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Windows 10 quick tips: Get the most out of Cortana

Microsoft’s digital assistant Cortana is one of the major additions to Windows 10 — and it’s a winner. Turn it on and Cortana alerts you to upcoming meetings; searches your PC and the web; tells you about the weather, news, and sports; and a lot 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 packages and flights.

Notes:

  • This article assumes that you’re already familiar with the basics of Cortana. If you want help getting started, see the Cortana section of Computerworld’s “Windows 10 cheat sheet.”
  • Keep in mind that there have been six major updates to Windows 10 since its initial release in July 2015. This article reflects how Cortana works if you’ve installed the Windows 10 October 2018 Update (version 1809), so if you haven’t installed that 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, it will typically show you the answer via a listing 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 the year in 2015 in Boston?”

That’s a useful but time-consuming process, because you have to browse through the search results, click one and then look for information from the web page that appears.

But there are plenty of questions that Cortana can answer directly, without first sending you out to the web. Instead, you get your answers right in Cortana’s pane. Following is just a partial list — try experimenting on your own to see what else it knows.

Define [word] Want a definition for “absquatulate”? Just ask Cortana.

When is [name of holiday]? Cortana knows when holidays fall on the calendar.

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