and would like to know its name and creator, just ask Cortana for help. "What song is playing?" should do the trick.

Remind me

Maybe you're someone who needs a reminder here and there throughout the day. Cortana can set reminders that trigger when you reach a certain place or a certain time of day. Perhaps you have to visit the bank after work; just say "Remind me when I leave work to visit the bank." Cortana's smart location processing has already figured out where you work is, and when you leave that location you'll get a reminder to visit the bank. The same works for picking up the mail when you get home or any other combination of task and location.

Avoid rush hour

Next time you're driving across the city ask Cortana "What is traffic like on the way to home?" (or wherever you're headed) and she will provide you with info on any current snags that could extend or ultimately put a stop to your voyage. Don't forget that you can ask Cortana for directions if you're not sure how to get to a certain spot.

Very impressionable

Think you can do a good Schwarzenegger? Ask Cortana to "Do an impression" for you next time you and your friends are aping someone famous. You'll be surprised with what she pulls up.

Rock, paper, scissors

Cortana loves to compete — just say "rock, paper, scissors" the next time you need help picking a victor. Cortana will pick one of the three from the classic zero-sum hand game, so make sure you've already made your decision (she won't be cheating by using the camera to see your play).

Trivia time!

Are you a fountain of movie knowledge? Are you constantly impressing your friends with quotes, characters, and plots? Ask Cortana to "Play the movie game" with you next time you're feeling extra-smart. She will give you a few clues and eventually a blurred movie poster to help you along. You might even discover some new movies!

Your secret Cortana commands

Lets us know some secret Cortana commands you love to use! Sound off in the comments below!

Cale Hunt
Senior Editor, Laptop Reviews

Cale Hunt is a Senior Editor at Windows Central. He focuses mainly on laptop reviews, news, and accessory coverage. He's been reviewing laptops and accessories full time since 2016, with hundreds of reviews published for Windows Central. He is an avid PC gamer and multi-platform user, and spends most of his time either tinkering with or writing about tech.

