Windows 10 tips: Make the most of Cortana

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The Microsoft Digital Assistant, Cortana, is one of the major additions to Windows 10 – and it's a winner. Turn it on and Cortana warns you of upcoming meetings. search on your PC and the web; talk about weather, news and sports and much more.

To help you get the most out of Cortana, I've put together some of my favorite tips for using it, including using Cortana to manage your Google Calendar, identify the music you're listening to and track the packages and deals. flights.

Remarks:

  • This article assumes that you already know the basics of Cortana. If you need help to get started, visit the Cortana section of World of the computer"Windows 10 Quick Reference".
  • Do not forget that there have been six major updates to Windows 10 since its initial release in July 2015. This article explains how Cortana works if you have installed the Windows 10 October 2018 update ( version 1809). Therefore, if you have not already installed this update, what you see and read here may vary slightly from what you see in your version of Windows 10.
  • Get a direct answer to your question

    When you ask Cortana a question, the answer is usually provided via a list of web links; you then open the search results in your browser. That's what happened, for example, when I asked, "What was the coldest day of 2015 in Boston?"

    This is a useful but time-consuming process because you have to browse the search results, click on a result and then search for information on the web page that is displayed.

    But Cortana can answer many questions directly without sending you to the web first. Instead, you get your answers directly in the Cortana pane. The following is only a partial list. Try experimenting yourself to see what else you know.

    To define [word] You want a definition of "absquatulate"? Just ask Cortana.

    When does [name of holiday]? Cortana knows when vacations fall on the calendar.

    Who is [title of person]? Cortana can tell you who are the CEOs of Microsoft, Google and Apple, as well as the President of the United States. Also try other titles and names.

    What time is it [place]? You do not know what time it is somewhere in the world? Cortana knows it.

    Convert [currency] at [currency] Want to know the current exchange rates between currencies? You just have to ask.

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    Cortana can offer you answers directly without sending you to the Web. (Click on an image of this story to enlarge.)

    What is the height [person]? He knows how famous most people are. For example, he knows that former US President Barack Obama is six feet one inch tall.

    What is the duration [movie]? What is the duration The Godfather? Just ask, and Cortana will say. However, he does not know all the movies ever made, so you are sometimes sent on the web to get an answer.

    What is the capital of [country or state]? If you need to know the capital of a country or state, Cortana knows it.

    Connect your accounts, apps and services to Cortana

    One way to extend Cortana's power is to connect it to an account – for example, LinkedIn – so that when you ask Cortana to do something, they can view the information in this account and give you additional information about your request. Cortana can also do more, including listening to music through a service such as Spotify or controlling smart home appliances. And Cortana can work with Windows 10 apps, such as finding a show and playing it on Netflix or Hulu, or asking Fitbit how many steps you've done in a day. Microsoft calls these types of actions "Cortana skills".

    To begin, click in the Cortana search box and, when the Cortana panel appears, click the notepad icon in the left navigation pane. Click the Manage Skills tab at the top of the screen that appears and look under Connections, which is divided into four sections: Connected Services, Music, Connected Home, and Microsoft Family. Click the appropriate box, for example Music if you want Cortana to play music via Spotify. Then click on the service you want to connect. At the time of writing these lines, only three services are available: iHeartRadio, Spotify and TuneIn. Follow the instructions to add the account, then start playing music.

    To control home appliances, click Home Connected, and then on the screen that appears, click the device you want to control, such as the Nest Smart Thermostat. Click Connect, and then follow the instructions. This will probably help if you consult the manual of your smart appliance before trying.

    For other services, select "Connected Services" and then "Add Service". You will see a list of available services including LinkedIn, Gmail, Office 365, Outlook.com, Wunderlist and Skype. (Note that the Office 365 integration is only available if you have an Office 365 account and not a personal account.) To sign in to an account, click on it. then the login button that appears. Enter the information you normally use to sign in to the account. Cortana will take care of the rest.

    If you want to share events and calendars with family members, click Microsoft Family, then "Start adding family members," and follow the instructions.

