Get tech help from Cor­tana Show Me

About the only hic­cup in this Win­dows how-to app is that it needs to be in­stalled, writes MARK HACHMAN

Tech Advisor - - Contents -

Most how-to ar­ti­cles on a given sub­ject walk you through a se­ries of steps, per­haps with a video at­tached. Win­dows 10’s new free help fea­ture, Cor­tana Show Me, is dif­fer­ent: it per­forms ba­sic Win­dows tasks for you on your PC while you fol­low along. Even bet­ter, Cor­tana Show Me strikes a nice bal­ance be­tween show­ing you what to do, ac­tu­ally

per­form­ing those steps, and pro­vid­ing an ‘es­cape hatch’ if you need to slow down. All you need to do is wig­gle your mouse, and Cor­tana Show Me will stop. Mi­crosoft’s free app is part of the Win­dows 10 April 2018 Up­date, and in­cludes walk­throughs for many ba­sic tasks – we have a full list be­low.

Let’s be clear, though: most ad­vanced users won’t need to use Cor­tana Show Me. In gen­eral, if you’re fa­mil­iar with the Win­dows 10 Set­tings, you’re al­ready fa­mil­iar with what Cor­tana Show Me can do. This is an app for users who can nav­i­gate Win­dows, but need some help div­ing deeper into what Win­dows can do.

The only thing we wish Mi­crosoft would change is Cor­tana Show Me’s im­ple­men­ta­tion. In­stead of build­ing in Cor­tana Show Me as a bun­dled Win­dows 10 app, Mi­crosoft an­noy­ingly chose to make it a down­load­able app from the Mi­crosoft Store. That’s the sort of ba­sic task Cor­tana Show Me’s user base may strug­gle with.

Get Cor­tana Show Me

The quick­est way to down­load Cor­tana Show Me (fave.co/2M5uTjq) is to click the link in this sen­tence

(you’ll need to sign into your Mi­crosoft ac­count if you haven’t al­ready). That will open Mi­crosoft Edge, with a bright blue Get the app but­ton. (For some rea­son, the Cor­tana Show Me app didn’t ap­pear when I searched for it within the Mi­crosoft Store app.) The app’s file size is only about 14MB, so it should down­load in a snap.

Use Cor­tana Show Me

Once in­stalled, you can launch Cor­tana Show Me by click­ing the app in your Start menu. As part of the Fall 2018 fea­ture up­date for Win­dows 10 (what­ever it ends up be­ing called) Mi­crosoft plans to add voice con­trols, so you’ll sim­ply be able to trig­ger your mic and orally or­der Cor­tana to, say, “show me how to change my screen bright­ness”. For now though, you’ll have to se­lect which tu­to­rial you’d like to view man­u­ally.

Cor­tana Show Me isn’t the most thought­ful app at present. It’s a rather dull col­lec­tion of boxes at the mo­ment, and there’s no in­tro­duc­tion to wel­come you. Upon open­ing it, the app dis­plays a hand­ful of the most com­mon tu­to­ri­als, along with a list of cat­e­gories at the bot­tom to dive deeper.

Click­ing one of these tu­to­ri­als, though, launches Cor­tana, with Jen Tay­lor’s fa­mil­iar voice guid­ing you through your task. Cor­tana Show Me ex­pands to fill the mon­i­tor it’s launched in, with Cor­tana alert­ing you that you can pause at any time just by wig­gling the mouse.

The magic of Cor­tana Show Me is that it doesn’t just ap­pear that the app is mov­ing your cur­sor – it ac­tu­ally is, even put­ting a lit­tle halo around it to make it eas­ier to see. Vir­tu­ally ev­ery tu­to­rial be­gins with nav­i­gat­ing to the Set­tings menu by way of the Cor­tana search box.

