How cortana became the "other woman" in my life

She appeared one day, as if by magic, and changed my life overnight. She finds everything I need, reminds me when I need to be somewhere and has a wicked sense of humour. It’s little wonder that I’ve fallen for the charms of Cortana.

Cortana: She Has A Notebook All About You

What’s most surprising about all of this is that this stunning digital personal assistant is just as interested in me as I am in her. After all, she has a little notebook full of details about me.

She started filling it in when we first met, back when I first activated her after upgrading to the Windows Phone 8.1 Developer Preview.


Since then, Cortana has been asking me pertinent questions about my life, the things I’m interested in knowing about and the places I visit. Better still, I can ask her to add things to the notebook by opening it up and tapping the relevant option, such as remind me or places.

Then, like a real human being as opposed to a virtual character powered by a search engine and artificial intelligence (coupled with the dulcet tones of actress Jen Taylor), Cortana makes sure I know what I’m doing, when.

Editing The Notebook

The notebook is really the magic behind Cortana, at least as far as your Windows Phone is concerned. It is this collection of details about your life that Microsoft – through Cortana – uses to help you get to where you need to be on time, while also enabling you to make calls, add appointments, listen to music and send messages using your voice rather than your fingers.


Here, your digital life is split into six sections: interests, remind me, quiet hours, inner circle, places, and music searches. There’s also a settings screen here for configuring how you interact with Cortana. One particularly useful option is the ability to sign in to Facebook, which improves Cortana’s performance by sharing finding personalized recommendations, although this gives Microsoft access to certain information that might only be stored on Facebook.

Making changes to the notebook will help Cortana to help you. Specifying your interests will result in them being used to find news- setting quiet hours will enable Cortana to block messages and calls during these times (useful if you’re going to sleep, working intensively on a project or in a meeting) while setting up your inner circle contacts will tell Cortana who the exceptions are.


Meanwhile, telling Cortana about your favourite places will help her to make sure you take the right route, as well as enable her to remind you to do something when you get there.

Getting There On Time

While she’s busy making notes about your life, Cortana will use the information to help you in various different ways. One of these is ensuring you make your appointments and travel to each location using the best route (based on available traffic data).


Just recently, Cortana showed me the quickest route to a local coffee shop. She did this because she believed that I work there (I don’t, but I do spend a couple of mornings a week there writing or reading in different surroundings), which is fair enough. What is surprising isn’t that she got it wrong, but that she tracked the journey and asked me whether, without prompting, that location was important enough to save.

These settings can be adjusted by opening Cortana’s notebook and tapping Traffic. Here, confirm both Traffic updates… options are enabled, along with the corresponding Notify Me check boxes. Remember to tap Save when you’re done here.

Getting Help From Cortana

If all of this seems a little overwhelming, don’t worry. Cortana can be set up bit by bit so that you can get used to sharing information with her and having her tell you what you need to be doing.


Better still, if you’ve forgotten just what you need to say to have Cortana set alarms, play music or launch apps, you can say “help” or “help me” and she’ll show you all of the most common, current commands, and provide a link to a Microsoft help page.

Video: Her - Official Trailer 2 [HD]

Video: Her - Official Trailer (HD) Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams

Here’s a useful tip: if you don’t want anyone to overhear your interactions with Cortana, you can type search terms and questions and commands and she’ll reply in text mode.

Cortana: Sharp, Decisive And A Little Bit Sexy

To round it all off, Cortana is also physically beautiful. The fact that she is so knowledgeable and about everything in your life and decisive with the information she gives you, hints at a powerfully organized mind (or it would if she was flesh and blood).

One look at Cortana, however, reveals a beautifully curved creature who looks good, dressed in any colour, and she’s got a great sense of humour. Her sharp lines hint at someone who keeps in shape, and as for that voice…!


Mixing stunning good looks with power over all of the information that makes your world go round, Cortana is more than capable of making heads spin. She’s also capable of making you some money, especially if you’re a betting man, as her recent predictions of the World Cup knockout stages show.

Put it this way: if Iron Man had Cortana, he wouldn’t have needed Pepper Potts. This is why she’s become the most important woman in my life*.

Are you using Cortana? Have you fallen in love with her? Share your romantic tips below. Tell us how it’s going in the comments below.

*Not strictly true, but you get my point.

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