    There are other accounts you can link to Cortana for a variety of other skills, such as linking to your Fitbit account for a summary of the activity or even ordering pizza from Domino. To link them, go to the main Manage Skills screen, then click on the "Discover more skills" button. This will launch the Microsoft Edge Web browser on a page with a list of services that you can use. Click on one of the instructions to know how to connect to it.

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    You can link various accounts to Cortana to allow her to play music, research LinkedIn and control home appliances.

    The benefits of linking your accounts with Cortana vary by account. For example, if you associate Cortana with LinkedIn, when it reminds you of a meeting, the system checks to see if anyone in the meeting is a member of LinkedIn. If so, he will get their information – including their LinkedIn profile picture, job title and business. You can then click on the person's name to access their LinkedIn profile.

    Note that in many cases it is not necessary to manually add a skill to Cortana to perform tasks for you. As long as you have installed the application, Cortana automatically integrates with it. A number of popular applications, such as Netflix, Hulu and Uber, integrate with Cortana in this way. For example, if you want to read the TV series Master of none on Netflix, you can type "Netflix find Master of None". (Actually, you can type "netflix find master of none" – Cortana is not case sensitive.)

    If you want to use a voice command instead, you can say, "Hey, Cortana, Netflix finds Master of None". Use the same syntax for Hulu – for example, "Hulu find Spiral" if you want to find and play the French police show. You can also play and pause using voice commands.

    Keep in mind that you must use the precise syntax required for each application – you can not type or speak using the natural language of real life. And it's different for each application. For Netflix and Hulu, for example, the syntax is: [name of app] find [name of show]. You can not say "Play Master of None on Netflix" or even "Netflix Play Master of None" and get it working.

    Set and use reminders

    One of the most useful features of Cortana is the way it can remind you of upcoming tasks or events. It's very simple to set a reminder – just say or type "Call me back". In the screen that appears, fill out the form with the person, place, time or thing you want to be called back to. If you prefer, you can work around the form and simply say something like: "Call me back my tennis match today at 6 pm."

    You can also set a reminder by clicking in the search box, selecting the notepad icon in the Cortana pane that appears, clicking the Organizer tab, and then selecting "Create a reminder" .

    In order for Cortana to display reminders alerts that you have set, you must turn on the Windows 10 notification feature. Go to Settings> System> Notifications and Actions and activate the slider in the "Get notifications of applications and other senders ".

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    Cortana can set reminders according to the time, place or contacts.

    Let's start with the location. Say you still want to be reminded to buy a pint of Ben and Jerry's Cherry Garcia ice cream when you are near your favorite supermarket – Whole Foods, for example. Say or type "Remind me to take a Cherry Garcia ice cream when I'm at Whole Foods." A screen will appear, displaying the address of all Whole Foods stores nearby and asking you which one to specify a reminder – or whether the reminder should display when you are in any of the Whole Foods stores . Then, the next time you're there, Cortana will remind you to let go of your ice cream addiction.

    Note that location services must be enabled for this feature to work. To activate the services, select Settings> Privacy> Localization. Click the Edit button and, from the screen that appears, move the slider to On. In addition, if the place is not easily recognized by Cortana, it will ask you more information or ask you to type the address yourself.

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    Definition of a location-based reminder in Cortana.

    You can set reminders in the same way for time and contacts. If you want your car to be filled with gasoline tomorrow morning, for example, say or type "Remind me to refuel tomorrow morning". A screen will appear asking you for more details, such as the exact time and there should be a recurring reminder.

    You can also ask Cortana to remind you to do something when you interact with someone in your contact book. So, if you want to remember to ask your friend Lydia for an invitation to dinner, say "Remind me to ask Lydia for an invitation to dinner." A screen appears asking for the name of the contact if Cortana did not recognize it. Then, the next time you send or receive an email with this person, you will receive the reminder.

    Cortana also lets you view, delete, and edit reminders that you have created. To manage your reminders, click in the search box, click the notepad icon in the Cortana pane that appears, and then click "Reminders" on the Organizer tab. You will see a list of all the reminders you have created. To edit or delete, click the three-dot icon to the right. In the menu that appears, click Edit to edit it – for example, to change the time, place, or person concerned. To delete it, click Delete or Finish.

