Microsoft Tunes Cortana to Collect, Organize Favorite Web Pages

Cortana will soon keep track of interesting internet finds so that users don't search through the depths of their browser histories.


Cortana has learned a new skill that will someday help Windows 10 users organize the interesting content that they encounter on the web.

Cortana Collections, part of Windows 10 Insider preview build 17017, is a new feature that pops up when users are researching products or events online. It appears as a system notification when Microsoft's AI assistant detects that a user finds something online that Cortana can help keep track of.

"Cortana now saves you time and stress by noticing and remembering things for you and putting them at your fingertips," explained Dona Sarkar, head of the Windows Insider early-access program, in an Oct. 13 announcement. "Cortana can gather things you're interested in such as items you shop for, restaurants, recipes, and books you'd like to check out, movies and TV shows you want to watch—and puts them all into neatly organized lists from which you can pick the ones you like best."

Microsoft is also working to create a unified experience around Cortana's notifications and recommendations.

Previously, users could access them in both within Cortana and Action Center, Windows 10's built-in notification hub. It was a setup that could sometimes make it difficult for users to determine which part of the operating system they should use to follow up on recommendations and alerts, or use the natural language and search capabilities within Cortana to finish actions or tasks.

Fittingly enough, build 17017 moves all of Cortana's actions to the Action Center, according to Sarkar. Going forward, Cortana's user interface will be used to deliver helpful tips and search tools.

Soon, users will be able to configure which applications or background tasks launch automatically at startup without delving into the Windows Task Manager. A new settings page will allow users to toggle their startup applications on and off, similar to other operating system options that have been ported to the Windows 10 settings experience.

Meanwhile, Microsoft is readying the developer community for the Oct. 17 arrival of the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update.

On Oct. 10, during the Windows Developer Day event in London, the company announced the availability of the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update SDK (software development kit). It includes several updates that help coders tweak their apps for the new operating system, including the Fluent Design System for sleeker user interfaces and an application-packaging component that can be used with Visual Studio 2017 that dispenses with the need to convert an application's existing installer.

And just days away from the release of the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update, some users have taken a skeptical view of Microsoft's approach to distributing software.

Recently, the company's Photos Add-on listing in the Windows Store (soon to be the Microsoft Store) app marketplace, racked up numerous negative reviews after users discovered it was installed on their systems without permission. It's an update for the built-in Photos app that will enable some extensibility of it's features. But a lack of clarity on Microsoft's part understandably lead to some mixed signals about the company's intent.

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...