Welcome to our complete guide to Siri on the Mac, in which we cover everything you need to know about the voice control assistant introduced with macOS Sierra. We explain everything from setting up Siri in the first place to the wide range of commands it can respond to. 

If you dismissed Siri not long after first booting macOS Sierra then this article is for you. We look at not just how to use Siri, but how to get the very best from it - and include a few tricks you might not know about. Read next: Siri troubleshooting

How to set up Siri on Mac

When installing macOS Sierra you will be asked if you wish to Enable Siri. Highlight the tickbox marked "Enable Siri on this Mac" and click Continue.

How to use Siri on Mac: Setup

Activating Siri on a Mac

There are no fewer than five ways to start Siri on a Mac, and here they are:

  • Hold down Cmd+Space for around two seconds.
  • If you're wearing Apple headphones, press and hold the inline middle Mic button.
  • Click the Dock icon.
  • Click the menu bar icon at the top right of the desktop.
  • Double-click the Siri icon in the Applications list of Finder.

Hitting Esc will close Siri.

How to use Siri on Mac: Siri mic

What to ask Siri

If you've used Siri on the iPhone or iPad then you'll already have a good glossary of queries, and most will work just fine with Siri on the Mac. However, here's some specific queries that you can try that illustrate Siri on the Mac's usefulness. Of course, you can adapt them to your own needs.

  • Change the wallpaper
  • Turn on Night Shift
  • Show my desktop folder
  • Show me files I worked on yesterday
  • What version of macOS am I using?
  • Read John Smith's last email to me
  • Search the App Store for note taking apps
  • Show me emails I received yesterday
  • Open Microsoft Word
  • Start an audio call with Cathy
  • Show me photographs from Bridlington

Because macOS has no clock app you shouldn't be able to ask Siri on Mac to set a timer or alarm. However, doing so will cause Siri to instead create an entry in the Reminder app with an alert set for that time. Read next: Funny things to ask Siri

How to use Siri on Mac: Night Shift

Quick Look results

Quick Look is the macOS feature that lets you quickly preview items like files by selecting them and then hitting the Space key. Quick Look works in Siri for Mac's results window too: just single-click any item in the list of results and then hit Space to Quick Look.

It works with files that Siri locates on your hard disk, pictures it finds online, or even web results that are found, avoiding the need to click each individually to open them in Safari.

How to use Siri on Mac: Quick look

Get Siri to remind you

If you're reading an email, webpage or iMessage conversation, and want to be reminded of it later on, just ask Siri.

For example, to get Siri to remind you of an email, just open it, activate Siri for Mac, and say "Remind me of this in an hour". Siri will then create an entry in the Reminders app, with a link to the webpage or email, and with a alert matching what you requested.

You can also be reminded of the following:

  • Entire reminder lists - just switch to the list in the Reminders app and ask Siri to remind you
  • Days, weeks, months or years in Calendar - just navigate to the date, select the day, week, month or year view from the View menu, and then ask Siri to remind you
  • Contacts within the Contacts app - just search for that contact and ask to be reminded

Rather strangely, Siri can't remind you about other apps. You can't get Siri to remind you about a song or movie in iTunes, for example, or an image within Photos, or an entry within the Notes app.

How to use Siri on Mac: Remind me

Pinning Siri results

Any result from Siri can be pinned to the Notification Center so that it always appears there when Notification Center is opened. Just click the plus icon at the top right of the grey box displaying the result of a Siri query.

The query will be updated each time you open the Notification Center - so if you ask what the weather is in New York, for example, each time you open Notification Center the result will be updated. This can be very useful if you ask Siri to find documents that you have created that day, for example.

Unfortunately, it's only possible to pin results in the Notification Center, and nowhere else.

How to use Siri on Mac: Pinning

Creating a screengrab of Siri results

If you grab and drag the top bar of any search results box within Siri, you turn it instantly into a PNG image file and can drop it onto a Finder window, or even drop it straight into something like a word processor.

How to use Siri on Mac: Drag and drop

Typing Siri queries

In theory Siri only listens to spoken commands. However, if you start Siri on the Mac and then say something like "How are you?", you can then overtype what you've said with a query. You can subsequently leave the SIri window in place and keep overtyping your query phrase.

How to use Siri on Mac: Typing Siri queries

Changing Siri's voice

Open System Preferences, click the Siri icon, and then choose from the Siri Voice dropdown list.

Our favourite is the Irish (Female) voice, which sounds curiously downbeat - as if Siri's answering your queries after a long day at work.

How to use Siri on Mac: Changing the voice

Siri sometimes has trouble with broader British accents, as we discovered in our highly scientific test a few years back - although we're happy to acknowledge that things have improved since then...

Dragging items out of Siri's results

If you use Siri on your Mac to search for files - "Show me files I created yesterday", for example - then you can drag them out to instantly create an alias to the file (basically a shortcut to that file). If you hold down the Alt key (Option on some keyboards) while dragging files located on your hard disk then you'll instantly create a copy of the file.

One thing you can't do, unfortunately, is move a file - although holding down Cmd should allow you to do so, in-line with the usual Finder shortcuts, doing so when dragging a file from Siri's results window shows a prohibited symbol.

If you're using Siri on the Mac to search the web for things like pictures, or to find out information, then you can again drag out the individual results to a Finder window or the desktop to create a copy on your computer. Web searches result in a Webloc file being created which, when double-clicked or Quick Looked, will open that web page for viewing.

Note that holding down Cmd when selecting files in Siri's results window will let you multiple select items, as in any Finder window.

How to use Siri on Mac: Drag items out of results