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Learn How to Use Siri, the Handy iPhone Assistant

Siri is the incredibly handy assistant that comes with iOS devices.  Through voice commands, you can get Siri to do almost anything that you could normally do on your phone or tablet yourself.  In this article, we’ll show how to put Siri to work to make your iOS experience easier and faster.

How do I use Siri?

By default, you can get to Siri by holding down the home button on your iPhone or iPad.  Once Siri pops up, you can release the home button and say your command.

Photo from Apple.com.

You can configure the settings for Siri by going to Settings > General > Siri.  In this menu, you can customize the language, voice gender, voice feedback, your information, and raise to speak.

  • Language and voice gender are pretty self-explanatory.
  • Voice feedback dictates whether or not Siri talks to you out loud always, or just when you are using a hands-free device.  If you’re going to be speaking into your phone anyway, there’s probably not much reason to disable it from speaking back to you.  Most people will just want to leave this setting at the default.
  • My info lets you choose a contact from your phone that contains all of your information.  If you don’t already have a contact of yourself, open up the contacts app and make one.  This isn’t an essential thing to do, but it is required if you want to be able to say “take me home,” and get routing directions from Siri.  It also allows Siri to call you by your name – or a nickname, if you configure that.
  • Raise to speak is an alternative way to access Siri; with it enabled, you can just raise your phone to your ear as if you are answering a phone call from someone.  Siri will be on the other end and you can say your command as if you’re still just talking to someone on the phone.

What can I ask Siri to do?

You can ask Siri to do just about anything, and you don’t need to be overly specific about what you say.  For example, you can say things like “Give my mom a call,” instead of “Make a phone call to my mother.”  Speaking casually or formally, Siri knows what you mean.  On the list of commands below, keep in mind there are quite a few ways to say each one.  Don’t get hung up on any of the wording, just read this to learn of Siri’s various functions.

Establishing relationships

Siri is smart, but it only knows what you tell it.  If you want to speak more casually to Siri, educate it!  A perfect example is letting it know who your significant other is.  Siri wants to be educated, and will ask you questions if you forget to tell it something that it needs to know to perform the commands you ask.

Communication

Siri can be used for all of your communication needs.  It will even read text messages and emails to you, and then you can use Siri to reply to them.  Some examples include:

  • “Call Mom.”
  • “FaceTime Mom.”
  • “Send Mom a text message that says I love you.”
  • “Send Mom an email that says I love Siri more.”
  • “Read me that last message.”
  • “Tell my wife that I will be home for dinner.”
  • “Reply I’m on my way now.”

Reminders

This is one of those features where you don’t know what you did before you had it.  I guess you had to actually… remember stuff on your own!  Well, forget that (pun intended), because now you have Siri.

  • “Remind me at 6 o’clock to take out the trash.”
  • “Remind me on May 25th to wish my mom happy birthday.”

If you have your addresses set up properly (remember, Siri needs educated):

  • “Remind me to check my oil when I get home.”
  • “Remind me to email Jim the budget report when I get to work on Thursday.”

As long as you specified a date/time or place for your reminder, your iOS device will display a pop up and play a sound to remind you of whatever you asked it to.

Take notes

If you need to jot something down, whether it’s a quick idea that came to you while you were in the middle of something or tomorrow’s grocery list, let Siri take a note of it.

  • “Add bananas to my groceries note.”
  • “Take a note: I owe Brent $20.”
  • “Bring up my ideas note.”

Directions

It’s a lot easier to just tell Siri where you need to go instead of typing it in.

  • “Take me to 123 Main St. Myrtle Beach.”
  • “Take me home.”
  • “I need driving directions to the office.”
  • “Take me to Ocean Street Café.”

If you have the Find My Friends app set up:

  • “Take me to Dave.”
  • “I need walking directions to my mom’s location.”

If you want to see the distance or best route between two locations:

  • “Take me from Santa Monica to Los Angeles.”

Alarms

There’s no reason to fiddle with an alarm clock when you can just tell Siri to wake you up at a certain time.

  • “Wake me up at 8 AM tomorrow.”
  • “Wake me up in three hours.”
  • “Set an alarm for 10 AM.”
  • “Turn off my alarms.”

Timers

You just put some cookies in the oven; I hope you can remember to take them back out in 12 minutes.

  • “Set the timer for 12 minutes.”
  • “Pause/Resume/Stop/Reset the timer.”

Scheduling

Siri integrates with the calendar app to set up appointments and meetings.

