10 ways Apple’s Siri can help you get things done

Are you getting the best you can from Siri?

Apple, iOS, iPhone, iPad, Mac, Siri

Apple’s increasingly intelligent voice activated assistant, Siri, is expected to become available on Mac OS X and through third party apps on introduction of an SDK at WWDC in a few weeks. So, how can Siri help you get things done on iOS, and now might it help you on your Ma?

Launch apps

There are hundreds of thousands of apps available on the App Store, which means most iOS users have hundreds of apps on their device, stashed inside different folders on different screens. Often this means we find ourselves scrabbling through the pages on our device to find the app we need, we don’t need to – just launch Siri and say “launch [insert name of app]”.


You can ask Siri to launch the calculator for you if you wish, or you can ask it to do the calculation for you. Try it: launch Siri and ask “What is six times three?”, or “What is twenty one percent of 365?”, you can even ask it to make more complex calculus, addition, subtraction – whatever you need.

Quick SMS

Want to drop a quick message to Erica, or anybody else? You can unlock your phone, tap the app and type the message if you like (or hit the mic icon in your keyboard and dictate one); or you can ask Siri to “Text Erica, how’s it going?” You’ll be asked to confirm the message before you hit ‘send’.

Fast social media

If you’ve given iOS access to Facebook and/or Twitter (in Settings) then you can easily ask Siri to post a swift status update for you, just says something like “Tweet the latest Jonny Evans Siri article on Computerworld is pretty useful,” and you’re done.

Timers and alarms

Siri is the quickest way to set a timer or alarm. To set a Timer tell Siri “Timer [a number] [minutes, hours, seconds]. So you can say “Timer twenty minutes”. You can also say “Wake me up in eight hours” to set an alarm.


You can do exactly the same to set reminders, “Remind me to edit the SDN report tomorrow at 9AM,” for example. Siri can also add items to your calendar.


My favorite Siri talent is location-based. While this takes a little work and sounds a little complex, what it means is you can set reminders to get things done when you are in a particular place. This has been available for a while, as explained in this 2014 report.


If you call a contact at a regular time on a regular basis, Proactive will start placing the contact’s icon in your Search screen at around the time it thinks you might make that call – this feature does much more than this, as explained here.

Smart assistance

If you receive a call from an unknown number Siri recognizes as having appeared in an email you previously received, you’ll be told who the caller potentially is.


You can tell Siri things about people, for example: “Jeremy is Prime Minister”, or “Colin is my brother”. Siri can remember this so in future you’ll be able to say things like “Remind me to call my brother,” or “Remind me to vote for Jeremy”. You can also teach Siri to speak names phonetically by launching Contacts, choosing the person whose name you wish to teach Siri to say, tapping Edit>Add new field and choose Phonetic Last Name or First Name. You can use this to help Siri understand how you pronounce a name.

One more thing

Launch Siri and say something, anything. Siri will respond. If you look to the bottom left of the screen you’ll see a small question mark. Tap this and you’ll be presented with an extensive (and useful) library of tips for using Siri, arranged by App, task and other functions. You can, for example, ask Siri “What is a 15% tip on £86.74 for four people?”

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Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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