Siri is, of course, a marvel of modern technology. But it’s also one of those things that a lot of us don’t use as much as we could or should. So the following list of 16 things everybody should know how to do using Siri.
1. Search for stuff on the Web. Siri can perform Web searches (using Google, Bing, or Yahoo), get answers to more specialized questions using Wolfram Alpha (“What’s the square root of pi?”), find reviews of businesses (using Yelp), search Wikipedia, and so on. Just phrase your question in natural language, and then tap a search result to go to the source site (or app) for more information.
2. Change your settings. This one’s new in iOS 7, and it’s excellent. You can make changes to certain basic settings just by speaking your request. You can say, for example, “Turn on Bluetooth,” “Turn off WiFi,” “Turn on Do Not Disturb,” and “Turn on Airplane mode.” (You can’t turn offAirplane mode by voice, because Siri doesn’t work without an Internet connection.)
You can also make screen adjustments: “Make the screen brighter.” “Dim the screen.”
Siri makes the requested adjustment, tells you so, and displays the corresponding switch in case she misunderstood your intention.
3. Teach Siri who’s who. If you’ve been saying the full name of your spouse, sibling, other family member, or boss, there’s a better way: Say “your spouse’s name is my spouse” and Siri will remember that designation in the future. You can then just say “Text my spouse” and Siri will know exactly whom to text. You can also add relationships by editing your own record in the Contacts apps: tap Add Related Name, then choose a relationship and a corresponding contact.
4. Read full emails to you. In iOS 7, Siri can actually read full messages to you — not just the header information (to, from, and subject line).
For example, if you say, “Read my latest email” or “Read my new email,” Siri reads aloud your most recent email message. (Siri then offers you the chance to dictate a response.) Or you can use the new summary-listing commands. When you say, “Read my email,” Siri starts walking backward through your Inbox, telling you the subject of each, plus who sent it and when.
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While this recitation is going on, you can tap the microphone button to interrupt with “Read that email” or “Read the third email” (for example)—and Siri will read a summary of the email (not the whole body). She once again invites you to dictate a reply; if you say no, she picks up from where she left off, reading the rest of the subjects.
You can also compose a new message by voice; anytime you use the phrase “about,” that becomes the subject line for your new message. “Email Mom about the reunion.” “Email my boyfriend about the dance on Friday.” “New email to Freddie Gershon.” “Mail Mom about Saturday’s flight.” “Email Frank and Cindy Vosshall and Peter Love about the picnic.” “Email my assistant and say, ‘Thanks for arranging the taxi!’ ” “Email Gertie and Eugene about their work on the surprise party, and say I really value your friendship.” (If you’ve indicated only the subject and addressee, Siri prompts you for the body of the message.)
You can reply to a message Siri has just described, too. “Reply, ‘Dear Robin (comma), I’m so sorry about your dog (period). I’ll be more careful next time (period).” “Call her mobile number.” “Send him a text message saying, ‘I got your note.’ ”
5. Create a calendar event. Siri can add events to your calendar thanks to commands such as “Make an event for 10am Friday called Training.” But you can get a lot more specific. Add “to calendar name” to choose a specific calendar; say “withcontact name and Siri will add that person as an attendee–and will even send the person an invite if they’re in your Contacts list.
You can also edit events: “Move my Friday 10am Training event to 1pm” moves the event to the afternoon; “Add Serenity Caldwell to Monday’s 12:30 meeting” adds her as an attendee. (Many people don’t realize Siri can also check your calendar. Say “When’s my meeting with Dan Moren?” and Siri will tell you. Say “Show me Tuesday” and Siri shows you your scheduled events for that day.)
6. Set a timer. The built-in Clock app offers useful timer feature, but Siri makes it much more convenient. Say, “Set a timer for 10 minutes,” and Siri creates (and starts) a new 10-minute timer in the Clock app–you never even have to open the app.
7. Set an alarm. Similarly, “Set an alarm for 7am” creates a new alarm-clock alarm for 7am.
8. Get directions. You can have Siri get you directions to a destination, using iOS’s own Maps app, by saying, for example, “Show me how to get to San Jose.” But Apple’s Maps app doesn’t currently support transit or walking directions, or you may prefer a different mapping app. Add “via transit” to the end of your command, and Siri will display a list of installed and App Store third-party routing apps. Tap one–such as the Google Maps app–and Siri will launch that app, preconfigured with your destination. (You don’t even need to choose a transit app, which makes this a great tip for using Siri with third-party navigation apps, such as Navigon.)
