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Meet Cortana: The ultimate guide to Windows 10's helpful digital assistant

Brad Chacos | July 29, 2015
Windows 10's Cortana digital assistant is pretty darn easy to use, but she becomes even more powerful with some tinkering.

Eat & drink lets you tweak whether Cortana pops cards with restaurant recommendations, complete with options for notification frequency, restaurant atmosphere, cuisine, price, travel distance, and more.

Events has Cortana pop up suggestions for local events occurring nearby. Be sure to add event categories so Cortana knows what types of outings you're interested in!

Finance tells Cortana to track specific stocks of your choosing.

The crucial Getting around fine-tunes Cortana's traffic handling and reminders. By default, notifications for calendar events and traffic conditions around your favorite locations are enabled, but Cortana won't tell you when it's time to split for work (or home, from work) unless you opt into it. 

Movies & TV has Cortana pop up cards predicting the winners of big award shows, show times for local movie theaters, and trailers for new movies. You can choose whether you want to see each type of card.

Music allows Cortana to toss up cards with music recommendations for popular music from the top of the Billboard charts. I already have Spotify for that, so I personally disable this entire category.

News lets you tweak the news articles Cortana surfaces when you open her interface. The settings cover whether you want to see cards for local, headline, and popular news--but it's most important to manually add news topics and categories you want to track, to tell Cortana to surface information about those interests specifically. Something especially cool (and kind of creepy): Even if you don't manually fill those out, Cortana can intelligently learn your preferred news interests over time.

Sports tells Cortana whether to surface score updates and highlights. You can manually identify your favorite teams to tailor the notifications to your specific interests. (Go Bucs!)

Travel handles how you see details about planned trips, such as up-to-date flight status, notifications for the best time to head out to the airport, whether where you're heading, et cetera.

Weather provides weather details and alerts for your home, cities of your choosing, or nearby your current location.

Continue to the next page for more details on what Cortana is capable of doing, along with some fun tricks.

What can Cortana do?

Whew! Now that Cortana's tweaked and tuned, let's spend some time talking about what she's actually capable of in Windows 10. You can find a full list by asking Cortana "What can you do?" but here are the highlight features.

One cool tidbit: Because Cortana's smarts are based in the cloud and tied to your Microsoft Account, all of your settings and reminders will carry over to other Windows 10 PCs, Windows Phone 8.1 devices, and (one day) Windows 10 Mobile phones that you log into. Microsoft will release standalone Cortana apps for Android and iOS soon, too.

 

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