Hey Siri, open Word! How to use Apple's voice assistant on a Mac

siri and spotlight search
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With the launch of MacOS Sierra came an important change to Siri: You can now use Apple’s virtual assistant on Mac computers, in addition to iPhones and iPads. This makes sense! Siri’s capabilities are growing quickly, and now that voice-enabled assistants like Microsoft’s Cortana are busy hanging out on Windows 10 computers, Siri has a reason to get more competitive.

The result is a more capable Siri, one that is readily available for those who’ve installed the latest MacOS updates and provides plenty of automated services to help you out. However, many Mac users may not know how to activate the feature, or what to do with Siri on a desktop (especially if their iPhone is lying directly beside them). Thankfully, we’ve got some ideas — read on to find out more.

Launching Siri

how to use siri on a mac siri2Siri is not listening in on every conversation you have near your computer — you have to enable and launch the virtual assistant before it will start listening in MacOS. On your desktop, Siri is identified by a circular icon, one filled with multi-colored waves. You can find this circle in your Dock, or in the upper-right corner of your desktop.

If you don’t see the icon, that means you haven’t enabled Siri yet. To do so, access System Preferences in the Dock, and look for the Siri icon and title in the lower section of the window. Click on Siri, and then on the left-hand side of the window, make sure that “Enable Siri” is checked. Here, you can also change the language for Siri, change your mic input, or create keyboard shortcuts for Siri.

Siri VoiceNow, click either Siri icon and the voice assistant will immediately pop up in a gray window and start listening (you’ll also hear a short chime). The box even allows you to quickly edit any questions Siri is interpreting, so it’s worth paying attention to. Keep in mind that using Siri on your Mac usually stops or interferes with any other sound your computer is making, including conversations or conferences. Also, remember if your Mac device doesn’t have a built-in mic, you’ll need one.

Siri Instructions

Controlling settings and apps

With Siri now paying attention, you may be wondering how to use the feature on your desktop. We’re going to talk about two important uses — dealing with settings and apps, and searching for files or info on your computer. Note that you can ask Siri any question that you would on a mobile device, like, say, “What time is it in Spain” or “What’s the weather like in Florida.” Then again, having Spotlight and Google at your fingertips makes these questions kind of silly.

Siri VolumeTo make the most of Siri, consider using the assistant to change settings and operate apps. For example, a command like “Show my photos from last week” will bring up all the photos uploaded to MacOS last week, which is useful when sorting through pictures or creating slideshows. Many native apps are open to commands this way. “FaceTime [name]” will open a video call, for instance, while “Add [name] to my [event]” will update your calendar with new information. Twitter and Facebook also work with these commands, allowing you to search for tweets from a certain person or time period.

You can also use Siri for more general info. You can say “How much free space do I have on this Mac,” or instance, or “Turn the volume down.” You can control iTunes and Apple Music in this manner, too.

Searching for files and information

Siri Docs 2Using Siri in MacOS allows you to find files quickly. You can get specific by saying things like, “Show me the file Business Presentation 22,” or perform batch requests with commands like, “Show me the files [name] shared with me over the weekend.” This works for a variety of documents and types of content.

When Siri finds documents that match your description, it pulls up a large menu and shows you the files, allowing you to open or move them as needed.

Finding stuff like this extends to online resources, too. “Search the web for images of Tesla vehicles” will bring up a buffet of images to work with. You can also search for specific emails or contacts that you may only have murky memories of. More mundane searches about stocks, sports data, and measurements work as well.

Making use of Siri results

When Siri shows you a document or piece of information in a drop-down list, you can take an extra step. Each list of results will house a small addition sign in the upper-right corner. Click this, and Siri will move this info to your Notification Center, and keep the subject there permanently. For example, if you ask about game times for the Seattle Seahawks and click the addition sign, you’ll be able to view game times within your Notifications from now on. This works for Twitter feeds, too, as well as various types of documents you want to keep up on.