Siri has been the lifesaver of many multitasking iOS device users for some time now, and although it took a few more years for it to be available on Macs, things are slowly catching up. If you’re not sure how to use Siri on your Mac yet, here are a few tips and tricks that you might want to take note of so you can make the most of it.
Before those, though, let’s start with activating Siri first.
How to Activate Siri
Unlike with iOS devices, Siri cannot be activated by saying “Hey, Siri!” yet. To activate Siri, you either have to launch it through your dock or use the assigned keyboard shortcut.
To activate Siri through your dock,
- Go to your dock.
- Click on the Siri icon.
To assign a keyboard shortcut to activate Siri,
- Go to the Apple Menu.
- Click on “System Preferences.”
- Select “Siri.”
- Assign a key or combination of keys that you would like to use for the shortcut.
- After you’ve assigned your preferred keys for the shortcut, just press and hold them together every time you want to activate Siri.
Under “Keyboard Shortcut,” select a keyboard shortcut to use. The default shortcut is holding down Command-Space, but you can also use Option-Space, Function-Space, or whatever key combination you would prefer to activate Siri.
When you have a keyboard shortcut assigned, you can simply press and hold the two assigned keys until Siri pops up.
How to Customize Siri on Your Mac
Aside from activating Siri on your Mac, you might also want to customize Siri’s own default settings.
To do this,
- Open “System Preferences.”
- Click on “Siri.”
- Pick a setting that you want to customize.
- Choose from the available options on the drop down menu.
Siri settings that you can customize include the language (Siri currently supports a limited number of languages on Mac although additional options may soon be added), Siri Voice (the gender of the virtual assistant talking to you), Voice Feedback (whether you want to read search results or you want them to be read out loud to you), Mic Input (whether you want to use your Mac’s built-in microphone or a headset when issuing voice commands), and the Keyboard shortcut that you want to use to activate Siri.
How to Ask Siri to Perform a Search
If there’s something an assistant — virtual or otherwise — is particularly good at, it is searching for things no matter what they may be. The same is true for Siri. Regardless whether you want to find information on the web or a file that you stored somewhere on your Mac, just ask Siri to search it for you and it will come back in a few seconds armed with the results.
Some examples of things that you can ask Siri to search for you include personal biographies, product information, customer reviews, company addresses, events schedules, and stock market updates among many other things.
In addition to searching for information on the web, you can also ask Siri to search your own Mac’s libraries for photos, videos, applications, appointment schedules, contact information, reminders, and system-related information to cite some examples.
To initiate the search, just say, “Siri, search for…” and add whatever you want Siri to search for you. Siri will use Bing, its default search engine, to search for information, but if you want to use a different search engine like Google Chrome or Firefox, for example, you can specify it in the command by saying “Siri, search Google for” or “Search Firefox for” plus the information that you want it to search.
How to Use Siri to Make Mathematical Computations
Practically everything can be answered by a quick Google search by now. Still, there are some things that even the mighty search engine giant is still having trouble processing, like questions that require complex mathematical computation.
This is where Wolfram Alpha, the computational knowledge engine, can come in handy. Specializing in anything that requires mathematical computations, Wolfram Alpha can tell you how to calculate your taxes, compare and contrast food items based on their nutritional content, and compute your body mass index with just one click.
To instruct Siri to use Wolfram Alpha to make a search instead of Bing, Google Chrome, or Firefox, just start your command with “Wolfram, search for (insert search keyword here),” then wait for the results.
How to Use Siri to Attach Files
After you’re done searching for a particular piece of information, there’s another convenient thing that you can use Siri for — dragging and dropping search results and attaching them to whatever you are currently working on.
Let’s say you want to invite your friend to grab lunch together, but you’re not sure where to go. You can easily fix this problem by,
- Activating Siri
- Asking Siri to search for images or reviews of nice restaurants near you
- Pinning the result to the Notification Center by clicking on the (+) icon on the top left corner of the result.
- Taking a screenshot of the result by grabbing the top bar and dropping it anywhere within Siri.
- Dragging the resulting screenshot to your messaging app, then sending it as an attachment to your friend.
- Letting your friend decide where they want to it.
Since the “drag and drop” feature not only works with web results, but with results from a Finder search as well, you can also follow the same steps to attach a file from your own computer to a document that you’re typing for school or an e-mail that you’re sending to your boss.