170 Comments
  • These are nice.  I would also like to request the need for cortana to snap a picture if you ask her to.
  • You can say 'take a photo'
    Or 'take a video' Posted from my Surface 3 running W10
  • I try 'take a photo' on my 950XL in Australia, and she just opens the camera - does not take the shot.
  • Be very carefu ... There is a man eating red banded cortana under your bed.
  • Actually ability to ask Cortana to take a selfie of her...
  • If traffic is crawling, and it will take you 9 mins to get home, does Cortana suggest you walk in future?? 'winkie' 'smilie'
  • Caught my attention too. Where the heck do you live that you can get home in 9 minutes when traffic is crawling? Does it take 4-5 minutes normally? Takes me longer to find a parking space.
  • "Which one is better Linux or Windows" "I'm surprised you'd ask. Windows, of course." "knock knock" "who's there" "Ash" "Ash who" "Blesh you" and much more
  • I never knew cortana could do ALL these! I am seriously in love with her *muah*
  • You should try telling her that... she has some pretty good wisecrack responses Posted from Windows Central for Windows 10
  • If your playing a song and for some reason aren't sure of which artist or song name it is, you can ask her "What's playing or What's the name of the song?" And she will listen while the song continues playing instead of listening from a different source you're the one playing the song.
  • That's already in the article. Read it first before commenting :p haha +640 on Windows10Mobile
  • It says that it identifiers music from other sources, like listening from a radio and asking Cortana what's that song. I said that cortana can listen to the music you play in your phone and tell you the name song, album and artist. Its a different thing which I think I specified.
  • Ah right. But honestly if you're playing it on your phone already its not really that useful...? As for example on YouTube, groove music, Spotify etc it'll tell you that info already. But I guess its good for the novelty of it? +640 on Windows10Mobile
  • Yeah its a weird, maybe for people who downloaded music illegally and it doesn't have information for the music
  • Not necessarily an illegal download (although yeah, those too), but someone might rip music from a legally bought CD. That's rare these days as most music is bought online now, but maybe it's a CD of an old album bought 10 years ago or more. Ripping a single copy off a CD for "backup" is allowed/legal by most terms of agreements. Ripped music often does not include metadata, so that Cortana feature can be useful to add metadata in these cases.
  • If you download music illegally you still know what you download, duh. You don't just download a potporri of random music.
  • Hey... Have you heard about... Radio? It's an eletronic device used to hear broadcasted audio through radiofrequence... Usually, radio stations play... Music!
  • Dude, you have no idea how helpful that is. Listening to a radio station, I can't stop to write down what song is playing. Listening to a music podcast I don't have to go search for the playlist. Listening to a dj mix with no track listing. I nearly only want to know what is playing on my phone.
  • & not all streaming apps offer proper integration with wp so some sites that offer said apps push you to go to their site instead
  • No, there's a use scenario for that. I use it when I'm listening through my car stereo's bluetooth and I cant look at the phone screen.
  • Maybe if the media you're playing has a song but it isn't credited? Like an advert or something?
  • For me, the BAND 2 music connection is great for that. I havve been using Your Groove lists since release, and now and then a tune comes up that I don't remember or can't place or simply don't know. Double Tap brings that up for me without taking out my phone to check. The connection can be a bit wonky sometimes, and I haven't tried the work around for the Bluetooth hreadset issue, but all-in-all a great addition to the Band.
  • Do you know Narendra Modi.....yes, he is one of the most followed politician of all time
  • Thanks to downvotes!
  • Hey , hi anurag .
    Ya we all know who is Narendra Modi . Windows FAN... >>LUMIA 640 XL
  • ;-)
  • Not all these seem to work on my phone
  • A lot of them are region specific.
  • yeah.. most of the good stuff is USA only.. some make it to UK. but most don't go past those borders.
  • Now, how do I make it so the Search button no longer launches Cortana and her tortoise-paced searches?
  • Open Cortana, go to her notebook, then settings, and try pressing the first pill toggle. It should turn her off and replace her function on the search button with Bing.
  • Won't let me go to the Notebook without giving permission to collect data on my searches.
  • Then allow the permission, then go to the notebook and disable Cortana... Seriously though MS employee's aren't gunna be sat round a desk watching all the searches you pull. It's not a privacy issue to just allow it/her to collect search data. Haha. But if you really are bothered about it, as soon as you disable Cortana it disables the permission so don't worry about the permission being turned on for a few seconds +640 on Windows10Mobile
  • No, they aren't. That's because such stuff is usually mined en masse, and analyzed that way. That's where you get things like targeted ads and spam e-mail. You can say it's not a privacy issue, but that's for you. I consider it to be just that. In the same vein, some folks might be cool with being nude in public, but I'm not.
  • Targeted ads, good possibility to an extent, but I've never experienced such and I use it every day. Spam emails? Not from Cortana. Spam emails you receive when you give your email address to companies that may give/sell your info to other companies. Microsoft doesn't do this, and if they did, stripping away the Cortana permissions wouldn't do anything considering Windows 10 runs on your MS account (so your email...) But MS don't do that anyways. BUT its not my business or problem if you don't want to use Cortana and are worried for your privacy, so honestly I'm not fussed. But what I said earlier still applies. Allow the permission, then go to notebook and disable Cortana. By doing so it'll also disable the permission you just enabled (as, if you try start up Cortana again, it asks you to enable the permission). :) +640 on Windows10Mobile
