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Speaking out loud to a computer feels very strange to start with, but once you get used to it common tasks become much quicker. We communicate naturally with each other by voice, so why not talk to the computer too?

Control Your Computer with Cortana

People are becoming more used to using their voices to get information and carry out digital searches. Household devices such as Amazon Echo are popular, for instance, making Bluetooth streaming a breeze and controlling other smart devices such as lighting or heating.

If we can do it at home, why not also do it at work? When the convenience of voice recognition is plugged into a workflow, side jobs such as finding information or performing research are less interruptive than if you have to click over to another app then type in what you want.

You can ask Cortana what an unfamiliar word means, ask for statistics, quotes or just what the weather is doing. Cortana will either talk back to you or open up a search page filled with potential answers.

It’s also becoming more accurate, something Microsoft has been working on. A recent report states the margin of error is now down to just 5.1%, apparently in line with human transcribers.

It’s best to start slowly when this is a new way of working. Introduce one or two new voice commands to the workflow, rather than trying to do everything by voice all at once.

Here are five handy things Cortana can help with:

  • Set reminders – ask Cortana to remind you about appointments, meetings, or even just to take a lunch break at a certain time. When the time comes, you’ll get a notification.
  • Dictate and save notes to OneNote – Forget scraps of paper that constantly get lost. Cortana will capture your spoken notes (to yourself or to colleagues) and save them to OneNote. It’s very handy if you’re working on a collaborative project and want to share ideas.
  • Add dates to your calendar – Tell Cortana what you need to do on certain days, and she’ll make sure you don’t forget.
  • Convert and calculate – When you suddenly need to know the square root of 364, or how many litres of water in an Olympic swimming pool, Cortana will find the information for you so you don’t personally have to visit google and type in your request.
  • Use Timeline in Windows 10 Creators edition – when working across multiple devices, being able to seamlessly go from one to another is extremely convenient. You can start reading an article in the office before you go out, then pick up the same article and carry on where you left off when you reach your destination. You need to enable Pick Up Where I left Off to access this feature.

Cortana can also track flights and send emails, as well as searching your computer for information. It turns the computer from a static tool into a live assistant. Once you know how to use it (and get comfortable talking to your computer) it can make working life very much more efficient.

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