These days, even those of us without living, breathing personal assistants can use the virtual personal assistants (VPAs) available in our smartphones to tackle more of what comes our way. And while most of us have experimented with our VPAs (Cortana in Windows devices, Siri in Apple devices, and OK Google via the Google app), we're not generally using them to their full potential – or even half of their potential in some cases. So, to fix that I've compiled a few brief tips on how to use Cortana, Siri and Google in ways that just might make your life easier. Let's take a look!
Cortana Tips and Tricks
Tell Cortana where you work. Once you do, she can alert you about possible traffic delays, and you can simply ask her "How long will it take to drive to work?" rather than entering your work address into a map.
Stay up to date on the news that matters most to you. Just click inside the Cortana box on your taskbar, then click the Notebook icon, and the News icon. After that, you can tell Cortana what you're interested in, and add topics and categories of news that you want alerts about.
Ask Cortana to convert units for you – like grams to ounces, or meters to feet or inches – all of which can be helpful if you have your hands full with a project in the kitchen, your shop, yard, etc.
Dictate short email messages (and send them) via Cortana.
Let Cortana be your personal DJ. If you have the Groove app, Cortana can manage your playlist for you and help you create just the right mood.
How to Use Siri
Tell Siri about your relationships with your contacts. Just say something like "Sarah Jane is my daughter" and as long as your daughter is listed as Sarah Jane in your contacts, Siri will note the information. This way, you can use commands like "Tell my daughter I'll pick her up at 7."
Add a phonetic spelling to any of your contacts' names that Siri has trouble with. All you'll need to do is choose a person in your contacts list, then hit "edit" ->"add new field" then choose either "phonetic first name" or "phonetic last name." With that complete, it'll be easier for Siri to understand who it is that you want to contact. (Hint: You can even add phonetic spellings to restaurants, shops and other businesses that are in your contact list.)
Set location-aware reminders like "remind me to pick up bread when I leave" or "remind me to wrap John's birthday present when I get home." This way, when you leave wherever you are or when you arrive at "x" location, Siri will help you remember what you need to do.
Ask Siri to show you your photos from a specific time or location. This is an excellent feature if you want to show vacation pics to a friend or want to upload images from your child's recital to one of your social media accounts.
If you have the OpenTable App, you can also ask Siri to make reservations for you. If you say "Siri, make a dinner reservation for tonight at 7," she'll open the app, check restaurants with available seating and walk you through the reservation process – all without you ever having to lift a finger.
Tips for Using OK Google
Ask Google to browse a specific site for you and return results for a specific product or type of product.
Ask how your favorite sports teams, or even a stock price, is doing and let OK Google give you the details.
Tell OK Google to text "Sam" and then dictate the message and send it without ever touching your keyboard.
Ask OK Google to take a look at your calendar and schedule a meeting with Bill, or tell you what your day looks like next Thursday, or reschedule lunch with Polly for a week from Monday.
Find virtually anything you want near you, like the closest bank, restaurant, coffee shop, attractions, etc., simply by saying "OK, Google. Show me the nearest 'xyz.'"
Cortana, Siri and Google all offer advanced features that can help you do more each and every day – and in every aspect of your life. For more tips and tricks or details on how to use Google, Siri or Cortana, try joining an online community of users who can help you uncover even more of their new and interesting features.