If Set­tings is al­ready open, Cor­tana Show Me will nav­i­gate through to the ap­pro­pri­ate sub­menu. As Cor­tana Show Me nav­i­gates through the steps of, say, how to change your back­ground, you’ll see what to click and what choices you’ll have to make. Each tu­to­rial tends to last less than a minute, end­ing at about the time you’ll need to take some ac­tion, such as se­lect­ing the ap­pro­pri­ate Wi-Fi router from a list of nearby de­vices.

Tu­to­ri­als

Mi­crosoft says that about 50 or so tu­to­ri­als are avail­able within the Cor­tana Show Me app, sub­di­vided into a list of cat­e­gories. At the time of writ­ing 33 tu­to­ri­als are avail­able:

Sys­tem

Change your vol­ume Change your power set­tings Change your dis­play bright­ness Change your screen res­o­lu­tion Change what no­ti­fi­ca­tions you’re get­ting Turn on Night Light Find your ver­sion of Win­dows Per­son­al­ize your lock screen Ro­tate your screen

De­vices

Add a nearby printer or scan­ner Change mouse set­tings Con­nect to a wire­less dis­play Dis­cover Blue­tooth de­vices

Net­work and In­ter­net

Change your Wi-Fi set­tings Set up a mo­bile hotspot Turn on Air­plane mode

Per­son­al­iza­tion

Change your back­ground

Apps

Change your de­fault apps Check if an app is in­stalled Unin­stall apps or pro­grams

Ease of Ac­cess

Turn on high con­trast

Turn on Mag­ni­fier Turn on Nar­ra­tor Turn on the on-screen key­board

Time and Lan­guage

Change or add lan­guages Change time set­tings Up­date and Se­cu­rity Ac­ti­vate Win­dows Back up your com­puter Run a se­cu­rity scan Turn off Win­dows De­fender Se­cu­rity Cen­tre Turn off Win­dows Se­cu­rity Up­date Win­dows

Im­prove­ments

Adding voice con­trols to fu­ture ver­sions of Cor­tana Show Me demon­strates that Mi­crosoft con­sid­ers the app to be a work in progress. Prob­a­bly the most im­por­tant work that needs to be done is to in­te­grate it more tightly within Win­dows, so that a novice user can eas­ily find it if they get stuck. (If they do, Mi­crosoft can add a tu­to­rial about down­load­ing and in­stalling apps from the Store as well.) At times, Mi­crosoft seems paralysed, torn be­tween pla­cat­ing a user base that de­mands con­stant im­prove­ment with­out al­ter­ing the fa­mil­iar way in which Win­dows works. But en­cour­ag­ing new users to find their way within Win­dows is an im­por­tant re­spon­si­bil­ity, too.

With Cor­tana Show Me, Mi­crosoft has clearly built a frame­work that could be pushed as far as it likes. Some, more-com­plex con­tent works bet­ter within the

frame­work of a video, such as creating a de­tailed scene within Paint 3D. But sim­pler cre­ative tasks, such as drop­ping an aug­mented-re­al­ity di­nosaur into a photo taken with Mixed Re­al­ity Viewer, is well within Cor­tana Show Me’s ca­pa­bil­i­ties.

For now, though, Cor­tana Show Me serves an im­por­tant niche: free­ing you up from play­ing tech sup­port at fam­ily gath­er­ings. In­stead of try­ing to teach a cousin how to set up a mo­bile hotspot, sim­ply make sure they have Cor­tana Show Me in­stalled, then grab an­other slice of cake. Why not let Cor­tana do all the work?

Cor­tana Show Me is de­signed to walk you through com­mon tasks au­di­bly and vis­ually, so make sure your au­dio is on

Cor­tana Show Me uses your ac­tual desk­top (in­clud­ing the taskbar), and will typ­i­cally be­gin by launch­ing the Set­tings menu

Cor­tana Show Me isn’t the only how-to app within Win­dows; the built-in Mi­crosoft Tips app pro­vides much more con­cise ex­pla­na­tions of how to per­form sim­i­lar tasks

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