Microsoft describes Cortana as a digital personal assistant while that is a fair description, it hardly tells you what Cortana does. Cortana is a search tool that can be activated by typing text in the ASK ME ANYTHING field to the right of the START button, or it can be configured to use voice command.
In addition to searching the web and returning relevant information, like Apple’s Siri (bad) or Googles Voice (very good), Cortana has an ever increasing number commands that relate to your performing tasks. This list includes starting applications, making changes in your calendar, track flights and sooo much more. Personally I have turned VOICE COMMAND on, and now I say things like HEY CORTANA, START WORD, when I want to Microsoft Word to launch.
For Cortana to function, the current Windows user must be signed in with a Microsoft Account (as opposed to a local account) and must have their Windows 10 REGION set to one of the support countries. In November 2015 those counties include the US, France, Germany, Spain and Italy. By the end of the month India will be included in that list. Microsoft wants Cortana to impress, and that requires localized knowledge including localized language. This means Russian Cortana, for example, should be ready in 2016.
THIS is Microsoft’s Cortana FAQ’s which is surprisingly to the point and useful:
When I use Cortana, what information is collected and where is it saved?
When you use Cortana, Microsoft collects and uses information including your device location information and location history, contacts (People), voice input, searching history, calendar details, content and communication history from messages and apps, and other information on your device. In Microsoft Edge, Cortana collects and uses your browsing history.
This information is saved on your device, in your Cortana Notebook, and in the cloud on the Bing.com dashboard.
To turn Cortana off, go to Cortana > Notebook > Settings, and then turn the Cortana setting off. When you turn Cortana off on a device, she won’t give you suggestions, reminders, alerts, or ideas when you’re using that device.
Turning off Cortana clears the interests and information on your device, but won’t clear the information that’s saved on the Notebook or in the Bing.com dashboard.
You can add or remove individual items, such as interests or places that Cortana has saved about you, in the Notebook and on the Bing.com dashboard. The Cortana Notebook will sync with the information in the Bing.com dashboard, and you can manage them in either place.
Bing.com and Microsoft apps may adjust their behavior based on the changes you make to your interests or favorites in the Cortana Notebook and the Bing.com dashboard.
To add or remove information or interests to your Cortana Notebook, go to Cortana > Notebook, and then select About me.
To add or remove information on your Bing.com dashboard, go to Cortana > Notebook > Settings, and then select Manage what Cortana knows about me in the cloud.
Yes. You can clear individual items such as interests or places, or clear all information that Cortana has stored in the Notebook and Bing.com dashboard.
To clear any interest or information from your Cortana Notebook, go to Cortana > Notebook, and then select About me or other interest categories to clear your specific information. Select the individual item and then select the trashcan icon to clear it.
To clear all of your information that’s saved online in the Bing.com dashboard, go to Cortana > Notebook > Settings, and then select Manage what Cortana knows about me in the cloud. Then do one or all of the following:
Under Interests, select Clear.
Under Saved places, select Bing Maps and follow the instructions to clear your saved places.
Under Search history, select Search History page and clear specific items, or select Clear All.
Under Other Cortana Data and Personalized Speech, Inking and Typing, select Clear.
Cortana is a truly personal assistant, providing personally relevant suggestions and alerts. In order to do that well, Cortana needs to understand certain information about you, such as interests, location, and preferences.
You can turn off some of Cortana’s data collection, such as the extraction of flight numbers and other information from your communications, in Cortana settings. You can also turn off Cortana’s collection of browsing history in Microsoft Edge in Microsoft Edge settings.
To turn off Cortana’s capability to track flights and other information from your communications, go to Cortana > Notebook > Settings, and then, under Find flights and more, turn the Detect tracking info, such as flights, in messages on my device setting off.To turn off Cortana’s collection of browsing history in Microsoft Edge, while you’re in Microsoft Edge, go to More actions > Settings, and under Advanced settings, select View advanced Settings, and then, under Privacy and services, turn the Have Cortana assist me in Microsoft Edge setting off.