    Manage your Google Calendar with Cortana

    Windows 10 includes an integrated calendar application that works with Cortana. However, if you're a Google Calendar user, you can also ask Cortana to integrate it as well. You can use Cortana to create and edit appointments, and show you your schedule with Google Calendar in the same way you would. integrated application Windows 10 Calendar.

    To do this, you must first integrate your Google calendar in the Windows 10 calendar. First, launch the Calendar application by entering "calendar" in Cortana, then clicking on the Calendar application icon. which appears at the top of the search results.

    Then click the Settings icon in the lower right corner of the Calendar screen. The icon is shaped like a gear. When the Settings menu appears, select Account> Manage Accounts> Add Account. In the "Choose an account" screen, select Google. You will be prompted to sign in with your Google Account information. Follow the instructions to create the account.

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    You can create an appointment in your Google Calendar with the help of Cortana if you add your Google Account information.

    That's all there is to it. From now on, your Google Calendar will be synchronized with the Agenda application of Windows 10. So, for example, if you ask Cortana to "create an appointment", you will be able to enter the details at the same time. Cortana's help, including date, time and purpose. Cortana will add the event to the Windows 10 calendar. To save it directly to your Google Calendar, choose the calendar from the drop-down list located just above the Add button. Regardless of which calendar you add an event to, Google and the Windows 10 Calendar will stay in sync.

    In addition, when asking to see your schedule, for example by asking "What is my schedule today?" – Cortana will show you the events of all your calendars, including Google.

    A disadvantage is that you can not add events to Google Calendar sub-calendars (such as "home" or "work") with regular success. Sometimes it works and sometimes not.

    Use Cortana on the lock screen

    Did you know that you do not even have to log in to Windows to use Cortana? You can work with the digital assistant right on the lock screen.

    Getting started: Click in the Cortana search bar, then click on the gear icon that appears in the left side of the pop-up menu. This brings up the parameters of Cortana.

    Scroll to the Lock screen section and move the cursor to On. Just look below for the "Let Cortana Access My Calendar, Email, Messages, and Power BI Data When My Device Is Locked" setting. Check this box as well. If you do not do it, Cortana will be limited in what it can do for you since the screen is locked – you will be able to listen to music and know the time it 's been doing since the first time. locked screen, but you will not be able to set reminders, send emails, or add events to your calendar.

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    This setting allows you to use Cortana on the lock screen.

    Once you're done, when your device is locked, you can just say "Hey Cortana" and use it as you would to lock reminders, listen to music, check your calendar, and so on. without logging in to Windows.

    Use Google and Chrome with Cortana

    When you ask Cortana to do a web search, it uses the Microsoft Bing search engine. And then, to add insult to injury, it displays the results using the Microsoft Edge browser. Before April 2016, you could easily display the results by Chrome or another browser by simply changing the settings of Windows 10. Unfortunately, this is no longer the case, because even if you configure another browser such as Chrome browser by default, Cortana will ignore your wishes and launch her web searches using Edge.

    However, a workaround will require Cortana to use Google or another search engine for its web search, and another solution that requires Cortana to use Chrome or another browser to view the results. Here's how to do them.

    We will first tackle the Cortana habit of displaying the search results in Edge. Although Cortana can use any browser set by default, I will give you the instructions below for Google Chrome, because if you also want to force Cortana to use Google or another search engine than Bing, you will need to use Chrome.

    To get started, make sure Chrome is set by default in Windows 10. Open the Windows 10 Settings application and select Applications> Default Applications. If Chrome is not listed as the default browser, click the Web browser icon and select Google Chrome from the list that appears. This makes Chrome your default when you click on a link. But you still have to do something to force Cortana to use Chrome.

    To do this, you will need to install a free software called EdgeDeflector. To do this, first obtain the latest version of EdgeDeflector's .EXE executable file from GitHub. (The GitHub site also contains additional information about EdgeDeflector.) After downloading the file, create a new folder in the File Explorer in which you will place EdgeDeflector. You can create the folder anywhere, but I recommend that you put it in the Program Files or Program Files (x86) files of your Windows installation, because that is where most or all of your other programs are stored. . It's a good idea to name the EdgeDeflector folder or a similar name so that you know at a glance what's inside. You must be logged in as administrator to create the folder.