  • Exactly, and I might give that a try. It's not a statement that Microsoft has done this, I can't say I've had much in the way of issues with them on that front, regarding spam e-mail. It's more a reaction to the general trend of technology, where it's so hard to really have a private life, whether that mean targeted ads from a search history or spam e-mails from everywhere to having Facebook prodding you for info to everything else. I just try to minimize the ways I give companies access to me as a whole, not because I'm especially valuable or interesting, but because it's bothersome. Of course, it's also just assuming the worst. The book 1984 shows you what happens when you let this, that, and the other too close to your personal life. Not that I'd expect it soon (or ever), but the thought that what I say could be quietly mined by Cortana and handed over for review isn't pleasant. It's the conspiracy theory of the matter, I don't deny it. I just try to make sure I understand the worst in things before I jump in, because once you start down that stuff, it's really hard to stop it from going on.
  • Just wear a tin hat, that'll block everything.
  • If you really feel this way then you definitely DO NOT want to have a facebook or Gmail account and if you do, you should be deleting them because they exist to do exactly what you fear.
  • Pssssst...you don't have anything you need to tell me, you're not breaking any news. I don't have a Google account, and my Facebook account is only used for Facebook Messenger with one person. I haven't posted on it since August 2012, and I have no pictures or personal information on my account.
  • Yet you use your name here Mr. Keith Wallace? lol
  • You showed up a month late to make absolutely no point? 1. My name doesn't reveal anything about me, especially compared to signing up to have all I say or type analyzed by Cortana's back end. 2. The name is a side effect of using my MS account to sign in here, as I didn't want to create a millionth digital identity. Thanks for getting me an e-mail alert worse than spam.
  • I was wondering if you mixed up Microsoft with Google... Google will mine everything they can from you - regardless of your desires. I also ask if you are on the Insider Program at all? If so you may want to remove yourself from that as MS takes a bunch of anonymous information from running an Insider build, if you are that concerned with privacy. ​On the other hand if you are seriously concerned with privacy issues, trade your smartphone into a simple feature phone. There will no longer be any smarts to bug you on one of these standard devices.  
  • Keith, if you search on the internet, the search provider knows. BECAUSE THEY RUN THE SEARCH ENGINE. Welcome to the internet :D. It's a bunch of interconnected computers and you don't own most of them. I hope you enjoy it, Wikipedia has a bunch of articles on how it all works that you can look at, but then you'd have to visit THEIR SERVERS and they will know, so be careful!!! On a serious note though, if you didn't give Cortana permission to carry your searches to the internet, why are you complaining about the speed of searching? Troll.
  • Turn GPS off
  • Huh?
  • Cortana requires locations services, turn off location services, turn off Cortana ... Just can't use GPS for Maps etc....
  • It works just as well without location  
  • Get better internet?
  • LOL, what? I'm speaking in terms of Cortana vs. Going to the Bing site on my phone and searching there. Besides, I think the 75 Mbps down I have is fine for Internet searches.
  • I am a couple of months late, but have followed this with some amusement.   Keith Wallace, you really are a troll.  You can not know the speed of Cortana's search unless you had already given her permissions as she will not search without them.  This means, you have already said yes to permissions or you are talking out your ***. Go back to your Apple device as obviously you are just a troll and Microsoft basher causing issues.   On a serious note, many use Cortana daily, including myself and the searches are just as quick as any other assistant, be it google or apple based.  I enjoy the way Cortana is not trying to be Artificial Intelligence, but more an Augmented Intelligence.  She works with the person who owns the device rather than trying to take the place of the person owning the device.
  • Normally, I'd give a reply that's polite, but since you couldn't bother to be civil and intelligent, for get that. You're incredibly dumb, that's the problem. Why do I know the speed of Cortana without using it on my Xbox? I have a phone that I used Cortana on. It's the same back-end that trudges through voice recognition. I've spoken to others who used it on Xbox and said it was sluggish and clunkier than the old commands. That you can't manage basic thought processes is your issue, get bent. Never once have I owned an Apple product, nor will I. I can't stand the attitude they take towards their customers, nor can I stand their tendency to lag behind in hardware advancements (LTE, HD displays, OIS, etc). That the best comebacks you have are "you're a troll" and "you buy Apple stuff" proves you're too stupid for a rational argument, and you're just an emotional Microsoft fan who can't be bothered to consider that Microsoft might make mistakes with stuff. Seriously, you're a moron. Now, I'm going to go grab my Lumia 950 from the living room so I can check some messages before I come back to my self-built, W10 PC. After that, I will probably spend some time playing on my XB1...without Cortana.
  • From memory Cortana on Xbox is in Beta and only available in a few countries until it is released for public consumption. So I guess Cortana will be a little problematic on Xbox till the bugs are ironed out. I wish I was in the States so I can try Cortana on XB myself. I will just have to wait till it is released for Australia in Preview builds.
  • They actually changed her Home screen when you press the Search button now, so it doesn't automatically show your feed... so now she launches faster!
  • hey i like that emoji one a lot! thanks for these tips.
  • Tell me a joke. sing me a song.
  • Take me as I come, 'cause I can't stay long.
  • Love this you should make a weekly or monthly article about it
  • It's really funny
  • Except that it closes everytime on my phone.
  • Same. Frequently crashes. Posted from Windows Central for Windows 10
  • In some good news, the problem of her crashing about 50 to 60% of the time went away in the last release preview build. I see another build just came out today too, so hopefully it's even better now. :) Posted from Windows Central for Windows 10
  • Great news. Really hope that helps. Posted from Windows Central for Windows 10
  • I feel you... Lumia 640
  • Cortana definitely works much better on a higher end phone. I suspect part of the problem is that the part running on the phone can't react fast enough for the assorted network requests. Cortana used to work great on my L925 running W10M, but as more and more capabilities were added, the less responsive she became. On my L950XL, I generally only see the problem behaviors when I'm on a poor quality network connection.
  • It works perfectly in lumia 630! :)
  • Cortana will also play "Rock, Paper, Scissors, Lizard, Spock"!
  • Just a heads up, the address you scratched out is still quite visible in the location reminder screenshot. Love the tips!
  • My all time favorite, "What are you wearing, Cortana?"