Apple hasn’t yet brought Siri to the Mac so we’ll have to make do with Sinus, a free app that attempts to mimic the usefulness of Apple’s assistant. Like Siri, Sinus will display phone numbers from your Contacts, report weather updates and calendar appointments, initiate Google searches, launch applications and much more.
Sinus is in the beta stage of the development, and the developer wants your feedback. While Mac OS X includes built-in speech commands, Sinus makes the process a little easier more Siri-like. Sinus is not as accurate and functional as what can be done with Siri, nor can it be used for voice-to-text dictation, but that doesn’t mean it’s not nice to have a digital assistant on your Mac.
The Basic Setup
Sinus depends on the built-in Dictation feature (enabled under System Preferences) in OS X 10.8 or higher. In order for it to work, your Mac must be connected to the Internet, and you will need to give Sinus access to your contacts, location and any other services you want the assistant to impact on.
The developer says Sinus is a sandboxed application, which means it cannot access your confidential data without asking you. You can revoke permissions in System Preferences > Security > Privacy.
After you install the application, it will recommend that you use the “Samantha” system voice, rather than the default voice. If Samantha is not already installed on your system, click on the current voice, select Customize from the drop-down, and enable Samantha. The voice file will downloaded and install.
Sinus can then be activated with a keyboard shortcut, which can be customised. If you want to use it a lot, I suggest mapping its shortcut to a BetterTouchTool finger gesture, so you can activate it using your mouse and or trackpad.
You can also toggle Sinus on in the menu bar or by clicking its icon in the dock.
What Can Sinus Do?
Sinus is pretty much at the level of Siri when it was first released. It provides a list of commands you can give it, from checking the weather, setting a timer and getting travel directions, to having Sinus post reminders.
Sinus doesn’t always speak back the way Siri does but rather displays responses to commands, opening links in Safari, or sending messages to Twitter.
Sinus can also be used in silent mode, which means manually typing your commands rather than speaking them.
How Does It Perform?
Sinus responds better to some commands than others, such as setting the timer, querying Google maps for specified directions, and providing weather updates. However, it is hit and miss when it comes to posting contact information, launching specific applications, and doing spotlight searches.
It either does not interpret the commands correctly, or it posts the wrong contact information. But for the most part, it works well enough for basic functions. Seeing as it uses Apple’s own dictation technology, voice commands work just as well as the built-in speech-to-text feature for OS X, and with a lot less hassle.
Try It Out
Sinus is a free download, so there’s no reason not to try it out, and who knows how long it will be before Apple adds Siri to the Mac? In the meantime, Samantha is ready and able to help.
Let us know what you think of Sinus, and be sure to contact the developer about your issues and wishes for the program.
Download: Sinus (Free)