Windows 8.1's universal Bing Smart Search features are incorporated into Cortana, which replaces the previous Bing Search app which was activated when a user presses the "Search" button on their device.Since the Lumia Denim mobile phone series, launched in October 2014, active listening was added to Cortana, enabling it to be invoked with the phrase: "Hey Cortana"; it can then be controlled as usual.

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Cortana can integrate with third-party apps on Windows 10 or directly through the service.

Starting in late 2016, Cortana integrated with Microsoft's Wunderlist service, allowing Cortana to add and act on reminders. It can be disabled; this will cause Windows search to search the Web as well as the local computer, but this can be turned off.

Other language versions of Cortana are available in China (Simplified Chinese), Japan (Japanese), France (French), Germany (German), Italy (Italian), Brazil (Portuguese), Mexico, and Spain (Spanish).

Cortana for Android and i OS is also available in the same languages.

Cortana can set reminders, recognize natural voice without the requirement for keyboard input, and answer questions using information from the Bing search engine.

Cortana is currently available in English, Portuguese, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Chinese, and Japanese language editions, depending on the software platform and region in which it is used.

The feature was announced in early 2016 and released later in the year.

When asked for a prediction, Cortana correctly predicted the winners of the first 14 matches of the football 2014 FIFA World Cup knockout stage, including the semi-finals, before it incorrectly picked Brazil over the Netherlands in the third place play-off match; this streak topped Paul the Octopus who correctly predicted all 7 of Germany's 2010 FIFA World Cup matches as well as the Final.

At the Worldwide Partners Conference 2015 Microsoft demonstrated Cortana integration with upcoming products such as Gig Jam.