9. Create and edit notes. Notes is a forgotten app on many iOS devices, but Siri makes it a lot more useful, if not any less simplistic. Say, “Make a note” or “Note that” and you can quickly dictate a new note. Alternatively, say, “Make a note called note name” and you can then add text to that note by saying “Add text“. You can add to a note later by saying, “Add text to note name.”
10. Create reminders. You may know that you can use Siri to schedule reminders by saying something like, “Remind me to call Dan at 10:30am tomorrow.” But Siri can do a lot more than that. For example, Siri can do reminder math: “Remind me to cancel my trial subscription in 14 days.” You can also have Siri configure geofenced (location-based) reminders: “Remind me to call the Y when I get home.” (You can also say “Show me my reminders” at any time to quickly view your tasks.)
11. Find a restaurant. If you use Yelp or another app to find nearby restaurants, give Siri a try instead. “Are there any good delis nearby?” shows you a list, along with prices, location, and Yelp ratings. (You can search by location, cuisine, price, and indoor/outdoor seating–or any combination of features.) Tap a listing to get detailed information. And if you’ve ever used Open Table to make reservations, you’ll be thrilled to know that you can say “Find me a table for four for dinner tonight” to see nearby restaurants with openings; tap one to make the reservation. You can even check for reservations at a specific restaurant: “Book me a table for two at 7pm at The Romantic Candle.”
12. Opening apps. If you don’t learn to use Siri for anything else, for the love of Mike, learn this one. You can say, “Open Calendar” or “Play Angry Birds” or “Launch Calculator.” The corresponding app opens instantly. It’s exactly the same as pressing the Home button, swiping across the screen until you find the app you’re looking for, and then tapping its icon — but without pressing the Home button, swiping across the screen until you find the app you’re looking for, and then tapping its icon.
13. Control iTunes. You can of course launch the Music app using Siri, but why bother when Siri can start playback for you? Say, “Play playlist Road Trip,” and Siri begins playback of the playlist called Road Trip.” Other things you can tell Siri to play include artist names, album names, and track names; it also works with iTunes Radio.
14. Post to Twitter or Facebook. iOS is a red-blooded, full-blown Twitter companion. So you can say things like, “Tweet, ‘I just saw three-headed dog catch a Frisbee in midair. Unreal.’ ” “Tweet with my location, ‘My car just broke down somewhere in Detroit. Help?’ ” Facebook is fair game, too. You can say, “Post to Facebook, ‘The guy next to me kept his cellphone on for the whole plane ride,’ ” or “Write on my wall, ‘I can’t believe I ate the whole thing.’ ”Siri offers you a sheet (a miniature dialog box) where you can approve the transcription and then, if it all looks good, send it off to your Twitter or Facebook feed.
15. Follow sports. You don’t need to unlock your phone and open your favorite sports-news app to get the latest scores. Just say “What’s the score of the Bears game?” and Siri tells you. But Siri actually knows a lot more about sports than that. For example, you can say things like, “Who’s in first place in the National League West?” “What’s Brandon Belt’s batting average?” or “Who do the Bulls play next?” to get detailed information about teams, players, and schedules.
16. Find out about movies. Siri is also the virtual equivalent of an insufferable film buff. She knows everything. “Who was the star ofGroundhog Day?” “Who directed Chinatown?” “What is Waterworldrated?” “What movie won Best Picture in 1952?”
It’s not just about old movies, either. Siri also knows everything about current showtimes in theaters. “What movies are opening this week?” “What’s playing at the Watton Cineplex?” “Give me the reviews for Titanic 2: The Return.” “What are today’s showtimes for Monsters University?”
17. Search and play music. Instead of fumbling around in your Music app, save yourself steps and time by speaking the name of the album, song, or band: “Play some Beatles.” “Play ‘I’m a Barbie Girl.’ ” “Play some jazz.” “Play my jogging playlist.” “Play the party mix.” “Shuffle my ‘Dave’s Faves’ playlist.” “Play.” “Pause.” “Resume.” “Skip.”
If you’ve set up any iTunes Radio stations, you can call for them by name, too: “Play Dolly Parton Radio.” Or be more generic: Just say “Play iTunes Radio” and be surprised. Or be more specific: Say “Play some country music” (substitute your favorite genre).
Siri plays (or skips, shuffles, or pauses) the music you asked for — without ever leaving whatever app you were using.
18. Find My Friends. You see this category only if you’ve installed Apple’s Find My Friends app. “Where’s Ferd?” “Is my dad home?” “Where are my friends?” “Who’s here?” “Who is nearby?” “Is my mom at work?”
Siri shows you a beautiful little map with the requested person’s location clearly indicated by a blue pushpin. (She does, that is, if you’ve set up Find My Friends, you’ve logged in, and your friends have made their locations available.)