When you interact with Cortana with your voice, Microsoft uses your voice data to learn how you speak and to correctly recognize and execute your voice commands. This information is also used to improve Microsoft products and services that use speech recognition.
You can turn off the Speech, inking, & typing setting to stop Cortana from accessing your voice data. Go to Cortana > Notebook > Settings > Other privacy settings > Speech, inking, & Typing, and then, under Getting to know you, select Stop getting to know me. Cortana won’t work without access to voice data, so this also turns off Cortana.
To clear your voice data as well as other data Cortana has collected about you, go to Cortana > Notebook > Settings, select Manage what Cortana knows about me in the cloud, and then, under Other Cortana Data and Personalized Speech, Inking and Typing, select Clear.
Turning Cortana off on one device doesn’t turn it off on other devices. You have to turn Cortana on or off for each device you use.
As your personal assistant, Cortana learns about the places that are important for you and when you visit those places. This allows Cortana to give you personalized help, such as traffic alerts before you leave for your next appointment or location reminders if you’ve asked her to alert you when you’re near a certain location.
Cortana can’t work without device location information.
Cortana collects your location periodically even if you’re not interacting with Cortana, for example, when you connect to Wi‑Fi or disconnect from Bluetooth.
Cortana learns your routines by collecting your location changes throughout the day so she can give you relevant recommendations at the right time. For example, Cortana can try to determine where you live and work, and if you verify those locations, she may give you a traffic report at the time you usually leave for home or work. These location identifiers are saved in your favorite places.
In order to personalize your experience and provide the best possible suggestions, Cortana collects information about your contacts (People) including their title and/or suffix, first name, last name, middle name, nicknames, and company name. If you communicate with someone via email, or SMS, Cortana collects that person’s email address or phone number.
To turn off Cortana’s ability to track flight information, go to Cortana > Notebook > Settings, and then, under Find flights and more, turn the Detect tracking info, such as flights, in messages on my device setting off.
No, Cortana doesn’t use the information in the Cortana Notebook to send targeted ads. Ads may accompany search results that Cortana delivers—just as they do when you do a search on Bing.com.
Cortana uses data from other Microsoft apps or services, for instance from the Bing Sports app to help you follow your favorite team. Similarly, other Microsoft apps or services can use interests in your Cortana Notebook to customize your experience within those apps.
Cortana allows you to connect to third party applications, such as Facebook, for additional personalized experiences using information you’ve shared with the third party.
Anyone who uses Cortana has to sign in with a Microsoft account. When Cortana is turned on, she checks the age setting for that particular Microsoft account. If the age is too young, Cortana will say that the person must be a bit older before she can help them, and then turn off.
The Search online and include web results setting is turned on by default. To help you find the content you want more quickly, Search automatically suggests search terms as you type. These suggestions are provided by Bing, and can come from apps, settings, or files on your device, as well as from OneDrive and the Internet. When the Search online and include web results setting is on, Windows sends what you type or say to the Bing service, which interprets it in real-time to provide auto-suggestions.
To turn the Search online and include web results setting off, go to Search > Settings, and then, under Search, turn the Search online and include web results setting off.
To clear previously typed Bing search terms, go to Bing.com > Settings > History, and then select Clear All.
You can send feedback directly from Search. Go to Search, and then select the Feedback icon. Type your feedback and include a screenshot—or if you’re using Speech, use your voice to dictate your feedback, instead.
We do listen to your feedback and are always working on improving our products and services. The ability to change between Celsius and Fahrenheit when you’re looking at the weather in Cortana came from customer feedback. So did the ability to download the Bing.com homepage image.
If Cortana is turned on, the Search app has access to your device location information and will automatically send it to Bing when Cortana suggests web search terms and results. Bing also uses your device’s location as described in the Bing privacy statement.
If you want to turn off the device location service for the Search app, turn off Cortana and then turn off location for the Search app.To turn off device location services for the Search app, go to Start , then select Settings > Privacy > Location, and then, in the Choose apps that can use your location list, turn the Search app setting off.