Cortana Reminders Get a Lot More Sophisticated

Posted on February 9, 2017 by Paul Thurrott in Android, Cloud, iOS, Microsoft Consumer Services, Mobile, Office 365,, Windows 10 with 20 Comments

Cortana Reminders Get a Lot More Sophisticated

Microsoft this week began rolling out an update to Cortana that makes the personal digital assistant’s reminder capabilities a lot more sophisticated.

As you may know, Cortana has had reminder capabilities for quite some time: You can create reminders manually using Cortana on Windows 10 or mobile, and use time-, location-, or person-based reminders that trigger across all of your devices.

For much of 2016, Microsoft has also been testing a new Cortana capability that helps it support reminders based on email. This feature is now becoming generally available.

In case you’re wondering—I was—this release isn’t tied to the release of the Windows 10 Creators Update, or whatever, because Cortana capabilities like this are updated in the cloud. (That said, if you are using Windows 10, you will need to be on version 1607 or newer to use this functionality.)

Likewise, email-based reminders are not based on your usage of a Microsoft email client app—like Mail in Windows 10, or Outlook 2016—though this initial release only supports Microsoft email services such as or Outlook on the web/Office 365 commercial. Over time, Microsoft plans to more broadly support other popular email services such as those provided by Google.

Here’s how it works.

Thanks to its cloud-based machine learning capabilities, Cortana can scan the email services you’ve explicitly connected and look for explicit promises you’ve made to others. That is, when you make a commitment to get back to someone at some time frame—end of day, end of week, after the holidays, whatever—Cortana can then prompt you to create a reminder. The idea here, of course, is that the reminder will actually help you meet your commitments.

You don’t have to do anything to make this work beyond actually connecting your email accounts to Cortana. (You can do so in Windows 10 by navigating to Cortana > Notebook > Connected Services). Just send emails as always, using the web client or whatever client you prefer, and Cortana will work in the background looking for reminders to trigger.

Sometimes, these reminders will actually pop-up on the Windows 10-based PC you’re using, though I haven’t seen this personally yet. (This functionality is coming to Android and iOS in “the coming weeks,” Microsoft tells me.)

But you will also see collected reminders in the Cortana Home view, which I have seen.

From there, you can, of course, create a reminder normally.

And then those reminders will fire pop-ups on the schedule you set.

It’s worth noting, too, that once you do create a reminder, that reminder will appear everywhere, not just on Windows 10. So if you have Cortana installed on your smartphone, the reminder—and its notifications—will appear there too, of course.

Email-based reminder seen in Cortana for iPhone.

Those in the Windows Insider program will also see some subtle improvements to this feature that will be rolled out more broadly soon. For example, you can link the reminder and its notifications to a different email account. And Cortana’s ability to understand reminder prompts in email is always being improved as well, of course.

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Comments (20)

20 responses to “Cortana Reminders Get a Lot More Sophisticated”

  1. 289

    I always wished Cortana would provide proximity-based person reminders; maybe using our phones' Bluetooth. She already knows my wife's name, address, phone number, email; let me also tell Cortana that this BT device is my wife's phone.
    Then I could say "Remind me to tell my wife ... next time I see her".  Then the next time my phone detected the signal from my wife's phone, the reminder would be triggered. 

    • 289

      In reply to Chris_Kez:

      Now that I've read a bit more about Windows adding Smart Lock, which can use any kind of Bluetooth device, I am fairly convinced that BT could be used for the kind of near-person reminder I've described above.  As long as Cortana on W10M (or the Cortana app on iOS, Android) is able to monitor Bluetooth this should be totally do-able.  And based on what they've done with Smart Lock, it seems like you could associate multiple devices with a person (in case they have multiple phones or they've left behind their phone but still have a smart watch on).

  2. 165

    US only????

    • 1146

      In reply to RonH:

      Yeah US only - and irrelevant. 

      They have previously promised that flight and parcel tracking would work outside the US, but that never happened (at least in Australia ). In this case they are not even making any stipulation to have any plans outside the US.

      The source material:

      Cortana’s suggested reminders are available in the U.S. on Windows 10 with support coming to iOS and Android in the coming weeks.

      I like cortana, i think if they actually let the world use it, it might be popular - but i guess we'll never know. 


    • 4964

      In reply to RonH:

      Probably, I wish they'd get Cortana in more regions. Here in NZ you have to use Australian region workarounds to get it going. Possible on Windows but no way to do that on my Android phone.

  3. 5530

    this sounds awesome. Too bad Cortana still isn't available in my country.

  4. 383

    But for now Cortana's reminders are pretty useless until it functions better cross platforms. If a reminder is snoozed on a PC it will never "remind" again on an iPhone.

  5. 218

    I just started receiving reminder notifications in my Action Center today on my Surface Pro 4, based on E-mails I sent out with comments like, "We need to meet next week to discuss...". Caught me by surprise. Not running an insider edition, just 1607 with all the updates from Windows and the Windows Store.

  6. 5534

    The only update I'd like to see for Cortana is the ability to uninstall it. Or at least completely disable it so it isn't running in the background and popping up reminders of how it can help me do that (especially on mobile) every once in a while. I have no interest in using it now, and have no interest in using it in the future.

  7. 3180

    "Deep Work 8:00am - 11:00am" = CoD. ???

    : P


  8. 217

    I've been using and enjoying these services in Google Inbox for a while, glad to see MSFT adding it to Win10, my only issue is that I don't use Windows apps for communication. I had Cortana sync'ing app notifications between my Android phone and my desktop but it was quite annoying

    • 127

      In reply to dcdevito:

      These reminders aren't Windows apps based, but services based like

      With Cortana on Android, you can set per app whether you want the notification on your PC

      Hope this helps


  9. 1792

    I am still waiting for it to track flights properly. Never worked for any booking I have ever received. Always worked when I forwarded the same email to gmail and then Android tracks flights perfectly.



  10. Adrian Penalo

    In Windows 10 (PC and Mobile) Creators Update, for Cortana Reminders, once you Complete a Reminder and goes to the History, how do you reactivate that Reminder?? It was possible in Windows Phone 8.1!!