17 Ways Siri Can Help You Be More Productive

Getty Images / Tara Moore

When Siri was first announced, I thought it was more gimmick than useful. Sure, some people love the idea of speaking into their phone or tablet and getting answers, but it's quick enough to just search the web. And then I started using Siri... She can actually be a very good personal assistant if you let her, and her powers range from keeping you more organized to helping you figure out where you want to go and give you directions to get there.

How to Turn On and Use Siri on Your iPad

Here's how Siri can improve your productivity at work, at home or just with using your device:

1. Launch an app. Perhaps one of the most simple tasks Siri can perform, and often one of the most overlooked. Just think of the number of times you've gone through page after page of app icons searching for the right one when all you needed to say was "Launch Facebook."

2. Find a place to eat and get a reservation. The best thing about Siri is that when you ask it to "recommend a restaurant", it sorts them by their Yelp rating. This makes narrowing down your choice quite easy. Better yet, if the restaurant is on OpenTable, you'll see the option to make a reservation, which means no pesky wait before you eat. Siri can also find "what movies are playing" and the "closest gas station".

3. Answer questions. You can use Siri to search the web by prefacing your question with "Google" -- as in "Google best iPad games" -- but don't forget that Siri can answer a lot of basic questions without pulling up a web browser.

Just ask it "How old is Paul McCartney?" or "How many calories are in a doughnut?" Even when it doesn't know the exact answer, it can pull up relevant information. Asking "Where is the Leaning Tower of Pisa" may not give you "Pisa, Italy", but it will give you the Wikipedia page.

4. Calculator. Another often overlooked feature that falls into the 'answer questions' category is the ability to use Siri as a calculator.

This can be a simple request of "What is six times twenty-four" or a practical query like "What is twenty percent of fifty-six dollars and forty-two cents?" You can even ask it to "Graph X squared plus two".

5. Reminder. I use Siri for setting reminders more than anything. I've found it to be great at keeping me more organized. It's as simple as saying "Remind me to take out the trash tomorrow at eight AM."

6. Timer. I often discover new uses for Siri based on how friends use her. Soon after it was released, a friend was over and used Siri as a timer to cook eggs. Just say "Timer two minutes" and she'll give you a countdown.

7. Alarm. Siri can also keep you from oversleeping. Just ask her to "wake you up in two hours" if you need a good power nap. This feature can be really handy if you are traveling, just make sure you are setting the alarm at the hotel and not trying to take that power nap while you are driving.

8. Notes. Siri's helpfulness can also be as simple as taking a note. "Note that I don't have any clean T-shirts" won't exactly do the laundry for me, but it'll start my to-do list.

9. Set your Calendar. You can also use Siri to put a meeting or event on your calendar. This event will also show up on your notification center on the designated day, making it easy to keep track of your meetings.

10. Location reminders. Putting addresses in your contact list may sound like a lot of work, but it could have a huge productivity bonus. Certainly, addresses can be used to make finding directions much easier. "Get direction to Dave's house" is much easier than giving Siri the full address. But you can also set yourself reminders. "Remind me to give Dave his birthday present when I get to his house" actually works, but you'll need to have reminders turned on in your location services settings. (Don't worry, Siri will point you in the right direction the first time you try to use this feature.

Isn't she nice?)

11. Text messages. iOS will soon get support for sending voice messages, but until that arrives, there's a simple way to speak your message rather than type it. Just ask Siri to "Text Tom what's up?"

12. Facebook/Twitter status updates. Similar to sending a text message, Siri update Facebook or Twitter. Just tell her to "Update Facebook I need new speakers can anyone recommend some?" or "Tweet these new Beats headphones are awesome".

13. Email. Siri can also pull up recent email messages and send an email. You can tell her to "Send Email to Dave about The Beatles and say you've got to check this band out." You can break this into chunks by saying "Send Email to Dave" and she'll ask for the subject and body of the Email, but the keywords "about" and "say" will let you put everything in your original request.

14. Voice dictation. You can actually use Siri's voice dictation just about anywhere that you can type. The standard on-screen keyboard has a microphone button. Tap it and you can dictate rather than type.

15. Phonetics. Is Siri having a problem pronouncing one of the names in your contacts list? If you edit the contact and add a new field, you will see the option to add a Phonetic First Name or Phonetic Last Name. This will help you teach Siri how you pronounce the name.

16. Nicknames. My accent is so thick that even phonetic spellings don't always help. This is where nicknames really come in handy. In addition to searching contacts by name, Siri will also check the nickname field. So if Siri has a problem understanding your wife's name, you can nickname her the "little woman". But if you think there's a chance she's ever going to see your contacts list, make sure you use "love of my life" rather than "old ball and chain".

17. Raise to Speak. You don't always need to hold the home button down to activate Siri. If you have Raise to Speak turned on in your settings, she'll activate any time you raise your iPhone up to your ear so long as you aren't on a call at that moment. Obviously, this one isn't as handy for your iPad, which is why you won't find the option on your tablet. But if you have an iPhone, it's a good setting to turn on for quick and easy Siri access.

Need more help? Tap the question mark at the lower-left corner of the screen when you have Siri activated and you'll get a list of topics Siri can cover, including example questions to ask her.

Rather deal with a man? Siri need not speak with a female voice. Apple recently added a male voice option that you can turn on in settings.

Want to laugh? You can also ask Siri a series of funny questions.

Want to boot Siri from your lock screen?  Even if you have a passcode, Siri can be accessed from the lock screen.  Learn how to disable her from the lock screen.

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