Siri on macOS

It is about time that the Siri voice assistant made it to the Mac!   Siri has already been on the iPhone for five years, and was added as a huge feature to the companies set-top box, the Apple TV in October of 2015.  Here, We look at how Siri on macOS works compared to Siri on the Iphone.  We'll take a look at some unique features and find out how you can make use of them.  As it turns out Siri has many abilities unique to just the Mac!

You must have macOS 10.12 Sierra installed.  It is a free upgrade, and is worth keeping up to date.  This is done through the Mac App Store.  You also need a mac with a microphone and speakers.  This is standard fare on all laptops and iMacs.  

There are several ways to start Siri.  By default there is a menu item in right side of the menu bar.  There is also a larger icon on the dock, and you can bring Siri up with a key combination.  The default is to click and hold down the Command key and the space bar at the same time.  If this does not immediately work, you might want to check out Preferences > Siri, because it might have been changed.  

 

Starting With Siri

When you activate Siri in any of these ways, a window will popup in the upper right hand corner of the screen which shows what she heard and any results or additional information of your voice command.  This output is similar to what you see on your iPhone

Compared to iOS

You can do everything on your Mac with Siri that you can do on Siri with your iPhone or iPad.  That includes the following:

  • Send an iMessage.  You'll need to say who it is for and what the message is. "Send an iMessage"
  • Send email.  "New email to Steve Martin"
  • Start music, "Play the song Start Me Up by the Rolling Stones"
  • Answer questions and get information.  "How many mountains are there in the United States?"
  • Math.  "What is 329 times 49"
  • Start Applications.  "Open Photoshop"
  • Find where movies are playing.  Siri will list movies playing at local theatres.  "Play a movie"
  • Set a reminder or an alarm.  "Remind me to pick up up milk tomorrow"
  • Create a list and add items to it.  "Create a new list called shopping".  "Add shoes to my shopping list"
  • Check the weather report.  "What's the weather?"

You'll notice that Siri often relies on Wikipedia or other online references in finding an answer.  This should be no surprise, because this already happens on iOS.  

New macOS Features of Siri

The wonderful thing about Siri on macOS is that you can take advantage of all those features that are available only on your Mac.

  • Find files on your Mac  You can specify different criteria and Siri will return a nice curated list.  "Find excel files"
  • Turn on your screen saver. "Activate screen saver"
  • Check system settings. "Is bluetooth on?" or "How much memory does my mac have?"
  • Change system settings.  "Turn volume up"
  • Turn system off. "Put my computer to sleep"
  • Identify music.  Siri can identify music not playing on your mac.  "What song is this".  

You can also take the results you get from Siri and click the plus ("+") symbol in the upper right corner, and your Siri results will be added to Notificaiton Center.  This is really handy when you want to work with several answers in a list.

Learning More

You can always ask Siri for help in what she can do.  The great thing about voice assistants like Siri is that the voice data is sent to the cloud to process.  As a result, companies like Apple are continuously adding new features and making the assistant work better.  

Summary

The biggest change required by me has been to get used to the idea of speaking to my computer.  As I use my trusty iMac I find that my mind is used to going and getting an answer on my own using the keyboard and mouse, rather than saying them.  I have been using Siri not just on my iPhone and iPad, but lately much more on my 5K iMac and MacBook Air.  I find it works incredibly well.  It would be nice to have hands-free mode available from Apple.  However, there is a work-around you might like.  I don't care for it myself.  

 

 

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