  • “Set up a meeting with my boss at 9 AM.”
  • “Make an appointment with Terry for Thursday at noon.”
  • “I have a meeting with the board at 10 tomorrow.”
  • “Do I have any meetings this week? / How busy am I this week?”
  • “Push my meeting with the board back to 1 PM.”
  • “Cancel my meetings tomorrow.”

People

Siri can utilize the Find My Friends app if you have it, as well as your contact list.

  • “Where’s Jerry at?”
  • “Do I have any friends in Chicago right now?”

Or to pull up some contact information:

  • “Show me all the people that work at How-to Geek.”
  • “What’s Tom’s email address?”

Social networking

Other than posting to Facebook and Twitter, Siri is relatively limited on the social networking front.  Then again, there’s not much else to do on those sites anyway.

  • “Write on my wall ‘Does anyone want to see a movie tonight?’”
  • “Tweet this new computer is awesome hashtag geek”
  • “What’s trending on Twitter?”

Searching the web

Siri can use a few different search engines to bring up results on whatever it is you’re trying to find.  If you don’t specify, it will default to Bing (unless you change that setting yourself).

  • “Search Google for Windows 8.”
  • “Bing iPhone cases.”
  • “Search for pictures of Spongebob.”

Sports

Use Siri to keep up with the scores and statistics of college and national sports teams.

  • “Who won the Browns game last Sunday?”
  • “Show me the number of RBIs for the Boston Red Sox.”
  • “How are the Florida Gators doing this season?”
  • “Give me the stats for Derek Jeter.”

Weather

You can ask Siri pretty much anything about the weather – temperature, forecast, wind, sunrise, etc.  Here are a few examples:

  • “Is it going to rain in Chicago this week?”
  • “What’s the high for this week?”
  • “How windy is it today?”
  • “Check the forecast for St. Louis.”

Movies

Siri can pull up information on any movie, new or old, and retrieve movie times.

  • “What movies are playing near me today?”
  • “Show me films that had Jim Carrey in them.”

If you ask a question that prompts an opinionated response, it will base the answer off of Rotten Tomatoes reviews.

  • “What are the best movies out now?”
  • “Is that new Tom Hanks movie any good?”

Restaurants

Siri can bring up directions, phone numbers, and information about any restaurant you want.

  • “I’m in the mood for Chinese food.”
  • “What are the best seafood restaurants around here?”

If you have the OpenTable app installed, you can also use Siri to make dinner reservations.

  • “I need a table for four in Chicago this Saturday.”
  • “Reserve me a table at Macaroni Grill tonight.”

Music and videos

This is particularly handy when you want to hear a certain song or artist and you have a lot of songs that you don’t want to spend time looking through.

  • “Play my oldies playlist.”
  • “Play Fireflies by Owl City.”
  • “Shuffle all songs.”
  • “Play/pause/skip”

Check texts, emails, missed calls, and voicemails

Siri can check any part of your communication history.

  • “Read me that text message I just received.”
  • “Any new emails today?”
  • “Do I have any missed calls?”
  • “Play my last voicemail.”

Stocks

Siri can answer pretty much any stock-related question you may have.

  • “How is the Dow doing today?”
  • “What is Apple’s stock price?”
  • “What did Apple close at today?”

Calculations and random facts

Siri uses WolframAlpha to perform mathematical functions and queries their database for answers to random questions.  If it doesn’t find a suitable answer, it will fall back on Wikipedia.  If that doesn’t have it either, it will do a Bing search.

  • “What is 6824 divided by 8?”
  • “What is a 16% tip on a $38 bill?”
  • “How big is Chicago?”
  • “When did America become a country?”
  • “When did Ben Franklin die?”  (does a Wikipedia search)
  • “When was the iPhone released?”  (does a Bing search)

Settings

Siri can’t adjust all of your phone’s settings, but it can do quite a few.  These aren’t all of them, so if you are wondering about a particular one, just try it.

  • “Turn off Voice Over.”
  • “Turn on airplane mode.”
  • “Turn off Bluetooth.”
  • “Do not disturb.”

Opening apps

Siri can open any of your apps for you.

  • “Open Google Earth.”
  • “Launch my notes.”
  • “Play Temple Run.”

So is that everything?

There is more that you can do with Siri than what you see on this list, and Apple is always adding new features.  There are also quite a few Easter eggs in Siri, so a lot of times it can provide great comic relief.  Post in the forums about any other commands you like to use, whether you use them for productivity or comic relief.

Korbin Brown is an IT enthusiast with a passion for writing. He enjoys troubleshooting complex Windows, Linux, and networking issues and sharing his experiences with fellow geeks.

  • Published 01/13/14

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