Everyone has a voice assistant these days. Apple products feature Siri, while Android devices conjure up Google Assistant. But on both mobile platforms, you can also tap into Microsoft’s Cortana to ask questions, issue requests, and find information via your voice.
Maybe you just want an alternative to Siri or Google Assistant, or perhaps you already use Cortana in Windows 10. Whatever the reason, you can download the Cortana app and ask it for help. Just as it does in Windows 10, Cortana can answer a variety of questions and respond to a range of requests. And best of all, Cortana can sync the same information and settings between your mobile phone or tablet and your Windows 10 PC.
(If you haven’t yet set up Cortana on your Windows 10 device or want to learn how to link your calendar, email, reminders, and other items, check out How to Use and Customize Cortana on a Windows 10 PC.)
Setting Up an Account
Apple iOS users can download the Cortana app from the App Store, while Android device owners can snag it from Google Play. After installation, open the app. The first time you launch it, you’re asked if you want to allow Cortana to access your location. If you want to use the app to find location-based information, you’ll want to agree; otherwise you can deny the access and always enable it at another point should you change your mind.
Next, you’re asked to sign in with your Microsoft Account, the same account you use in Windows 10. If you don’t yet have an account, you can create one on the fly. If prompted, enter your email address and your password. You should also read the Terms & Privacy to learn what information Microsoft collects from you.
Once you agree to the terms, you are then deposited at the Upcoming screen, which shows you any upcoming events or other items or may simply display the weather forecast.
To get Cortana’s attention on an iOS or Android device, tap the Ask Cortana or Cortana Mic widget. You can also open the app and tap the microphone icon. As with other voice assistant apps, feel free to start off simple by asking questions like “What time is it?” or “What is the temperature?”
But finding the time and temperature is easy, so let’s move onto more complex queries. Tap the microphone icon or widget and say something like “Translate ‘Where is the men’s room’ in Spanish” or “What is 2,343 times 12” or “What is the world’s population?”
Using Cortana Directions
Amp up your Cortana requests by asking “Show me local Mexican restaurants” or “Give me directions to the nearest gas station” or “Tell me how long it takes to get to Boston, Massachusetts.” Cortana responds.
Access to Windows 10
As long as you gave Cortana permission in Windows 10 to access your calendar, contacts, and other data, you can ask things like “Show me my appointments for this week” or “text Jill that I’ll see her on Saturday” or “Show me my shopping list.”
Managing Cortana Settings
You can enable and tweak a variety of skills and settings for Cortana. To do this, open the Cortana app. Tap the hamburger icon () in the upper right and tap the entry for Settings. The selections you see in the Cortana app are the same ones on your Windows 10 device.
Manage Personal Info
Connected Devices and Services
From the Skills section of the app, you can view and customize various Cortana skills, such as the calendar, reminders, airline flights, weather, and restaurant reservations. Tap the setting for Skills you’ve enabled to see which skills are already turned on. Tap each of the other skills to enable, disable, or customize them.
Not sure what you can ask Cortana via the app? Tap the circular icon in the lower left. The Discover screen pops up with suggestions on some of the many things you can ask Cortana.
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