Windows 10 is available from today, 29 July, and PCs worldwide will start to get the update with the eventual roll out expected to reach everybody in the next week. That means your existing Windows 7, 8 or 8.1 laptop, desktop or tablet device will soon get a swathe of new functions and features if it hasn't already.
One of the most highly anticipated that you will no doubt be eager to try out is the addition of Microsoft's very own assistant, Cortana.
You may already be familiar with the personal assistant, as she was first introduced in Windows Phone 8.1, but Microsoft has taken the feature to the next level and brought it to Windows 10 PCs. Pocket-lint spent time playing with Cortana and detailed everything you need to know below, including some of the reasons as to why it could change the way you use your PC forever.
How do you access Cortana on a PC?
Cortana on a Windows 10 PC is accessible through the search button in the taskbar, which is right beside the Start button (while on smartphones, you can bring up Cortana through the search key). From there, you can type in the search box for text queries, or you can click the microphone button to use voice recognition and perform tasks hands-free.
Cortana can be configured on a Windows 10 PC or tablet to wait and listen. With a quick setting change (which we detail in full below), all you have to do is say "Hey, Cortana" to wake the feature.
How does Cortana work?
Cortana's features include setting reminders for yourself, recognising the device user's voice, and answering questions (like current sports scores, weather, stock quotes, business info, etc) using information gathered from Bing. Similar to Window Phone, one stand-out feature in Cortana for Windows 10 is active listening.
Basically, you can summon Cortana by simply saying “Hey, Cortana” out loud, and then she will offer her help.
You'll need a microphone on your device for this feature, and you can change Cortana's settings to learn your own voice and respond to only your verbal commands. If you aren't in a place where talking would be practical (or if you just aren't into giving voice commands), you can always type your commands to Cortana too.
Cortana can also search for files and folders right from your desktop, and this includes any files you may have stored in the cloud, on OneDrive for example. Another interesting integration-type feature is the “Notebook”. Clicking Cortana's search bar will make the Notebook pop up as a newsfeed tailored to your interests via smart suggestions based on your recent web searches.
Cortana can check your emails and calendar through the Notebook, as well as push alerts and notifications to you before you even ask for them. Interacting with her on your computer will come naturally since Cortana has such an engaging personality. She is really witty, can tell you jokes, and is programmed with variability to respond to your questions.
How do you enable "Hey, Cortana"?
To enable "Hey, Cortana", swipe from the right (or tap the Notifications icon in the Windows 10 System Tray) to reveal the new Action Center (Notifications), then tap the All Settings option. On the Settings screen, open System, then go to Cortana & Search, open the customise Cortana. From there, switch on the toggle for "Hey, Cortana".
Is Cortana integrated with Microsoft Edge?
Yes. Cortana and Microsoft's new web browser go hand-in-hand, but it only works if you’ve enabled Cortana system-wide. To use it, simply type a question into the search bar at the top of the Edge window or on the New tab page. You could ask “Weather in LA” or “How old is Brad Pitt”, and then Cortana will offer quick answers.
Also, typing a mathematical problem in the Edge browser's search bar results in an immediate answer from Cortana, whereas typing in an abbreviation for the stock exchange will result in Cortana displaying a current stock quote. Even making reservations for a restaurant or viewing current sports scores has never been easier.
How do you enable Cortana in Microsoft Edge?
Just click the Cortana search bar on the Windows taskbar, and then provide your name to set Cortana up. You can also ensure the feature is enabled by clicking/tapping the menu button in Edge, then selecting “View advanced settings” near the bottom of the pane, and toggling the “Have Cortana assist me in Microsoft Edge” option.
How might Cortana change PCs forever?
First of all, Cortana has an actual personality. She's not just a robotic-monotonous voice you'll want to use once in awhile. We think Cortana is therefore fun and memorable. You'll want to use her. And she is going to change the way you interact with your computers from here on out, while probably making your life a lot easier in the process.
Just think about it: with Cortana, you'll never need to type a query in a search engine again. She's always listening and can answer practically any question you have - whether that be a mathematical question or a day-to-day question like weather. She'll even handle tasks for you and serve up information you need, when you need it.
She's basically allowing you to work from a PC without having to actually sit down at a PC. Mind blowing, basically.