Always on Cortana in Parallels Desktop 11

One of the most widely anticipated features of Parallels Desktop 11 is Always on Cortana, the first awesome feature that Microsoft built into Windows 10 that’s worth bringing to Mac, in my opinion. I’m not just a fan of Cortana because of Halo (though it doesn’t hurt for this gamer’s heart–Cortana is the AI from Microsoft’s widely popular video game series). I also love having a digital assistant on all the time, especially when it means not having to keep tabbing back over to my virtual machine—Cortana is always at the ready, no matter what program or OS you’re running.

Hey Cortana!

Hey Cortana Activation in Parallels Desktop 11In Windows 10, Cortana runs in the background waiting for you to ask her a question, or to make a request. Note: Windows 10 doesn’t auto activate the voice feature, so you will need to go into your Settings to activate it.

To turn on the voice activation for Cortana to hear you anytime you say “Hey Cortana”, select the search box on the task bar to open Cortana’s settings. Then select Notebook, Settings, and turn on Let Cortana respond when you say “Hey Cortana.”

When you’re running your VM of Windows 10, you can also type in the search bar to access Cortana without a microphone.

You also need to spend a little time letting Cortana get to know you—it’s a one-time setup. By default on Windows 10, Cortana can access your location and your calendar (so she can set up reminders for you, and give you information like traffic, weather, and directions); and you’ll also be able to add more information (like news sources or music preferences) within her settings where you turned on the “Hey Cortana!” voice activation.

However much you want to reveal to Cortana will affect how she can interact with you. If you provide her your preferences, say…what your favorite MLS Soccer team is (Go Sounders!), Cortana can keep you up to date on scores, schedules, and news on the team. With your location, she can give you suggestions on places to eat nearby.

Your Digital Assistant

I can’t tell you how happy I am to have a voice command for a digital assistant. I fully admit (especially when I’m heads down on a project) that I have the attention span of a gnat for any passing thought that crosses my mind. I’ll have a thought to look something up, and by the time I get to a good pausing point and open a browser, I completely forgot what it was I wanted to look up!

Enter Cortana. When I’m three pages into an article about why Nintendo going into mobile games is a good thing (who hasn’t wanted to play Metroid on their phones?), and I have a thought to research a good image that may have been on a Penny Arcade comic, I can say: “Hey Cortana! Remind me to find the Metroid comic from Penny Arcade in 30 minutes,” and done. No staring at an open tab with that irritating fleeting memory of wanting to research… something.

And lastly, because I’m a kid at heart, I immediately asked Cortana some silly questions just to see what she would answer with. My personal favorites you need to try out:

Hey Cortana! What do you look like?
Open the Pod Bay Doors!
Say something funny.
Will you marry me?
Tell me a joke.
Why are we here?
Tell me about Halo.

Which is better, Cortana or Siri?


Have you tried talking to Cortana yet? Give Parallels Desktop 11 a try with our free trial, and let me know what you think of Cortana in a comment or on Facebook or Twitter.


Parallels Desktop 11 for Mac

7 comments on “Always on Cortana in Parallels Desktop 11