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I’ll be the first to admit that a voice assistant isn’t that helpful in a system where your fingers are on the keyboard most of the time. But there’s no reason to write off Siri for Mac just yet.
While it can’t do nearly as much as it can on iOS (there’s no third party app support yet, for example), Siri can still be a team player. It’s all about helping you complete specific tasks, faster, when you’ve already got your hands full with the keyboard.
Setting Up and Using Siri
If you can’t find the Siri icon in the menu bar (it’s easy to spot as it’s the only multi-colored icon in the entire menu bar), you might not have the feature turned on.
First, make sure you’re running macOS Sierra, open System Preferences, and select Siri. Then check the Enable Siri option. From here, if you choose to, you can also hide the menu bar shortcut for Siri. Don’t worry, there are other ways to get to her.
You’ll find a Siri shortcut in the Dock (again, also removable by dragging the icon off of the Dock) and there’s a keyboard shortcut as well. Siri’s preferences pane lets you invoke Siri by pressing and holding the Option key or Command + Space combination. You can also choose to invoke Siri by tapping the Fn and Space buttons.
1. Add Times in Different Cities to Notification Center
As someone who works remotely and has to talk with people in three different timezones, Siri feels like a godsend. It’s really easy to ask Siri “what time is it in Melbourne?” before sending out a message.
Also, here’s a pro tip: when the card shows up, click the + button. This will add the timezone to the Today screen, making it even easier to view multiple timezones down the line.
2. Play Music
I really like playing Beats 1 when I’m writing. And I usually just ask Siri to either start playing a station, a song or a playlist. I find that this is genuinely faster and easier than any other available methods (e.g. clicking through iTunes or searching with Spotlight).
3. Set Reminders
If you use the Reminders app, using Siri to add reminders can be really useful. You can ask Siri to remind you about something at a given time and a place. This of course then gets synced to your iPhone.
4. Search for Stuff on Your Mac
Spotlight is great for searching but if you don’t want to type, Siri can work just as well. You can ask Siri to search for all sorts of things: files, folders, albums, photos and more.
You can narrow down your search by asking Siri to only show files from yesterday, or the presentation you were working on Monday. Play around with it and you’ll be able to figure out what kind of context works best for you.
If your photo library is synced using the Photos app, you can even ask Siri to find you photos taken at a specific location.
5. Send a Message
If you use iMessage, you can ask Siri to transcribe and send a message to anyone in your contact list. As an off-the-cuff thing, this is not only a time saver but using Siri to do this also ensures you won’t forget about it by pushing it for later.
6. Search for Images
When you search for images on the web, not only do you get a nice thumbnail view of the top results but you can also just drag an image and drop it into a document you’re working on. It’s seamless and a real time saver.
7. Ask for the Weather
If you use Siri on the iPhone to regularly check the weather, this will be familiar to you. Siri will give you a contextual answer and will show you the five-day forecast you’re familiar with.
8. Change Device Settings
Siri makes it really easy to toggle settings that are hidden in System Preferences or are a couple of clicks away.
You can do simple things like ask Siri to turn off Bluetooth, or turn up the brightness bit. But you can even ask Siri for more hidden stuff like “what’s my Mac’s serial number?” or to show you your privacy or iCloud settings.
9. Open Apps and Websites
If you don’t like typing the same four URLs every single morning, you can just ask Siri something like “open makeuseof.com” and Siri will open the web page for you in your default browser. The same goes for apps.
10. Save Results to Refer to Later
Some cards like the image search, web search or file search can be saved to the Notification Center so you can easily refer to it later on. When a card is compatible you’ll find a + icon in the corner.
11. Change Siri’s Voice
If you’re not fond of how your personal assistant talks to you, there are other alternatives you can try. From the Siri section in System Preferences, click on the drop-down next to Siri Voice and you’ll be able to select between a male and female voice in an American, British or Australian accent.
12. Enable Hey Siri
Hey Siri functionality on the iPhone is kind of revolutionary, especially for someone as lazy as me. So it’s sad that the functionality isn’t available on Macs, which are way more powerful but whatever, it’s not like I’m bitter about it.
There’s a workaround to enable this feature, if you’re willing to tinker about. It uses dictation to invoke a custom keyboard shortcut that in turn enables Siri.
- Go to Siri settings in System Preferences and give a custom shortcut. Something unique.
- Head to System Preferences > Keyboard. From the Dictation tab, turn on Dictation and enable Use Enhanced Dictation (this might require you to download install a file to enable the feature).
- Go to System Preferences > Accessibility and from the left panel select Dictation. On the right, Enable the dictation keyword phrase and change the phrase to Hey.
- From the same Accessibility page, click on Dictation Commands. Check the box for Enable advanced commands and click the + button to add a new command.
- For the When I say section put in Siri, in While using select Any Application, in Perform put in the keyboard shortcut that you assigned for Siri. Once finished, press Done.
If you’re having trouble getting this to work, uncheck and recheck the Enable Siri option.
How Do You Use Siri?
Like a lot of other Apple products, Siri gets the basics right but struggles when the going gets tough. Hopefully these tips will enhance your Mac productivity before Apple expands the service’s usefulness in the next macOS update.
What do you use Siri for on your iPhone or Mac? Share with us in the comments below.