Onboarding Microsoft’s Cortana to Your Small Business Team

cortana commands

Cortana is Microsoft’s version of the voice-activated virtual assistant.

This app and new base feature of Windows 10 first started on the Windows Phone operating system. She stacks up against the other heavyweights like Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Echo, and Google Now.

If there’s a superficial difference between each, give Cortana the edge in personality.

Named after the AI in the video game series Halo, Cortana identifies herself as a female but not a woman. That is the reply she gives you if you inquire about Coratan’s gender.

This answer should give an indication of the great lengths Microsoft has gone to make its VA more personable and, by all accounts, it has worked.

With Cortana, small business owners now have an assistant that is much smarter, never forgets, is always on, and much, much cheaper than an assistant of flesh and blood.

Here’s a guide with Cortana commands to begin using her as your small business virtual assistant:

Setup and Introducing Yourself

If you want to speak to Cortana, you need a microphone, but if you don’t have one, typing a question or requesting a service in the search box gets the same result.

If you are using your keyboard, these two shortcuts will save you time:

  • Windows Logo + Q – Opens Cortana’s Home View, so you can search by speech or text.
  • Windows Logo + C – Opens Cortana’s speech prompt.

Since the most efficient way to communicate with Cortana is through voice, you can set it up to answer anytime you say, “Hey, Cortana.”

To do that, open Cortana home > Notebook > Settings > and turn on “Let Cortana respond when you say ‘Hey, Cortana’.”

From here on, when you say those words, Cortana’s ready to help.

Cortana learns from the information you give her, so get into the Notebook and select the About Me icon to personalize it. This includes events, finance, getting around, entertainment, news, sports, travel, weather and more. The more you are connected with Microsoft applications, the better an assistant Cortana becomes.

Getting Cortana to be Your Right Hand

Create Appointments

You can create and modify detailed appointments with the voice command, including moving them to a different time or date.

Set Reminders

Reminders can be set to do anything and it can be triggered when you reach a particular location, when you talk to a person or they call you, or when a date approaches.

Set Alarms

Alarms can be set with the exact time or just simply by saying wake me up in 45 minutes.

Take Notes

You can start dictating and Cortana saves it in OneNote.

Getting the Information You Need

“What is My Schedule?”

Any events you have scheduled will be displayed. You can ask a day, week or months ahead.

“Show Me My Notes”

This will show you any notes you have taken.

“Show Me My Reminders”

This shows you any upcoming reminders, along with the option of the history of completed tasks.

“Show Me My Alarms”

This can list all of your alarms that are active and allow you to make necessary changes.

“What is the Weather Like?

You can ask the weather for where you are or another location.

“What is the Status of My Flight?”

Using information from your email, Cortana can give you the latest info about your flight.

“How Long Will it Take to Get to …”

If you have set up different locations with identifiers, you can ask how long it will take you to get there.

“Show Me Directions to …”

If you know the address of a particular place, Cortana will find it using Bing Maps.

“What Time is it in …”

Although it might seem simple, getting a quick answer to this question is very important depending on the context.

Getting Cortana to Look It Up For You


Cortana gives you basic information on many subjects, including science, history, people, entertainment, dates, currency exchange and much more.

Using Cortana to Search the Web

With the help of Bing, Cortana can search for anything, and with the integration of the new Edge browser, she can do much more. Whenever you’re online, look for the small blue Cortana logo pulsating. This means you can access supplemental information such as location, reviews, menus, images, and other data.

So Where is All the Fun?

Select the “Let’s chat” option and you can pretty much ask Cortana anything. And because it is a system that is continuously learning and adapting to your particular taste, you never know what you will get. You can tell her to sing a song, tell you a joke, or play a trivia game.

Shutting Cortana Down

If you don’t find Cortana helpful, you can always shut her down.

To do so, go to Notebook > Settings and turn it off. This deletes what Cortana knows on your device … but not, of course, in the cloud.

Windows Desktop Photo via Shutterstock

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Michael Guta Michael Guta is the Assistant Editor at Small Business Trends and has been with the team for 9 years. He currently manages its East African editorial team. Michael brings with him many years of content experience in the digital ecosystem covering a wide range of industries. He holds a B.S. in Information Communication Technology, with an emphasis in Technology Management.