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 in 2016 and enhanced in High Sierra. We explain everything from setting up Siri in the first place to the wide range of commands it can respond to. 

We look at how to use Siri, plus how to get the very best from it - and include a few tricks you might not know about, including how to trigger Siri with the "Hey Siri" command, and how to use Siri to make everyday tasks on your Mac easier.

How to set up Siri on Mac

When installing macOS, or setting up a new Mac, 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

If you missed this step when setting up your Mac, follow these steps to set up Siri on your Mac:

  1. Open System Preferences.
  2. Click on Siri.
  3. Click in the box beside Enable Ask Siri so that a tick appears.

Read next: Siri troubleshooting, plus here's how to use Siri on the iPhone.

How to activate 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 don't hold the keys for a while you will just trigger Spotlight). This is the default, you can change it to Option/Alt+Space or choose a customized key combination, we'll show you how to do this below.
  • If you're wearing Apple headphones, and they are plugged into your Mac, press and hold the inline middle Mic button.
  • Click the Spotlight icon in the Dock.
  • 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

How to create a keyboard shortcut for Siri

The default keyboard shortcut options for triggering Hey Siri are Command + Space or Option + Space. You can switch between the two in System Preferences. You can also set your own custom keyboard combo, here’s how

  1. Go to System Preferences and open Siri’s system preferences.
  2. Click on the arrows beside Keyboard Shortcut and choose Customize.
  3. Press the keys you wish to assign to the shortcut (make sure not to use a combination you are likely to use for another function).

Now, when you wish to trigger Siri you can just use this key combination.

How to use Hey Siri on your Mac

If you want to trigger Hey Siri on your Mac in the same way as you do on your iPhone you can do so, but it’s not a default option. You need to use dictation options in Accessibility system preferences to activate the Siri on your Mac with your voice, rather than the standard keyboard shortcut or clicking the Siri icon in the menu.

  1. Go to System Preferences and open Siri’s system preferences.
  2. Next to Keyboard Shortcut choose Customize (you can’t use wither of the preset options, Hold Command + Space or Hold Option + Space).
  3. Press the keys you wish to assign to the shortcut (make sure not to use a combination you are likely to use for another function).
  4. Now go to System Preferences and click on Keyboard.
  5. Select the Dictation tab and turn Dictation on.
  6. Also select Use Enhanced Dictation.
  7. Choose your Microphone by clicking on the down arrow beside the Microphone symbol and choosing the relevant mic.
  8. If required you can change the language you will be using here too.
  9. Now click back in System Preferences and open Accessibility.
  10. Select Dictation in the column on the left.
  11. Check the box for “Enable the dictation keyword phrase”. It will self-populate with the word Computer, but you can change it to “Hey”.
  12. Now click on the Dictation Commands button above.
  13. Click on + to create a custom command.
  14. Besides 'When I say': type Siri.
  15. Leave 'While Using': as Any Application.
  16. And besides 'Perform': select Keyboard Shortcut and tap in the key combo you assigned to Siri above.
  17. Click on Done.

Now when you say “Hey Siri” the Siri Window should open. Of course, this will also trigger Hey Siri on your iPhone, so you could change the command on your Mac to something different, like “Hello Siri”.

How to type to Siri

One thing that frustrates us about using Siri on the Mac is the fact that you use the function by speaking out loud to it, which can be a bit embarrassing in an office full of people.

While it’s likely to be some time before Siri can read your thoughts, there is in High Sierra a way to use Accessibility settings to enable you to type into Siri.

  1. Go to System Preferences > Accessibility > Sir. 
  2. Click in the box beside Enable Type to Siri so that a tick appears.

Now when you trigger Siri, a keyboard will appear into which you can type your query.

How to change Siri's search engine to Google

Siri searches with Bing. You may prefer to use a different search engine if you feel you would get better results.

It's impossible to change the default browser, but you can force Siri to search Google, here's how:

  1. Ask Siri to "Search with Google".
  2. Siri will respond: "What would you like me to find".
  3. Tell Siri what you want to search for, e.g: "cat pictures".

How to change Siri's voice

You can change the voice of Siri if you wish. There are male and female voices, as well as a choice of accents. Our favourite is the Irish (Female) voice, which sounds curiously downbeat - as if Siri's answering your queries after a long day at work.

To change Siri's accent:

  1. Open System Preferences.
  2. Click the Siri icon.
  3. Choose from the Siri Voice dropdown list.

How to use Siri on Mac: Changing the voice

Note that if you want Siri's responses to remain relevant to your location, then don't change the Language setting. If you change the language to English (United States) rather than English (United Kingdom) you won't get the same results if, for example, you ask what the date is on a public holiday in the UK. In our example, asking "What is the date on Sunday" saw the UK Siri include the fact it is Guy Fawkes Night in the response.

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...

How to set a reminder using Siri on the Mac

Because macOS has no clock app you won't be able to ask Siri on Mac to set a timer or alarm. However, Siri can create an entry in the Reminder app with an alert set for that time.

There are some practical ways in which you can use Siri to remind you of things. For example, if you were reading an email or a webpage and wanted to go back to it later, you could Ask Siri to remind you. Here's how:

  1. Open the email or web page
  2. Activate Siri for Mac, and say "Remind me of this in an hour"
  3. Siri will then create an entry in the Reminders app, with a link to the webpage or email, and with an alert matching what you requested.

How to use Siri on Mac: Remind me

You can also request Siri reminds you about:

  • Any lists in the Reminders app
  • Birthdays, anniversaries and events 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 of something

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 to add an event to the Calendar

You can also create an Event for a date. Tell Siri the following:

  1. Ask Siri: "Add dad's birthday to the calendar"
  2. Siri will ask you for the date and time of the appointment, tell it the date and time
  3. Siri will request a time for the appointment, if it's all day, you can just say: "All day"

Thing to ask Siri on the Mac

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

Read next: Funny things to ask Siri

How to use Siri on Mac: Night Shift

Other things you can do with Siri on the Mac

There are a few things you can do with your Siri results once you get them...

How to get Quick Look previews in Siri

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, avoiding the need to click each individually to open them in Safari.

Unfortunately, when we tried to use it to Preview pictures found online it didn't work, which seems to be an issue related to Bing.com.

How to pin 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

How to create 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

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