Elgan: Getting serious about Siri

Apple's talkative new virtual assistant is no parlor trick. It's a powerful tool, especially if you use these three Pro Tips.

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What most users don't know is that all this can be communicated in one go. Here's the best way to send this same message:

User: "Email Deven about Halloween and say I'm having a Halloween party, and hope you can come!" Siri: "Here's the email message to Deven. Ready to send it?"

The formula is: "Email [recipient] about [subject] and say [body of message]."

You can also optimize replies. When Deven is looking at this message, for example, he can say: "Reply Sounds great. I'll be there." Boom! Done!

You can even optimize the finding of emails by specifying the sender and the day that message was sent. For example, Siri understands: "Find that email from my mom yesterday."

You'll save a lot of time in the future by spending a little time now truly mastering what Siri can do with email.

Pro Tip 3: Be a dictator with Siri's hidden Dragon

The new iPhone 4S not only has Siri, but also Nuance's Dragon Dictation software baked right in.

The phone's keyboard has a microphone button. When you press it, you're in dictation mode until you press the Done button.

By mastering this technology, you can save yourself a lot of time -- and typing. Here's what you need to know.

First, you can just say the punctuation and formatting you want, and the software will add it for you. For example, you can say:

"Hi comma John period new paragraph I just wanted to all caps THANK YOU all caps off for the nice gift period new paragraph Best regards comma Mike."

Second, unlike with Siri, you can take your time with dictation. It will wait. And you can stop and start, pause and reflect and write emails and notes as long as you like.

There's no question about it. The naysayers are saying nay to the wrong technology.

Voice-based virtual assistant technology is here to stay. It's not a gimmick, but a powerful and useful new interface that can transform how you live and work.

Mike Elgan writes about technology and tech culture. Contact and learn more about Mike at Elgan.com, or subscribe to his free e-mail newsletter, Mike's List.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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