    After creating the folder, move the EdgeDflector .EXE file to the folder and run it. When you do, it will ask you which program you want to use to open the file. Choose EdgeDeflector. Now, when Cortana does a web search, it will show the results in your default web browser – in this case, Chrome.

    (Note: EdgeDeflector does not update automatically.) When Windows 10 is updated, it may stop working. If this happens, get the latest version of the EdgeDeflector .EXE file from GitHub and install it.)

    We will now address the second problem: the fact that Cortana searches the Internet using Bing. If you prefer to use Google, Yahoo or the search engine DuckDuckGo, install the Chrometana extension for Chrome. (This only works for Chrome, not with other browsers.)

    After installing it, a tab will open asking you which search engine you want to use. Click on the one you want to use, and from that moment, your search will be done via this search engine, not with Bing. Note that Chrometana will only work if you first install EdgeDeflector.

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    The Chrome Chromate extension redirects your Cortana searches to Google, DuckDuckGo or Yahoo rather than Bing.

    A final note on Cortana and web browsers: Cortana answers many questions directly without sending you to a web results page, as explained earlier in this article. For example, if you use Cortana to search for "Weather", the results appear directly in Cortana in a drop-down pane. These results are still obtained via Bing. However, when you click the pane to view more information or related information, this information appears in Chrome, not in Bing if you use EdgeDeflector.

    Use natural language queries

    Cortana is much smarter than you think: it allows you to use natural language queries, that is to say, to formulate your queries using simple English (or whatever your language), without having to use specific words.

    For example, to send an email to a contact, you can say "Send an email to Jane Doe". Cortana will review your contacts, find the person to whom you want to send the email, and then let you fill out a form on the screen to create and send email without having to access an email application. If you linked your Outlook account to another account, such as a Gmail account, it will also check. And if he finds several matches for the name of the person, he will ask you to which address you want to send the mail.

    Let Cortana answer only to you

    You can tell Cortana to answer only your voice and no one else. To do this, click in the search bar, then on the icon of Cortana settings (it looks like a gear) on the left of the screen. Make sure that the slider under "Let Cortana answer" Hey Cortana "" is set to On. Below you will see two buttons: one titled "Answer when everyone says" Hey Cortana "" and the other titled "Try to answer only to me".

    This second button is dimmed – to select it, you must first train your computer to recognize your voice. Click on "Learn how I say" Hey Cortana. "Cortana will ask you to repeat six sentences, after which you will be able to select" Try to answer only to me. "Do it, and Cortana will do her best to answer only to your voice.

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    You can train Cortana to recognize your voice and to answer only to you.

    Check your calendar for information created by Cortana

    Cortana can automatically add events to your calendar based on the emails you receive. For example, it will add airline flight information to your calendar if you receive a flight confirmation via email. Keep in mind, however, that this only applies to messages sent to an Outlook.com account or to Outlook Business users. If the information is passed to another service, such as Gmail, it will not work.

    Various cool stuff

    Cortana can help you in many other useful and fun activities. Some of my favorites:

  • You can track packages or flights by typing or indicating the flight number or tracking number of the package.
  • You can ask Cortana to perform simple calculations: just type in the search box ("What is 521 * 12 – 26/3?") Or speak ("Hey Cortana What is the value of five hundred and twenty-one times twelve minus twenty-six divided by three? "
  • You can take a picture of a poster for an event. Cortana will detect the dates and ask if you want to create a reminder to attend.
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    Cortana can provide various useful services, such as flight tracking.

    To discover other things that Cortana can do, simply type or say "help me" and you will get a long list of other Cortana features. Click on anything in the list – "Listen to music," for example – and Cortana will meet your expectations.

    Related Video: Make the most of Cortana

    Preston Gralla gives some tips on how to fully utilize the Cortana Digital Assistant in Windows 10. (Note: the interface is a bit different now that when this video was shot, but the steps of basis are the same.)

    This article was published in March 2016 and was last updated in March 2019.