How to Use Siri to Monitor the News
Not everyone follows the news religiously, but every now and then, there are events that we like to follow as they unfold, maybe because you want to know the latest weather development before your early morning flight tomorrow or maybe because you want to keep tabs on how many goals your favorite sports team has scored against their bitter rival so far.
For events like these where you want to stay on top of events while going about your usual tasks, you can use Siri to make a quick search, pin the result on the Notification Center, then get live updates from there while you work.
To do this,
- Activate Siri on your Mac.
- Ask Siri to search for anything that you want to be kept updated on (e.g. Game scores: Manchester United F.C. vs. FC Barcelona).
- Wait for the results to show.
- Once the results have been displayed, look for the (+) plus icon usually located at the top left portion of the search result to pin it to the Notification Center as a widget.
- The search result will then be updated in real time.
- If you want to check the latest development, just click on the widget at the Notification center.
How to Use Siri to Send a Text or Make a Call with Your Mac
As you can with iOS devices, you can also use Siri to send a text message or make a call on your Mac.
To do this, just tell Siri to open the app that you want to use to send the text message (like iMessage, for example) or you can just tell Siri to “FaceTime + friend’s name and Siri will make the call for you.
How to Use Siri to Make Location-based Reminders
We all know that facepalm moment when we make a mental note of getting a particular item the next time that we go to the supermarket just to completely forget about it once we’ve actually gotten there. With Siri, this can be easily remedied by using location-based reminders.
To do this,
- Open “Reminders.”
- Create a new reminder or choose one from the available options.
- Hover over the reminder that you want to connect with a certain location.
- Request for more information by clicking on the icon that looks like an “i.”
- Tick the box beside the text that says “At a location” then specify the address where you want to be reminded of the note.
- Choose whether you want to be reminded upon “Arriving” at a place or before “Leaving” it.
- Allow the “Reminders” app to use “Location Services to remind you about the note.
- Click “Done” after you’ve finished setting the reminder.
As long as your Location Services is activated, Siri will automatically remind you of what you need to do as soon as your Mac has detected that you are within the area that you specified when you set the reminder.
How to Use Siri to Play Music on Your Mac Hands-free
Most people listen to music while working on some other task, so having a tool that lets you control your music player without lifting a finger is definitely a lot of help.
With Siri activated on your Mac, you can easily launch your favorite music player, select a playlist, then play some songs simply by issuing a few voice commands.
Aside from standard controls such as “Play” “Pause” “Previous,” and “Next” you can also make Siri remember your listening preferences by telling it if you “like,” “don’t like,” or would like to “skip” the song that is currently playing. Songs that you express a fondness for will be included in your “favorites” while the songs that you always skip will be played less frequently (or you can just tell Siri to “never play it again.”).
For those who are familiar with Shazam (the popular music music, movies, and TV show identification program), its integration with Siri also lets you know what song or program is running in the background while you’re browsing the web, running on the treadmill, or cleaning around the house simply by asking Siri what is playing.
How to Use Siri to Adjust System Settings
Using Siri to adjust your Mac’s system settings is just like performing another search through Siri. To do this, just tell Siri the system setting that you want to adjust. For example, you can say, “Siri, lower volume” or “Siri, increase brightness” to adjust the corresponding settings on your Mac.
You can do this for a whole range of settings including opening your Wi-fi and Bluetooth connection, switching Location Services on and off, activating Battery Saver, activating your Mac’s screensaver, and putting your Mac to sleep.
How to Use Siri to Ask for System Information
If you’ve ever encountered an issue with your Mac and got in touch with tech support to ask for assistance, you might have had one of those moments where they asked you about your computer’s system information in order to help diagnose the problem and you go blank for several seconds until you have no choice but to say, “Uhhh… where do I find that?”
With Siri, you no longer have to panic while you frantically click on random menu options in hopes of finding clues about what they’re looking for. Just activate siri, ask what information you want it to look up for you, then wait for the result.
Some examples of system information-related questions that you can ask Siri are:
- What is my Mac’s model?
- When was my Mac model manufactured?
- How much disk space do I have left?
- What is my Mac’s serial number?
- What processor is my Mac running on?
Ask Siri What it Can Do For You
If you’ve already tried all of the above options and you want to know if there is anything else that Siri can do for you, but you don’t know exactly what to ask, you can actually ask Siri, “What can you do for me?” and it will give you a list of options that you might not have tried yet. Just scroll through the list of available options, click the icon that looks like a little “i” for more information on exactly what each one does, then have fun trying the different new commands.