[Windows 10 Tip #4] - Cortana: Friend or Foe?
Cortana, Microsoft’s version of a “personal digital assistant,” is something you either love or hate. To some, Cortana is a useful productivity tool, and to others it’s a creepy, intrusive nuisance like Clippy, the prototypical “intelligent assistant” that debuted in Microsoft Office 97 and died a much-celebrated death after Office 2003. This article has tips for both sorts of users…
What Can Cortana Do For You?
Cortana can help you find things; indeed, it’s virtually synonymous with Search in Windows 10’s user interface and Settings (Cortana and Search settings are on the same Settings page.) Cortana can find files on local drives, synced devices, in OneDrive cloud storage, and on the Web. All you have to do is ask, “Hey, Cortana, where is my....?” (“Hey, Cortana” is Microsoft’s “wake phrase” that tells Cortana a command is coming next.)
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Cortana can launch a program or open a website. (Say "Launch Quickbooks" or "Open Amazon.com".) It can make a phone call, read the news headlines, send an email or text message, and other useful actions. Here is an extensive list of commands that Cortana can recognize, courtesy of Cnet.
Many mobile device users like Cortana’s voice interface; it can understand your spoken commands and reply verbally when appropriate. Talking to a phone is natural, and easier than typing. You can find Cortana apps for Android and iOS. Desktop Win 10 users may prefer their keyboards and Cortana responses displayed on-screen silently. Voice can be toggled on and off in the Cortana settings. (Just type “Cortana” in the search box to find the settings page.)
Cortana can also set reminders of important dates, appointments, and so on. Location-based reminders let you set a reminder associated with a location, such as the grocery store. When you go there, Cortana will (for example) remind you that you need to buy eggs and milk. It can retrieve from the Internet weather reports, sports scores, news about a specific topic, Wikipedia articles, and more. It can remember your interests in music, sports teams, etc., and notify you when your favorite bands are coming to town or remind you of the next home game.
Cortana can integrate with other apps from Microsoft and third-party developers. Skype, for instance, has several Cortana “bots” or third-party apps that perform specific tasks using specific services, e. g., buying on eBay, booking a flight on Expedia. Cortana can also call or text any of your contacts stored in Windows 10’s People database. To see what third-party apps are integrated with Cortana, click anywhere in the Search box. Then click on the Notebook icon (third from top). Then find and open the Skills section.
Cortana and Privacy Concerns
One of the big concerns about Cortana is that it stores a lot of data about your computing activity, including emails, browsing history, and search history. But guess what? Cortana only has access to these things if you use Windows 10 apps for them! If you use a browser other than Edge or Internet Explorer, your browsing history won’t be stored by Cortana. If you don’t use Bing, your search history is safe. If you use Webmail other than Outlook.com, your email won’t be scanned by Cortana. Using non-Microsoft apps for calendar and contact data protects those types of data from Cortana.
Another way to avoid feeding your activity to Cortana is to eschew a Microsoft account, because Cortana stores your activity in cloud storage assigned to a Microsoft account. Of course, the less Cortana knows about you, the less helpful it is.
If you would rather just disable Cortana completely, here is simple way to do it no matter what version of Windows you may have. Just click here to download a Zip file containing two registry hacks created by HowToGeek.com. Inside the Zip file are two registry hack files, one to disable Cortana and one to enable it. Open the zip file after downloading, and double-click the “Disable Cortana.reg” file. After executing a registry hack, you’ll need to reboot before it will take effect.
In case you're wondering, Microsoft borrowed the Cortana name from their Halo video game. In the game, Cortana is an alluring artificially intelligent female character. The voice actor from Halo also voices the Cortana digital assistant. The word "cortana" also refers to a type of sword known as a “sword of mercy.” So make of that what you will.
How do you feel about Cortana? Is she a useful personal assistant, or a nosy annoyance? Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 30 Jun 2017
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- [Windows 10 Tip #4] - Cortana: Friend or Foe? (Posted: 30 Jun 2017)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved