You can have a lot of fun with Siri, the artificially intelligent, voice recognition-based assistant built into newer iPhones and iPads. But fun though Siri may be, it turns out the little voice inside your iOS device can also help you become increasingly productive. From reminding you to perform a task, to sending meeting invitations, to keeping track of book recommendations--Siri proves to be surprisingly helpful for taking care of everyday things. Here's an assortment of tasks to get done with Siri.
1. Schedule reminders
Though Apple's Reminders app isn't the most full-featured or powerful app around, I still rely on it for simple to-do list management. I almost never type in new reminders on my iPhone or iPad; I use Siri instead.
Time-based tasks and tricky math: The most common thing I use reminders for is time-based tasks: "Remind me to take out the recycling tomorrow at 6:30 p.m."
That's the simplest form of time-based reminder you can set with Siri, though, and I often get more complex. For example, Siri can do date math for me. When I signed up for a free trial with a premium Web service, it told me I would be charged if I didn't cancel within the next 20 days. So I told Siri, "Remind me to decide on the Web service in 19 days at 10 a.m." Siri knows precisely what to do.
Ongoing reminders: When my daughter battled a persistent pair of ear infections, the pediatrician prescribed an antibiotic. I told Siri, "Remind me to give Sierra her medicine every night at 6 p.m." (Sadly, though, I can't find a way to get Siri to understand an end date for a daily, repeating task; I must go into the Reminders app's interface to do that.)
Location-based reminders: Need to do something when you get to a certain place? Thanks to the magic of Location Services, Siri can help you with that too. You need to turn on Location Services for Reminders; if this setting isn't on, Siri will prompt you and take you to your iPhone's Settings to do so.
How does it work? Assuming you've entered your own home or work address into your contact record, you can say something like, "Remind me to turn off the slow cooker when I get home."
If you have your friend's address stored, you could say, "Remind me to share the latest office gossip when I get to Dan's house." When you arrive at the specified location, Reminders notices behind the scenes, and pops up a notification suggesting you take care of the task in question.
Siri also understands "here," in the context of: "Remind me to pick up flowers when I leave here."
Shared reminders: And if you want to create a shared list of reminders--say, so that you and your spouse can both check in on a grocery list or remember to get the kids from school--you can handle that with Siri, too.
Reminder overview: If you're on your lock screen (or anywhere else on your iOS device, for that matter) and want to check your reminders, just tell Siri, "Show me my reminders" to get the list. You can check off completed tasks from that view.
2. Take notes
You can save notes with Siri in a variety of ways. You might prefer "Note to self: My new great song idea is about gnomes." You can also say, "Make a note" or "Note that" to kick off a note.
The importance of titles: The best way to manage notes with Siri is to remember to give your notes meaningful titles--which really means, make the first line of your notes useful.
For example, I might say, "Make a note called Books to read." Siri tells me it's done, and then I say "Add The Road by Cormac McCarthy." I can keep going: "Add The Presidents Club, new line, The Last Testament, new line, and The Teleportation Accident."
Later on, even if you're not working with that note, you can tell Siri: "Add The Gift of Fear to my Books to read note." When it's time to pick out a new ebook to read, just say, "Show me my Books to read note," and you'll be all set.
3. Send iMessages and texts
First things first: "Text" is one syllable; "iMessage" is three. Save yourself some effort and always say "text" to Siri; it will still send an iMessage when possible.
Spouse-savvy texts: If you simply say "Text my wife," for example, Siri will create a new, blank text or iMessage as appropriate to the person you've specified is your spouse. (That's true, by the way, even if your spouse is your husband; Siri's modern worldview uses "husband" and "wife" interchangeably.) Siri will then ask you what you'd like the text to say.
Fewer words=less effort: I prefer to skip a step: "Text my wife Let's get Chinese food for dinner." Siri understands the recipient and the message, and preps your text accordingly. (You used to have to say something like "Text my wife that I'm on my way home" or "Text my wife; say See you soon," but that's no longer necessary in iOS 6.)
Siri's also content to read your incoming iMessages to you.
4. Make appointments and manage your calendar
"Make an appointment for 2 p.m. on Thursday called Dentist."
You can say that. But, don't just dabble with entry-level Siri calendaring. Get fancier by making meetings with Siri that include invitees, durations, and more:
Dates and invitations: "Create a 30 minute lunch meeting for Friday at 12 p.m. with Jason Snell." If the name you use matches an address in your contacts, Siri will even handle sending out the invitation.
Calendar control: You can do a lot of calendar manipulation with Siri, too. Instructions you can try include: "Move my 3 p.m. phone meeting to 4:30," "Reschedule my lunch with Jason to March 11 at 1 p.m.," "Cancel my planning meeting," or "Add Dan to my lunch with Jason." (If you, like many Macworld staffers, have more than one "Dan" in your contacts, fret not; Siri will seek clarification on which Dan you mean.)
All-knowing Siri: Siri really understands a lot about your calendar. You can ask questions like, "When is my lunch with Jason?" You can also say things like: "Show me my Friday" or "Show me today."
Armed with these tips, Siri can help you become more productive--with barely any tapping involved.