10 Siri for Mac features I hope to see in OS X 10.12

By , May 27, 2016

Siri can i help you with

Siri is one of these features that feels like a broken promise. Not only it hasn’t evolved that much over the years, but it’s also not that much more reliable than it was when it was first introduced back in 2011.

If the rumor mill is any indication of what’s to come, it appears that Siri might make its way to the Mac, and maybe get even smarter with the introduction of an SDK for developers.

So I sat down and started thinking about what specifically I would want Siri to be able to do on my Mac, beyond the smart assistant’s existing capabilities. This is my wish-list. 

Work hands-free

Leaked screenshots suggest that Siri for Mac will come with an app icon and even a Menu Bar icon. I am not sure if that means we will have to use the mouse or a keyboard shortcut to activate Siri, but I definitely want to be able to summon her/him without having to touch anything. Voice activation is definitely a must!

Let me customize the activation phrase

If I say “Hey, Siri” right now, I am at risk of activating the feature on my iPhone, my iPad, and maybe even my Apple Watch at the same time. Do I want to add my Mac to the list? Definitely not. Offering users the ability to customize the activation phrase would help avoid this annoyance that those with several Apple products have probably experienced before.

Example: Hey, Mac. Do this.

By the way, this is a feature I would love on iOS as well.

Let me type in my requests

Voice recognition has come a long way, but there are still times where it whether not working properly, or just not socially acceptable to talk to your computer. For these reasons, I’d be greatly appreciative to be allowed to type in my request instead of voicing them. Think of it as a simplified command line! This is something I do all the time on my Mac using Alfred. Instead of using my mouse to open an app, I usually use Alfred to launch that app. Instead of using my mouse to shut down the computer, I again use Alfred and type in “shut.” This is a very powerful way to get things done rapidly without taking your fingers away from the keyboard, and something I’d love Siri for Mac to support.

Examples:

  • Type “Mail” to open the Mail app
  • Type “Log” to log out
  • Type “What’s the weather in Paris?” to get the weather forecast

Offer basic app management

Siri on iOS can launch an app, but that’s about the extent of its ability to control apps. With Siri for Mac though, I would want to be able to not only open apps, but also minimize them, close them, quit them, switch them, etc.

Examples:

  • Open the Mail app
  • Quit the Mail app
  • Force close the Mail app
  • Switch to Safari
  • Add Safari to a new Desktop

Understand app menus

If the ability to manage apps is important, it would be even more powerful if Siri had an understanding of the menus of the app that currently is in the foreground. For instance, if I am in Safari, I also want Siri to do things in Safari with simple voice commands that replicate existing Menu Bar items for the app.

Examples:

  • Open a new private window
  • New tab
  • Close tab
  • Show history
  • Add bookmark

These are all items that are available via the Menu Bar in Safari. So the labels and actions linked to these labels are readily available. Siri just need to have access to menu items, which doesn’t sound unreasonable.

Search files and documents

On the Mac, I want Siri to be able to search files and documents, and basically replace Spotlight, or maybe capitalize on the search ability of Spotlight. Of course, I would expect this to work with photos as well.

Once again, the search capability is already existing. Spotlight does a fairly good job at it, especially if what you’re searching for is something as simple as a specific file name.

Examples:

  • Find a PDF document titled “tax report 2016”
  • Find a PDF document with “tax report” in its name
  • Find that Pages document I was working on yesterday
  • Find my Excel spreadsheet of revenue from 2015
  • Show me photos taken last week at Petco Park
  • Show me all the photos taken in France

Let you edit documents

Finding documents is great, but I’d also love to have basic support for editing documents. I’m not necessarily talking about drafting and formatting an entire report, but rather do simple tasks.

Examples:

  • Put the first paragraph of this document in italic
  • Find & Replace all instances of the word “Samsung” by “competing handset maker”
  • Resize that image to 1200px wide

Access system settings & preferences

We’ve talked about apps, files, and documents, but I would love for Siri to be able to also handle basic requests for simple system settings queries. On top of system settings and preferences, I would want Siri on my Mac to allow me to perform system commands as well.

Examples:

  • Volume up
  • Mute volume
  • Lower screen brightness
  • Sleep
  • Restart
  • Log me out
  • Shut down

Send information across specific devices

With Handoff, it’s easier than ever to start something on your Mac and pick up where you left off on your iPad. I do enjoy this feature but would like to give it a dose of steroids to make it more flexible, more specific, and even more powerful.

Examples:

  • Send directions to Xavier’s house to my Apple Watch
  • Send that photo to my iPad
  • Open this tab on my iPhone
  • Call 408-996-1010 from my iPhone

Perform tasks in the background

Just as important as any other feature I previously mentioned, I’m really hoping Apple would keep Siri in the background while I am interacting with it. On iOS, Siri takes over your device when activated, and you’re basically unable to do anything else. This is fine on mobile, I guess, but on a Mac, I want to keep doing things on the computer while interacting with Siri.

For example, I want to be able to keep editing a document while asking Siri to tell me what’s on my calendar this weekend. I think that in many cases, Siri doesn’t need to be front and center, just like an actual human assistant wouldn’t get in front of your computer screen every time you talk to him/her.

What would you want Siri to do on Mac?

This is my wish-list for the rumored Siri for Mac. Now tell me what would be on your wish-list.

Also read: how to get Siri-like voice commands on Mac now

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  • jonny evans

    I would like to be able to assign Hey Siri activation status to devices using iCloud, so I could switch them all, or just one or none of them, on at once.

  • Cristian

    They better significantly approve Siri for iOS 10, if they’re going put Siri on Mac.

  • James G

    Some of these are great suggestions; especially the ones around making edits to documents using voice commands.

  • John Smith

    Anyone else use Windows for their computers, but have an iPhone and iPad for their phone and tablet?

  • Ethan Humphrey

    This sells me for siri on the Mac. If implemented like this, along with a “read this to me” command, you could essentially control the entire Mac with your voice, turning your Mac into JARVIS! I look forward to seeing this!