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Here’s how Siri will work in MacOS Sierra

Mac users will soon have access to Siri. Apple’s worst kept secret was confirmed during the WWDC keynote address.

“That’s right,” said Craig Federighi, Apple’s vice president of software engineering. “Siri is coming to the Mac.”

WWDC 2016Everything we know about MacOS Sierra

Later, Siri had the chance to introduce herself, saying she liked living in an aluminum unibody device and didn’t mind the lack of Windows (cringe). We haven’t had the chance to try Siri out on a Mac yet, but the keynote revealed a few things about how the system works. Here’s a quick overview, for the curious.

How will users launch Siri on the Mac?

The new MacOS Sierra has two new icons for Siri. One is on the dock, shown to the right of the Finder in the icon. Another is in the menubar, shown between the Notification Center button and Spotlight. Annoyingly, this colorful icon breaks the monochromatic tradition Apple has been working with on the menubar for the past few years.

No keyboard shortcut was officially mentioned, but at one point in the demo Federighi launched Siri by double-tapping a particular key. It’s not clear which key it was, but double-tapping “Fn” currently launches dictation. If we had to guess we’d say Apple will use that shortcut for Siri going forward, but we can’t say for sure.

Siri can search your Mac’s files

The iPhone famously doesn’t give users access to the file system, meaning Siri doesn’t do a lot of interacting with files. Not the case on the Mac, where you can ask Siri to find files using natural language.

“Show the files I worked on last week about the off site,” is a question Federighi asked during the demo. A number of files showed up.

Image used with permission by copyright holder

The demo also showed how users can follow-up on queries, allowing you to drill down further to get more specific results. For example, Federighi asked Siri “just the ones Ken sent me that I tagged with draft”, and was shown a refined list from the previous results.

Some of this power seems borrowed from the natural language search added to OS X last year,  but the ability to follow-up on queries is new.

Integration with the Notification Center, and click and drag support

If the results of a search are something you’d like to check throughout the day, you can pin them to the Notification Center on your Mac. This lets you access files from a place you can quickly open and close.

WWDC 2016: Apple clears up the Apple Music clutter, adds daily playlists to take on Spotify

Even better, files can be dragged from such pinned searches into the Finder or other applications.

Search the web, and more

Of course, Siri doesn’t just have Mac-specific features. The things you can already do on mobile also work on the Mac. In the demo Federighi users Siri to play a specific playlist in iTunes, search the web for pictures, and look at what movies are playing right now. These are all the sorts of things Siri currently does on mobile.

The Mac-specific twist here is the ability to click-and-drag results to other windows. For example: Federighi asks Siri to search for falcons, then drags one into his Keynote presentation. Users can presumably also drag such files to the desktop, or a Finder window, for future reference.

Image used with permission by copyright holder

The demo also showed off integration with Messages. Federighi asked Siri to “tell Ken maybe we should just see a movie,” and she helpfully offered to send a message.

Will third party apps work with Siri?

Developers will soon be able to integrate their apps with Siri on iPhone. It is not clear whether Apple is similarly opening the Mac version of Siri, meaning it’s not clear if Siri will be able to interact with apps other than Apple’s default offerings.

WWDC 2016: Everything we know about MacOS Sierra

What does that mean? Well, if you use something other than iTunes to listen to music, for example, Siri may or may not be able to control that music player. If we had to guess, such support won’t come with Siri’s first version on the Mac, but could come later.

When can I try out Siri on my Mac?

Siri will be included in macOS Sierra, which is currently offered as a developer preview. A public beta of MacOS Sierra will be available in July, followed by a general release in the fall.

Installing a developer release on a computer you need to use for work is a terrible idea, and the public beta probably isn’t a great idea either. For most users, it’s best to wait until late 2016 to ask Siri a question on your Mac. Only time will tell if the wait is worthwhile.

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Justin Pot
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Justin's always had a passion for trying out new software, asking questions, and explaining things – tech journalism is the…
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