Using Win10’s Cortana for fast online searches

Using Win10’s Cortana for fast online searches

There’s been a lot of chit chat lately about Microsoft Cortana’s voice activated help. What isn’t talked about, as much, is how you can use it for quick searches via Edge browser using only your mouse.

example of Microsoft Cortana search results Here’s how it works:

1 – highlight a word or phrase

2 – right click on the highlighted section

3 – tap “Ask Cortana”

A window will slide open on the right of the screen with the results. Keep Cortana open by pinning it (top right corner, tap the thumbtack). This allows you to scroll through all the offerings without having to redo the right click ask routine.  When you click a search result, it shows up in the main window (on the left), leaving the rest of the list accessible.

You can even use this Cortana search for info on images you see on any webpage. Right click on a photo/image -> Ask Cortana and it will pop up information. This doesn’t always work and occassionally can spit up a rather wonky result (see here: Fun with Cortana and More fun with Cortana). Accuracy will depend entirely on whether the page designer setup the image tags correctly.  At the very least, it can be entertaining.

When you are finished, either leave Cortana pinned to the side of the browser or tap the X and close it off. Just highlight -> right click->Ask Cortana for the next search. Doesn’t matter which you choose, it’s up to you. I prefer to close the Cortana window off because I don’t like so much of my browser real estate to be used up.

Cortana uses Microsoft’s Bing (of course) so if you’re a Google fan, the lack of customization will be a bit irritating.  It also works exclusively with Edge. If you are a hard core Firefox or Chrome user, this isn’t going to be an option. Bing (like Edge) has shown a great deal of improvement over the last year and is now my go-to search engine.  However, I realize both search engines and browsers engender fierce brand loyalty and it’s difficult to get people to test drive different ones. The streamlined Bing, Cortana and Edge search mode speeds up searches and works seamlessly, making it worth checking out.


Biometrics coming to Windows 10

Microsoft unveiled new security features for Windows 10. One of the most intriguing is their biometric start-up page. When you log into Windows now  you can setup a password or (in the case of 8.1) a 4 digit pin number. The new OS will take advantage of biometrics and facial recognition to keep your computer secure. In keeping with Microsoft’s “let’s choose a dorky name” policy, it will be called “Windows Hello”. Ok, ok, It’s a lot better than “Charm Bar” so I’ll let them have that.

The new biometrics will work with either a finger swipe, facial recognition or iris to unlock your Win 10 device. The facial and iris recognition will use infrared to detect your features. That means a 2 dimensional photo won’t trigger off the device. Unless it’s you and/or your eye, Hello won’t unlock.  The benefits of recognition and iris technology is, it’s a lot harder to fake out. It’s pretty easy to look over someone’s shoulder and scoop a 4 digit pin number. It’s even easier to crack a password if you know anything about the user. I’m constantly surprised, and dismayed, by the number of folks who use 12345678 or Password123 and swear “no one else will ever figure that out”.

I tried to find out if a strong eyeglass prescription will screw with the iris biometrics, but couldn’t find anything solid. I suspect, it will be simpler to take off your glasses when setting it up.  Of course this means any device you use will have to have the necessary hardware installed to make it work. It won’t be backwards compatible, so if your existing laptop or smart phone doesn’t have fingerprint reader or biometric hardware already installed, you won’t be able to use Hello or Passport.

Hello will work with a new feature, code named Passport, which will allow you to access password protected websites. Once Passport is authenticated through Hello, you’ll be able to access password protected websites without in anything, They’ll be unlocked via facial/iris scan. This is welcome news for people with disabilities. I have a number of customers with arthritis in their hands and shoulders, which limits how much they do. Being able to bypass typing in passwords would be a huge welcome.