I really like that I can just talk to my iPhone, saying “hey siri”, and it wakes up and listens. Can I do something similar on my Apple MacBook Air computer too? Also, is there a way to type in queries to siri, rather than speak them?
Siri is one of the most popular voice assistants in the world, with about 60% of iPhone or iPad users talking to it at least occasionally. In fact, while Amazon’s Alexa might have more standalone units, more people ask Siri questions than ask Alexa. I use Siri quite a bit myself, from asking my Apple Watch to “hey siri, set timer for two hours” after paying for parking to asking my iPhone to “hey siri, convert 100 australian dollars into us dollars”. Very helpful. But Siri can do a lot more than convert currencies and manage timers! For example, you can say “show me photos of the new tesla” or “what is the square root of 307” or “what’s the time in paris” or even “call mom”. If you have a smarthome, you can adjust the thermostat, turn on the lights, even check that your garage door is down and the front door is locked.
All good but how do you get to Siri on a MacOS system? A fair question, and one that involves going into System Preferences and enabling Siri for interaction one of a surprising number of different ways. Let’s have a look…
ENABLE SIRI ON A MACBOOK, IMAC, OR OTHER MAC SYSTEM
The first step is obviously to enable Siri. That’s done in System Preferences… which you can reach through the Apple menu on the top left of your menubar. A window will pop up with quite a few different icons representing different categories of preferences and settings. You want “Siri”, logically enough:
It should be on the first row of icons. Worth note is the sort of swirly circular graphic used to represent Siri. That will show up again and again in our tutorial.
Click on “Siri” and you’ll immediately see whether it’s enabled or not on your Mac system:
There are checkboxes all over the place on this rather awkwardly designed window. You’ll need to start by checking “Enable Ask Siri” on the left side, under that circular Siri logo. Then, if you want it to listen for “Hey Siri”, you need to enable “Listen for “Hey Siri” on the right side, near the top.
Notice that you can choose language, accent, and male or female voice (Apple lists it as “Voice 1” and “Voice 2” now. A click and you’ll hear the pitch difference between the two voice variants). I find the female Australian voice to be one of the best and most seamless and have it as the default on my iPhone and Mac systems.
Don’t want your Mac to be listening to everything you say, hoping to hear “hey siri”? Don’t check the “Listen for “Hey Siri”” box, but instead check “Show Siri in menu bar” on the very bottom of the window. You can check them all too, for maximum flexibility. Not only that, but you can set a “Keyboard shortcut” too:
Also pay attention to the second checkbox below “Listen” that appears if you enable this feature: Many users will want to disable “Allow Siri when locked”, particularly if you work in an office or have mischievous children. The locked interface to Siri is limited, but can still be problematic. I encourage you to think carefully about this particular setting.
You can also pick a favorite keyboard shortcut:
Make your selection – or leave it as the default – then check “Show Siri in menu bar”. The swirly icon appears on the menu bar instantly:
See it, just to the left of the date and time? Click on it and you can interact with Siri if you don’t enable “hey siri”.
INTERACTING WITH SIRI ON A MAC SYSTEM
Once it is enabled, you can click on the keyboard shortcut, say “hey siri” or click on the icon on the menu bar to get the “I’m listening” window:
The swirly graphic actually reacts to your voice if you watch closely. It’s pretty mesmerizing, and fortunately, Siri is very patient waiting for you to say something so you can drift away and be hypnotized as needed. You’re feeling very sleepy and have an uncontrollable urge to buy more Apple products…
Try “tell me a joke” and make sure you have your speaker turned on so you can hear the latest Apple attempt at humor. They’re usually pretty cringeworthy jokes.
But what about typing to Siri if you don’t want to talk to it or are in a noisy environment where that would be inappropriate? That’s done with an entirely different setting.
HOW TO ENABLE TYPE TO SIRI ON A MAC
Go back to System Preferences but this time choose “Accessibility” then find and choose “Siri” on the left side:
This one’s a simpler window, at least. Check “Enable Type to Siri” and while nothing looks different, now if you click on the Siri icon on the menu bar, the resultant window prompts you to type in your query, not speak it:
To test it out, let’s find out how fast a cheetah can run!
There ya go. We’ve learned that the cheetah’s top speed is a mind-boggling 64mph but we’ve also seen that it’s relatively easy to type in a query rather than speak it to Siri. Now experiment with various settings to get just the user experience you prefer.
Pro Tip: I’ve been writing about the Mac since the very first system was released. Back in the era of the “fishbowl” design! Please check out my extensive Mac Help Library while you’re visiting. Thanks!